POLISH FILM REVIEWS

by Lydia Kordalewski

Sixty-one years has passed since the blitzkrieg in Poland on September 1, 1939. Now two women, Mishael Porembski from Georgia and Mary Kocol from Massachusetts, have both produced and directed two films to tell their fathers story of survival of WWII. Here are the reviews:

Documentary „BURNING QUESTIONS” by Producer/ Director Mishael Porembski.

    During WWII, Poland lost 6 million of its citizens. Three million were Jewish Poles and, less known, three million Catholic Poles perished in concentration camps, forced labor, and public executions in war.
„Burning Questions” is an independently produced documentary. The 56 minute documentary addresses the lesser known story of three million Catholic Poles who perished under Nazi occupation.
Mishael Porembski, a filmmaker from Atlanta decided to make the film after learning about her father’s past history during WWII. Mishael traveled to Poland with her father to explore the present day relationship between Poland’s Catholics and Jews as they live together through this painful history.
In the documentary, we see Mishael’s father Jan Porembski’s, a South Florida cameraman account of the murderous Warsaw uprising, where 250,000 Poles perished in 63 days, his painfully quiet visitation at this mother’s grave, and his last memory of his father being hauled off by the Nazi’s, never to be heard from again.We see testimonies from Porembski’s relatives that were survivors of Auschwitz and Ravensbruck women’s death camp.
As they traveled to Poland together, Mishael explored the present day relationship between Polish Catholics and Jews as they live together with this painful history. A dual healing occurs in this documentary. Mishael tries to find hope and she deserves to be commended for her experiences.

Mishael offers a fair climax of interviews with rabbis and historians, most of whom point out the bravery of Polish Catholic families who, under the penalty of death, sheltered more Jews in their homes than did any other country.
In the interviews both Jewish and Catholics deal with this healing process.
Mishael is told that Poles did not kill Jews in the camps while her aunt asserts that those who denounced Jews can be counted „on your fingers.”
One rabbi states, „The real anger is toward the Nazis. But you don’t find them in Poland anymore. So, the Poles have spent decades misplacing their rage.”

    Mishael also discusses the difficult issue of the two victim groups with Rabbi Michael Schudrich. Rabbi Schudrich tells her that there were Poles who were accomplices of the occupiers, and that some did participate in genocide, while others assisted Jews.
Vice President of the World Federation of Polish Jews, Szymon Szurmeij who also appears in the film, goes on to say that a great number of Polish names at Yad Vashem are honored and warns that one should not generalize or make accusations about nations.
The filmmaker stresses that this documentary needs to be shown so that we can discuss it among ourselves, with Jewish people and with anyone who is serious about confronting their burning questions. Speaking the truth will not only heal our internal familial wounds, but make us recognize our roots and make America better by restoring fairness to all nationalities.
Mishael Porembski’s final solution is to bridge the communication gap between the Catholics and the Jewish survivors.
In the past year, Burning Questions has been making significant headway in the mainstream media. It has aired on 50 PBS stations.
In 2000, after Mishael’s first public screening in Washington DC, she was presented the Jan Karski Award for recognition.
To learn more about BurnI-ng Questions go to: http://www.burningquestions.org

DOCUMENTARY „MY FATHER’S STORY” by Producer/Director Mary Kocol.

    My Father’s Story is a 11 minute animated collage of the griping personal history of Mary’s father, Romuald Kocol, a Polish Catholic who suffered in WWII. This story is a strong collage of recollections of a lifelong separation from Romuald’s family and of being shot by the Germans during his rescue by American troops. Romuald was forced to work in a German sugar factory and a battery factory during WWII. Mary uses her father’s Nazi issued work permit and metal „P” tag to make the film more powerful.     The animation film lets us hear one voice about the devastation of WWII and represents thousands of Polish working people persecuted during the Holocaust.     Mary’s father states in the film, „My story is a small story, the real story is the six million Jews who were killed.”     „My Father’s Story” has won several awards throughout the United States in the past year, including the Special Jury Prize in Humboldt and Original Docudrama Award in Spokane. It is now on its way to Hiroshima to be screened for competition in the International Animation Film Festival.

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