Volyn is a 2016 Polish military drama directed by Wojciech Smarzowski and dedicated to the Volyn massacre. The feature film in history that tells about the tragic events in Volyn in 1943.
Full article about the Volyn Massacre.
The narrative covers the Polish period before the outbreak of World War II, the Soviet period before the German invasion of the USSR, the period of German occupation and the Volhynia massacre itself. In the center of the story is the Polish girl Zosia Glowatskaya. Against her will, her parents don’t give her away as a beloved Ukrainian guy Peter, but as a wealthy Polish widower Maciej Skiba, who offered eight morgues of land and a cow. After the wedding, Zosya is forced to babysit her husband’s children from his former wife, while the husband leaves for the Polish-German front. The girl becomes a witness of the arrival of the Red Army, the Nazi occupation, the Holocaust, and then the extermination of the Polish population by the Ukrainian fascists. Against the backdrop of these events, she loses all her family and friends.
The film was created based on the collection of short stories by Stanislav Srokovsky “Hatred”. Filming took place in a skansen in the town of Kolbuszowa, the village of Jezierzany, the Museum of the Lublin Village, the commune of Wizna, the vicinity of Rawa Mazowiecka, Sanok and Skierniewice.
To finance the shooting of the film, a special fund was created – Fundacja na Rzecz Filmu Wołyń. In February 2016, the director asked the public for support to complete the project. The call was supported by Stanislav Srokovskiy, Eva and Vladislav Semashko. Then the funds were allocated by the Polish Television and a number of other sponsors.
The film premiered on 29 September 2016 at the Lower Silesian Film Center in Wrocław. Before the beginning of the film, a member of the Board of the Lower Silesian Voivodeship Tadeusz Samborski and a historian, an expert in the modern history of Eastern Kresy and an expert in the field of Polish-Ukrainian relations Dr. Lucyna Kulinska spoke to the audience.
The filmmakers paid special attention to the historical accuracy of the film: a historian was constantly present on the set.
A number of episodes of the film are a direct reference to the real events of the Volyn massacre:
- the execution of the poet, an officer of the Craiova Army – the fate of Lieutenant Zygmunt Rumel, who, on behalf of the Polish government in London, arrived at negotiations with Bandera without weapons and was torn apart by horses;
- the extermination of believers in the church – the events in the villages of Kiselyn (July 11, 1943) and Porytsk;
- the scene of the consecration of scythes and axes and the preaching of violence by a clergyman – events in the village of Shtun in the Lubomel district, as well as in the churches of the villages of Slaventin, Jankovice, Solonev, Hlebovitsa Svirsky, Slupki, Chernishuvka, Germakuvka, Nenkov, Gaia Velke.
- 2016 – Nomination for the Golden Lion of the 41st Gdynia Film Festival.
- 2016 – Prize for the best acting debut at the 41st Gdynia Film Festival.
- 2016 – Best Cinematography Award at the 41st Gdynia Film Festival.
- 2016 – Award of the Chairman of the Polish Television in the amount of 100 thousand Polish zlotys.
- 2017 – Award of the Union of Polish Screenwriters for 2016 “Golden Ribbon”.
Reaction in Ukraine
Thirty Ukrainian actors played in the film, mostly from Lviv and Ternopil. Before the start of filming, the actors received the full script of the film in Ukrainian, after which several invitees refused to participate, citing the anti-Ukrainian orientation of the film.
The screening of the film scheduled for October 18, 2016, organized by the Polish Cultural Center in Kiev (Instytut Polski w Kijowie), was canceled on the strong recommendation of the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry. According to Andriy Deshchytsia, Ukrainian Ambassador to Poland, the decision is connected with possible street protests and public backlash.
On the contrary, the well-known Ukrainian soldier and politician Nadezhda Savchenko supported the creation of the film.
Film critic Tadeusz Sobolevsky noted:
A moment after the first screening of “Volyn” by Wojciech Smarzowski at the festival in Gdynia, I want to say only one thing: this is a great film. Unprecedented in Polish cinema after 1989. It does not condemn mutual transgressions, does not lead to any political thesis. It gives a holistic image of the world in which evil is looking for a way out and finds it.
Publicist Lukasz Vazheha says:
This is perhaps the best film in the career of this director and one of the best historical films made in Poland. (…) Smazhovsky managed to do what many directors fail to do in such situations: narrowing the perspective to seeing the situation as an ordinary person, he did not lose the authenticity and balance of events. In an ideal world, a Ukrainian who is honest about his own history would by no means consider this film anti-Ukrainian or aimed against good relations between both countries.
According to publicist Marek Kozubal:
“Volyn” is a turning point film and painfully real. Wojciech Smarzowski described the massacre, which some Poles and Ukrainians are trying to erase from memory in the name of reconciliation. Meanwhile, this very film, which describes the cruelty of people poisoned by the nationalist ideology, plowed through our minds, can become a powerful discovery of true Polish-Ukrainian reconciliation. The only question is whether we are ready for this and whether the Ukrainians are ready to accept the truth about Volyn. Original text (Polish)
The MP expressed hope that the Polish Foreign Ministry would make every effort to popularize the film in Ukraine.