The film ‘The story of Kowalski family’ – whose projection took place on 14 January this year in the auditorium of the editorial office of the ‘Sunday’, is based on authentic events from before 70 years. This is a story about inhabitants of Ciepielów near Radom, inhabited by the Polish-Jewish community living in harmony for ages. During the Nazis occupation German gendarmes committed a macabre crime there: on 6 December 1942, in one of houses, 34 people were set on fire alive – these were Polish families with children and Jews who were hidden by Poles.

Poles and Jews in consent

The projection of the film in the editorial office of the ‘Sunday’ took place just before the Day of Judaism, which in the Polish Church in Poland was celebrated on 17 January this year, and which was noted by host of the meeting, Marian Florek.

– There are very few such stories, we presented one of them – said Maciej Pawlicki in the auditorium, who with Arkadiusz Gołębiewski wrote a scenario and directed the film ‘The story of Kowalski family’. He emphasized that these shocking stories are known only in a limited range, therefore they must be documented, when the witnesses of these events, the neighbors of murdered Poles and Jews, are still alive.

The authors chose a form of fictionalized document for the film – that is, the statements of people who remember the crime in Ciepielów, are connected with the pictures from the film being a reconstruction of the events. As Maciej Pawlicki emphasized, this decision was dictated by among the others limited financial means, although film directors were ready to prepare a feature film for cinemas.

A fictionalized part shows life of a small town in pre-war Poland, interlacing of cultures and religions, neighborly contacts, mutual respect of customs and religious holidays. And it even happens that Polish children learn the Hebrew hymn, and the Jews sing the Polish hymn.

Witnesses of German crimes

Together with the outbreak of the war and the Nazis occupation, German repressions start. After the round-up of Jews in summer 1942 and deporting them to a concentration camp, there appear posters on walls warning that for helping the Jews, there is a death penalty for families. In Ciepielów – like in other thousand cities and towns – there were Poles, who were hiding Jews despite the threats. During a December action, the Germans found nearly all hidden Jews. On the same day polish families giving a shelter were brutally forced into one house and set on fire together.

– This is a film based on the truth – Maciej Pawlicki emphasized. –Polish raison d’etat needs documenting these facts, only in this way we can prevent the hypocrisy of history. The film director paid attention to the courage of Poles rescuing Jews, especially that in Poland and Ukraine there was a death penalty to a family for it, whereas in Denmark, Holland, Belgium or France, there was a fine or firing from work as a consequence for giving a shelter to Jews.

Defend Polish raison d’etat

During the meeting in the editorial office of the ‘Sunday’ many facts were shown, proving that it is not easy to reach to the mass consciousness today, with real history of Poland and Poles from the Second World War. Let’s have a look at numbers: the film-makers received 200 thousand zlotys for the film ‘The story of the Smiths’ from the Polish Institute of Film Art, although they needed 1.5 million zlotys, whereas the feature film ‘Gleanings’ slandering Poles, was granted 3.5 million zlotys. In the end of the film there is information that during the Second World War, by protecting Jews, 500 thousand or maybe 1 million Poles put their lives in danger. It turns out that some politicians expected the film-makers to remove this informant, commenting that nobody in the world would want to show the film with this information. Whereas, it turned out that the projection of the film took place even in the centre of the political life of Europe – in the European Parliament in Brussels and diplomats and politicians from various countries admitted with much surprise that it was the first time they had seen real facts concerning the Second World War. In addition, the dramaturgy of the events was emphasized by music composed by Marcin Pospieszalski.

The voice of history explorer

Another guest of the meeting was Wiesław Paszkowski from the Museum in Częstochowa, an explorer of the history of Jewish community in Częstochowa. He emphasized the significance of the film and its documentary value. He reminded that hiding Jews from the occupant and the repressions took place also in Częstochowa and nearby Wierzchowisko. There was a significant fact that the local bishop Teodor Kubina and his assisting bishops secretly gave orders to parishioners to give help to the persecuted Jews as long as it was possible. Priests joined the action of hiding Jews. People who were caught, were tortured and killed. Wiesław Paszkowski reminded that during the Nazis occupation, the Jewish community in Częstochowa had had its representation the so-called Judenrat. After some time the decisive voice in this council belonged to the so-called ‘the hard’ who agreed to cooperate with the Germans and execute their orders. – History must be told in its complexity – he emphasized.

Necessary monuments of culture

Prelate priest Ireneusz Skubiś congratulated the film-makers and emphasized the necessity of building monuments of culture, such as: ‘The story of Kowalski family’. He also reminded that a few years ago the editorial office of the ‘Sunday’ was visited by Artur Dreifinger from Argentina, who during the occupation had been rescued by Fr. Antoni Marchewka, the chief editor of the ‘Sunday’ in the years 1945-53. The purpose of his visit to Częstochowa was to give a testimony about the engagement of priests in rescuing Jews (about which the ‘Sunday’ wrote in the edition 46/2006).


"Niedziela" 4/2013

Editor: Tygodnik Katolicki "Niedziela", ul. 3 Maja 12, 42-200 Czestochowa, Polska
Editor-in-chief: Fr Jaroslaw Grabowski • E-mail: redakcja@niedziela.pl