IN HISTORY THE TRUTH WILL DEFEND ITSELF
Andrzej Tarwid talks with Piotr Gursztyn - a new director of TVP History
ANDRZEJ TARWID: - ‘Colonels of the Third Polish Republic’, that is, a series of films not emitted in the recent years, mainly for political reasons, is the first change which you introduced in the TV schedule of TVP History. What will be the next ones?
PIOTR GURSZTYN: - I want to introduce one big publicistic programme. The one which will focus all disputes about history. Besides that, this year there are full anniversaries of a few important events. As TVP History, we are planning to show them in the widest spectrum. It means that there will be, among the others: reports on anniversary ceremonies, documentaries, and if they are – these are feature films showing these events, and discussions in TV studio on particular topics.
- Will there be any other programme changes?
- No, there are not such possibilities in the present circumstances. The new TV schedule starts in March. And it means that there is too little time to prepare a bigger number of new programmes. Therefore we focus on what is the most important and possible to realize. We are also doing it regarding financial possibilities. We hope that they will increase after transforming the present formula of the Television into national media. Then it will be possible to do much more.
- And when the act about national media will be binding, what direction would you like to choose for the programme? For example, is there a foreign TV station and example for you?
- Following other examples is not only a secondary but also a risky phenomenon. We definitely had to elaborate our own way of functioning, in order to attract viewers to history and educate them, showing the real history. This is our purpose.
- Are there any people willing to realize it?
- Every day many film producers and reports come to me. Most of these ideas concentrate on the 20th century history of Poland, but there is also a strong reconstruction trend. There are sometimes productions concerning social history like, for example, a very interesting film about the history of dirt.
Whereas, there are very few suggestions about films concerning the Second Polish Republic and earlier times. It is understandable as making such films is more expensive. However, I hope that if there are more money, we will order also such proposals.
- Film makers must have known about the mentioned ‘Colonels of the Third Polish Republic’. But most Poles lived with belief that hiding inconvenient films in warehouses, ended with communistic censorship. Are there many such proposals?
- A dozen. These films concern recent events at most, or lives of people, who are still alive, or who died. I know it because reasons of arresting them were various, but the denominator was one: every time it included signs of censorship, as these films underwent final production approval, which means they were allowed to be distributed.
- Let’s return to the nearest plans. How will your publicistic programme differ from the previous debates, which one could watch on this channel?
- I think that so far the TVP History has been too conservative and careful. I will give the example: on 1 March we celebrate the Day of Cursed Soldiers. And what is needed, is a discussion entitled: ‘Cursed Soldiers: heroes or bandits?’. Whereas we know that so far there have not been any voices in such a debate.
- I guess it will change…
- Generally speaking, I want the TVP History to be a place of a free historical debate. The only criteria of participating in such a discussion will be a substantive level of discussants, whereas mountebanks, who also appear, will not be participants in it.
- The most important anniversary in 2016 is the 1050th anniversary of Poland Baptism. How will this event be shown in the TVP History?
- We have broad plans. Firstly, we are going to show a film by Zdzisław Cozac about Poland Baptism. This is a picture realized on a broad scale. Secondly, we are going to invite everyone for a discussion on what would be if Poland had not accepted baptism and whether Poland would exist at all. Thirdly, we are planning – as the matter of authorship is not clear yet – to show a feature film ‘A nest’ about Mieszko I. this film was made in the 70s of the previous century and was perceived in various ways. I think that if we manage to show it, it will also be a pretext for a discussion on how nascent Poland was shown at the communist times.
Certainly, besides films and debates, we are also going to broadcast national and ecclesiastical ceremonies connected with the anniversary of Poland Baptism.
- If a similar anniversary was celebrated in the USA, we could see a dozen of films on this issue, among them mega-productions. Why isn’t it so in Poland?
- The first and obvious thing is money…
- And less obvious reasons?
- This is a dispute going on in Poland about what history is. As we know, in opinion-making groups there prevailed belief that history is a burden. That it is necessary to choose the future, as one of candidates for the president said, and who held the office of president for two years. Intellectualists of leftist-liberal opinions still think so.
- And what is your opinion in this issue?
- History is nothing bad. Looking at it in this way is misunderstanding or even something abnormal. Luckily this negative way of thinking about history is weakening, although it is very strong in leftist-liberal groups.
- That is true. Strangely enough, there is money for films showing Poland and Poland in an unfavourable light. Also media choose the future on the one hand, but on the other hand – they show bad events from our history. How to understand it?
- It is only allegedly contradictory, but this is a consequence of what was called pedagogy of embarrassment. Because if it is said that history is a burden, one must find embarrassing or controversial things in it or present them as an accusation of the Polish nation.
- Without mitigating circumstances?
- Exactly. Now, as I said, this trend is weakening, but in the 90s of the last century and in the first years of the current one, it happened that there were attempts to bring Poles onto the same level as the nations which take evident responsibility for the most tragic historical events. In our history there are issues for which Poles should apologize but these events are a margin in the scale of our whole history and in comparison with other countries.
- How will such events, which are controversial for some people and embarrassing for others, be shown in the TVP History now?
- I would like them to be shown in a real way, simply as they were. And also with presenting various opinions. I will say something which is banal, but I really think so: in history the truth will defend itself. Sooner or later in conditions of a free debate false must lose with the truth.
- Really? You were a participant in one of the most interesting historical disputes about the Warsaw Uprising. Your adversaries were Piotr Zychowicz and Rafał Ziemkiewicz who criticize the decision about the outburst of the Warsaw Uprising, and also think (Zychowicz) that these are the Germans with whom we should be allies against Bolshevik Russia. And this opinion is getting more and more popular.
- I do not agree with this opinion, that it is getting more and more popular. I think that their opinion about the Warsaw Uprising was a momentous eruption. It raised interest based on sensations but it is weakening. One can only walk along streets of Warsaw on 1 August and see tens of thousands of people in the streets. After all, they are going not to cemeteries, squares or the Museum of Warsaw Uprising to condemn somebody of the uprising participants. On the contrary, this is a glory day for them. And I think, that, for example, Rafał Ziemkiewicz is aware that he will not stop or transform this trend. I feel this reflection in his further texts.
- Finally, I will ask what you would like to recommend Readers of ‘Niedziela’ in the nearest time to see on the TVP History?
- In March we are going to be at the opening ceremony of the Museum of Poles Saving Jews on Podkarpacie. Named the Ulmów Family in Markowa. It will be the first institution in Poland commemorating Poles saving Jews. The ceremony will be attended by president Andrzej Duda. Whereas every Saturday at 9.15 p.m. (repeated on Sunday at 12.15 and Wednesday at 9.00 p.m.) we invite for other films from the series ‘Colonels of the Third Polish Republic’. These are really interesting documentaries.