Synopsis by Eleanor Mannikka
Zasieki debuted at the1981 Gdansk Film Festival although it was completed and shelved five years earlier. Apparently controversial from the beginning, the film's political content is symbolized by its three main Polish protagonists: Pawel (Damian Domiecki) was a soldier forced into conscription in the Soviet army in1939, Ernest (Andrzej Wojoczek) joined the Soviet army to fight for Poland after deserting the German Wehrmacht, and Andrzej (Olgierd Lukaszewicz) joined this segment of the Soviet army after his 1939 conscription into the first Polish corps within the Soviet forces. The controversy settles around the argument of whether or not this film represents the Battle of Lenino in April of 1943. The director Andrzej Piotrowski died one year after the film was completed (and severely edited) in 1977 - all the while saying that the film is not about Lenino. What happened in that infamous battle was the slaughter of many soldiers in the Polish army, sent as as an opening, 1943 assault wave against the Germans in the Ukraine. Stalin had the insane objective of taking Kiev before the October anniversary of the Russian Revolution. Rather than sacrifice Russian soldiers in the offensive's front lines, he sent in this "second" Polish army. The character of Pawel in the film represents the 90,000 Poles who were taken out of Poland in 1939 when a treaty was signed between the USSR and Germany, dividing Poland between those two countries. The 90,000 were sent to Siberia until 1941, when they were formed into an army unit to fight in North Africa. About 10,000 Poles never made it out of Poland and into Siberia - they were all killed around the month of April, in 1940 by the Russians and buried in mass graves in the Katyn Forest - discovered by the occupying Germans in 1943. A second force of Polish soldiers was formed from Polish political prisoners in Russian jails, some soldiers in the first unit who were not sent to North Africa, and deserters from the Poles conscripted to fight for the Germans - and their first battle was at Lenino in 1943. Although the film covers the action of the three lead characters and even a love interest for Andrzej, most viewers at the 1981 Gdansk Film Festival would be thinking about the larger issues that each of these three symbolize.
desertion, history, soldier