Katyn / Katyń

Published: October 31, 2016

Katyn (Katyń) is a Polish historical drama released on September 17, 2007, that depicts the Katyn Massacre of 1940. The story views the events of the massacre through the eyes of the mothers, wives, and daughters of those executed by the NKVD. At the time of the story, it was unclear to the general population of Poland whether it was the Germans or the Soviets who committed the massacre.

The film starts out after the Soviet invasion of Poland on September 17, 1939, when Anna sets off with Weronika (“Nika”), her daughter, in search of her husband, Andrzej, a captain in the Polish army. She finds him shortly before the Soviet Army deports him. In the plot of the story, it’s notable that Andrzej keeps a diary.

Anna and Nika return home with the help of a sympathetic Soviet officer. Back in Krakow, they experience the German operation to deport professors at Jagiellonian University to concentration camps. Andrzej’s father is among them, and he dies in one of the camps.

Detained in a prisoner-of-war camp, Andrzej continues to keep a diary. He records the names and dates of the fellow officers who are removed from the camp. In 1943, the people of Krakow are informed of the Katyn Massacre. The Nazis publish lists of the names of the victims, which do not include Andrzej.

Anna and Nika are visited by Jerzy, who was imprisoned with Andrzej in the camps. He informs them that Andrzej is dead, misidentified as Jerzy. Despondent about his current position in life, including service in the People’s Army of Poland, which is under control of the Soviets, Jerzy commits suicide.

Eventually, Andrzej’s diary is delivered to Anna. The point where the entries stop reveals when he was killed. Because he was killed in 1940, it’s clear that he was killed by the Soviets rather than the Germans, who occupied Poland only in 1941.

Katyn‘s reception was generally positive, earning a nomination for Best Foreign Language Film for the 80th Academy Awards and the general support of Polish authorities and state institutions. However, its politically charged message prevented it reaching as much distribution abroad as it otherwise might have.

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Director: Andrzej Wajda
Stars: Artur Zmijewski, Maja Ostaszewska, Wiktoria Gasiewska
Production companies: Akson Studio, TVP, Polski Institute Sztuki Filmowej, Telecomunikacja Polska
Box office take: $14,723,313 (worldwide)


Official trailer:





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This entry was written by Helen Herring, a finalist for a Home and Abroad Scholarship through SRAS.

About the author

Josh Wilson

Josh Wilson is the Assistant Director for The School of Russian and Asian Studies (SRAS) and Communications Director for Alinga Consulting Group. In those capacities, he has been managing publications and informative websites covering geopolitics, history, business, economy, and politics in Eurasia since 2003. He is based in Moscow, Russia. For SRAS, he also assists in program development and leads the Home and Abroad Programs

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