Don't miss

Replay


LATEST SHOWS

EYE ON AFRICA

South African President Zuma advised to pay $510,000 for home upgrades

Read more

MEDIAWATCH

Post-Referendum Racism

Read more

THE DEBATE

Messy Divorce: EU, UK scramble after Brexit vote (part 1)

Read more

THE DEBATE

Messy Divorce: EU, UK scramble after Brexit vote (part 2)

Read more

THE OBSERVERS

Introducing "Observers take action"!

Read more

TALKING EUROPE

UK votes to leave the EU: What now?

Read more

ENCORE!

Music show: Metronomy, Celine Dion, Snoop Dogg and Jazz

Read more

FOCUS

Drug dealers of hope: Activists fight for access to life-saving Hepatitis C cure

Read more

THE INTERVIEW

Panama Papers scandal: 'This is a real crime'

Read more

An interview with a French or international personality from the world of economics, politics, culture or diplomacy. Every Wednesday at 4.45 pm Paris time and Saturday at 7.45 am.

THE INTERVIEW

THE INTERVIEW

Latest update : 2010-04-07

Andrzej Wajda, Polish film director

Polish film director Andrzej Wajda, who directed the film "Katyn", talks to FRANCE24 about the massacre of 22,000 Poles by Soviet forces during World War II.

Filmmaker Andrzej Wajda, who directed the film “Katyn” about the 1940 massacre of Polish citizens by the Red Army in the Katyn Forest, hailed the commemoration Wednesday by Russian and Polish leaders as a step toward “historical truth”. 
 
Russia's Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and Polish premier Donald Tusk paid homage to those killed in the Katyn Forest massacre of 1940 in a move that filmmaker Andrzej Wajda, who directed the film “Katyn”, said gave him “great hope”.
 
“I expect more steps in the direction of explaining and reconciling what happened,” Wajda told FRANCE 24.
 
A 5 March 1940 secret order signed by the Soviet central committee, including then-leader Joseph Stalin, called for the execution of Polish prisoners of war it said were enemies of the state planning “to actively participate in a fight against the Soviet government”. The Red Army had taken some 230,000 Polish POWs after its mid-September 1939 invasion of Poland, which followed the Nazi invasion of September 1.
 
Between the March 5 order and May of 1940 the Soviet secret police, or NKVD, killed almost 22,000 Poles, mostly military officers but also civil servants, artists, teachers and diplomats.
 
For Wajda, this crime “lives on in Polish society” 70 years after the events. What happened at Katyn “was never recognised as a war crime”, he says. Thoughts of the 22,000 Polish soldiers and intellectuals who were assassinated “live on in our houses, our hearts, our memories”, he says. “They were killed to pave the way for the Soviet system in Poland, because a totalitarian system, if it wants to exist, must get the intellectuals out of the way. Even Hitler treated Polish intellectuals better than Stalin did.”
 
It has already been a long road. “In 2000 an investigation was opened, and we hoped the events at Katyn would be brought to light,” Wajda says. “But the inquest was suspended in 2004, unfortunately.” He says this situation, so painful for Poles, has remained an obstacle to any reconciliation between Poland and Russia.
 
Wajda thus dedicated his film to the Stalinist purges of the spring of 1940. Released in 2007, “Katyn” tried to show “the truth of the brutality and that the victims were not only the assassinated officers but the women who waited for them, day after day, hour after hour, while entertaining horrific doubts”, according to an introduction on the film’s official site.
 
What Wajda was putting to film was a drama at once shared and deeply personal, for his family had been personally affected. “My father was not assassinated at Katyn,” he told FRANCE 24. “My father was assassinated in the cellars of the NKVD (Soviet secret police) at Kharkov, and buried in the cemetery in that village.”
 
“Katyn” was aired for the first time on the Russian public television channel Kultura last week. “The Russian public knows of the events but, unfortunately, believes it to have been a German crime,” he says. “One must not forget that for some years the Soviet Union propagated this version of events at Katyn and maintained this version until 1989, when Poland regained its liberty” from the Soviet bloc.
 
For Russia’s official daily “Russkaya Gazeta,” last Friday’s broadcast of “Katyn” signaled “considerable progress on the part of (Russian) society on the road to restoring historical truth”. 

By Virginie HERZ

COMMENT(S)

Archives

2016-06-25 Panama Papers

Panama Papers scandal: 'This is a real crime'

The "Panama Papers" sent shockwaves across the world by shedding a crude light on the secretive world of tax havens. Thanks to an anonymous source, what is arguably the biggest...

Read more

2016-06-22 Guatemala

'Justice is not revenge': Rigoberta Menchu on her fight for indigenous rights

Rigoberta Menchu has dedicated her life to promoting indigenous rights, particularly those of women in her home country of Guatemala and beyond. Her work earned her the Nobel...

Read more

2016-06-20 refugees

'If you don’t solve problems, they will come to you,' UNHCR tells FRANCE 24

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) published its annual report Monday to mark World Refugee Day and the reality is grim: A record 65.3 million people have been forced...

Read more

2016-06-18 Arab world

'The Third Sex': A Lebanese poet's manifesto against taboos

Joumana Haddad is a Lebanese journalist, poet, author and one of the most daring women's rights activists in the Arab world. Her latest release is "The Third Sex", a collection...

Read more

2016-06-15 climate change

Fighting poverty and climate change 'must be done together'

Last September, world leaders at the UN agreed on 17 Sustainable Development Goals, such as ending poverty and tackling climate change. But an agreement on what needs to be done...

Read more