We just arrived from rainy Vienna to sunny Barcelona. We are less then halfway through this European tour, having already held screenings in Warsaw, Przemysl, Krakow and Vienna and still have screenings to attend in Barcelona, Rome, Berlin, Wroclaw, Gdansk and Munich.
First, I guess I should mention who “we” are. This European tour was organized thanks to the enthusiasm “without borders” of Khrystyna Gryschchuk – a Ukrainian PhD student who studies in Warsaw and is currently completing an internship in Barcelona. Khrystyna saw our film more than a year ago in Lviv during the Ukrainian tour. She approached us about a year later saying that she would love to help to organize a screening in Wroclaw. And here we are, jumping from train to bus; from bus to plane; traveling through Europe guerilla-style: an independent filmmaker with DVDs for sale in her backpack to cover the costs of the trip. It is very tiring, of course, because of the huge distances we have to travel. For example to get to Przemysl from Warsaw, we had to spend 5 hours on a bus and then 2 hours on a train.
But no matter how tired I am, every time I see people coming to the screening, I get a new wave of energy. Yesterday in Vienna for example, we were afraid no one would show up to the screening because of rain and wind and the news on radio and TV about flooding close to the city. But the room ended up being full and the discussion afterwards lasted for a very long time. People were interested to know how the film was made and what was the reaction of those who watched it in Poland and in Ukraine.
One factor that probably influences the post-screening discussions, particularly in Poland, is the ongoing commemoration of the Volyn tragedy that happened 70 years ago. To give a little context, in 1943, a bloody Polish-Ukrainian ethnic conflict took place in the region of Volyn which is located today in Northern Ukraine. The Polish side views Volyn as a sort of genocide committed by Ukrainians against Poles. Because of the 70-year anniversary, many television stations, magazines and newspapers are currently talking about it. In the region of Przemysl, Ukrainians feel there should also be a commemoration of the Polish crimes done against Ukrainians and that what the sufferings Ukrainians went through are not being acknowledged enough.
Taking all that into account, right before the showing, I was a little worried. The movie theater of the Przemysl National museum was packed, and the audience applauded for some time after the film ended but during the discussion people stayed strangely quiet.
They were not asking many questions, but at the same time, they wouldn’t leave the theater. So, I talked about the importance of their families’ experiences and the fact that despite the horror that the city went through during the war and after, there is still so much that the city has to offer the world in terms of stories of survival, humanity in the midst of evil and the will to live. The film was introduced by by the speaker of the city council – Jan Bartmiski – the brother of our beloved priest from the film Stanislav Bartminsky. After the screening, he said this was the first event that gathered them all: Jews, Poles and Ukrainians in the same room. This left me with an uplifted spirit.
The other two screenings in Krakow and Vienna were also to a full house and the discussions were enthusiastic. Here, I have to say a few words about our gracious local hosts. In each city, we were met by the different local organizers who took time from their life to promote the screening, to take care of logistics and then take care of us – meet at the train station, host us and make us feel at home in their city:
In Premysl it was Marijka Tycka and her friends; in Krakow it was Yaroslav and Olia Mykhalyk and in Vienna, Stefan and Natalia Hampl. Of course, I also have to add a special thanks to the Union of Ukrainians in Poland and its President Petro Tyma.
I would also like to thank the people who stay after each screening in order to tell their stories, stories that were sometimes suppressed for a long time. Their experiences make this film relevant to their lives today and this is what we were looking for when making the film.
One viewer in Krakow named Maria said something that will stay with me for a long time.
She said: “your film tells a people story, people who were caught in the wheel of history and that wheel was going over them over and over again. Against all odds, they survived, but history never mentions who they are. You should keep telling their stories.”
This entry was posted on Wednesday, June 5th, 2013 at %I:%M %p
You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.