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Andrzej Wajda. A Suspect

Witold Bereś

H 16 okladka_WAJDA

Andrzej Wajda. A Suspect, by Witold Bereś, Krzysztof Burnetko,  Agora S.A. and Fundacja Świat Ma Sens, 2013

It is a story about one of the most renown Polish movie directors, Andrzej Wajda, and how the communist secret service got attracted to him. His life was at the focus of the KGB chief, ten generals and two ministers: Mieczysław Moczar and Czesław Kiszczak. His movies were of interest to all consecutive chiefs of state and heads of the ruling party in Poland. The authors capture Andrzej Wajda life as he deals with everyday problems, politics, and makes new movies of which many have become world cinema classics. He had problems with censorship, the heads of the Polish movie industry and nationalists, who always hated him. The authors use previously unreleased materials—including those from the archives of the communist Secret Police—but above all, they ‘use’ Wajda himself as a witnes of the times. In light the 1,191 files the authors found at the Institute of National Memory, Wajda was followed by the services for 50 years.

What does the material that Bereś and Burnetko unearthed show? The helplessness of the regime vis-a-vis a talent. Vis-a-vis a man, who just like romantic poets in the past, shaped the thoughts and of the nation. What is more, Wajda turned out to be nasty to the regime—when the conflict peaked Wajda said—contrary to the regime’s expectations—that he wanted to stay in Poland and make movies for the Poles.

In this book Wajda appears like a man who fights, above all, for his movies. His movies are his tool with which he changes the world. He does not sign petitions; he abstains for a long time from openly supporting the opposition. In his view, his movies mean much more for Poland than any acts of protest on his part. Sometimes he says ‘no’ but always in such a way so the regime had an opportunity to use the narrow escape.

 

Wajda promotes and defends young talent—artists who oppose the regime. In this role, he acts more like a fox than a lion.

 

Movie directos with experience of communism in Central Europe have a good touch for films about the relationship between artists and political power. (…)

 

A movie about Wajda could have been different. Not about the power of the regime but about its helplessness against the artist. The protagonists could be losers. Not necessarily secret service officers but simple politicians, such as Józef Tejchma, who loses his game in politics knowing full well that he undermines the system he benefits from. Who would direct such a movie?

Wajda under suspicion, by Paweł Wroński, Gazeta Wyborcza” Nov 21, 2013

Excerpt

June 24, 1977. Secret Service Colonel Florian Uryzaj, Deputy Chief of Section IV Department III at the Ministry of Internal Affairs, sits angry at his office at Rakowiecka. It is Friday and his is looking forward to the start of the weekend—an innovation that the party chief Edward Gierek had introduced only a few years back—and Uryzaj would rather spend it with his family in the country, for it is summer vacations, yet he has to work…

It is a hot summer and the situation in the country is hot as well.

Yesterday, all most important department heads requested the formal end of a certain case. And they gave one day for it. The following day.

The speed is unprecedented. Usually, an individual who gets into Secret Service black books, within approximately two weeks is classified as figurehead, that is someone the service checks upon, a victim of the system. (…)

Now, Uryzaj is tasked with “a case of operational significance” including monitoring and bugging. Why does it have to be done within a day? Is it because the summer holiday season has started that the staff of Section IV have to work long hours and do paperwork?

The colonel takes out a stack of papers from the safe that his superiors have readied for him earlier. He pulls out a form entitled “Operational Report” too. He has to fill in basic data himself, before he can ask his secretary of help.

Second name, first name, case number of the individual (individuals) registered in “C” for given threat (case): WAJDA Andrzej.

Yes, indeed. Andrzej Wajda is a threat to the socialist country.

Why so late?

Many times before, Secret Service officers did report to their chiefs that no good  would come out of being forbearing with the artist. (…)

A mid-level officer, Florian Uryzaj, must be thinking about how they have been warning against Wajda before. But at the same time he knows that he is not supposed to think. The time is running out and tomorrow is a day-off Saturday…

There is nothing to think of. The colonel asks the secretary to put a fresh sheet of paper into the typewriter.

…”For this case” the officer makes a notion to begin a direct invigilation of the director, that is, as he puts in his professional parlance, “operational reconnaissance to find out about existing signals and plans for further activities of A. Wajda.” (…)