The Unconquered: A Polish Perspective

By Robbin Laird

Currently, I am in Poland for the Defence 24 Conference on Polich defence.

I am taking advantage of the visit to meet with various Polish experts on defence and getting an update on the region from the Polish perspective.

Frankly, this country is in the first lines when it comes to information war and hybrid war, as many would call it.

The use of “migrants” to assault the Polish border from Belarus certainly is part of the challenge being faced by the Poles.

In this video, there is a clear bottom line with regard to how to understand Polish nationalism and sense of identity within a Europe which has to consider its way in the world in which there has been a return to significant direct defense challenges.

This is how the The Institute of National Remembrance has described the film upon its release in 2017:

“With this film we wish to launch an international educational campaign, aimed at presenting the Polish historical perspective of the years 1939-1989. I feel that with ‘The Unconquered’ we have restored the perspective of General Anders’ soldiers of II Corps, i.e. the relentless struggle for Poland’s freedom,” says Adam Hlebowicz, Deputy Director of the Institute’s National Education Office.

“This is a voice of a sovereign state that had the fourth largest army in the war, suffered the greatest losses and was the only one to fight in the conflict from the first to the last day. Without the Polish perspective one cannot fully understand the course or the consequences of World War II,” he adds.

The film’s premiere took place before the 78th anniversary of the Soviet invasion and shows the key moments of Poles’ fifty-year-long fight for freedom.

These efforts are presented by a hero, who on the one hand is a symbol of the struggle, and, on the other, in each scene refers to historical figures such as Capt. Witold Pilecki, Irena Sendler or Witold Urbanowicz. Some of these heroes appear on screen for the first time: Gen. Stanisław Maczek, Jan Karski or Marian Rejewski.

Krzysztof Noworyta, the Fish Ladder / Platige Image producer, points out that the film wonderfully corresponds with what is happening now in the debate on Poland’s historical policy:

“Many countries take great care of the manner in which their history is presented. They are excellent in positioning their narration in the collective consciousness of the nation.” ‘The Unconquered’ mark the beginning of a new style of narration of Poland’s history. “We speak the language of popular culture, because it is the contemporary lingua franca, spoken by the whole world,” he adds.

The film was one year in the making. Apart from constructing the narration, intensive search for the visual aesthetics was conducted.

“We were looking for an original artistic style for the film,” says Michał Misiński from the Juice studio, the film’s director. “On the one hand, it was meant to carry powerful emotions, and on the other give space to construct a non-literal message and a poetic mood. The artistic convention allowed us to construct poignant symbols such as that from the first scene, when the hero is being crushed by two walls or the scene of Karski’s conversation with Roosevelt.

The character of the animation is educational and is meant to popularise Poland’s history. After watching it, the viewers will be referred to a dedicated web site, which will help them better understand the history presented in the film and learn about the fate of the true heroes.

“Our thinking about the film and our early work on its concept were founded on the idea that the war did not end in 1945 for everybody, says Rafał Pękała, project coordinator of the Institute’s National Education Office.

“It was our intention to emphasise how unjustly Poland was treated, but primarily how undervalued the efforts of Polish soldiers, who heroically fought for the country’s freedom and that of the whole world, and who were not invited to the victory parade, were. Our allies never apologised, while for the Poles the end of the war brought another occupation, and thus another 45 years of fight, after “the war ended”.

The film is thus meant to show historical truth in a modern and at the same time symbolic manner. The film has enormous educational potential, which we would like to benefit from in various projects of the National Education Office. The animation marvellously and synthetically shows Poland’s road to freedom from 1939 to 1989, a road of the Accursed Soldiers, the pro-independence opposition and Solidarity,” he adds.