Polish History Museum donated unique film material on Siberian gulags and Polish Jewish relations

The Polish History Museum receives gift of unique film documentation by the families of two Polish filmmakers, Jagna Wright and Aneta Naszyńska.

On 23rd of November during a ceremony at the Polish Embassy in London, several hundred hours of original film material, including unique interviews with Polish survivors of the mass deportations of Poles to Siberia by Stalin in 1940, were handed over to the Polish History Museum’s Director, Robert Kostro, by the families of the two Polish filmmakers Jagna Wright and Aneta Naszyńska: Wright’s husband, Stephen and Naszyńska’s sons Luke and Konrad.

The unique documentation, relating to their two documentary films, the Forgotten Odyssey and The Other Truth, will become part of the museum film and video collection and will be used in the Museum’s permanent exhibition and made available for further research by young historians.

Forgotten Odyssey

The Gulag testimonies recorded on tape in the late 1990s by the two filmmakers were an attempt to capture the testimonies of a rapidly shrinking pool of former gulag inmates. Wright, a linguist turned filmmaker, and Naszyńska, a film editor, joined forces to bring to the British TV audience the little known story of two million Polish citizens condemned to exile by Stalin. After WWII, survivors dispersed across the world, most of them settling in Great Britain. Jagna Wright and Aneta Naszyńska decided that this dramatic story should be better known worldwide. Unable to gain the backing of any British or Polish broadcasters, they filmed and edited the documentary in their spare time and by their own resources.  Their moving documentary was then bought by the History Channel and has been broadcast to TV audiences in Great Britain, the US and Canada.

The Other Truth

The second film project, The Other Truth was the two authors’ voice in the discussion about the Polish-Jewish relations. In it they sought to document the deep cultural bond between Polish Christians and Polish Jews, a bond that was weakened by anti-Semitism and destroyed during and after the Shoah.

During the editing of The Other Truth, Wright was already succumbing to cancer but the film was shown at large private screenings followed by lively discussions before Jagna died. Naszyńska continued work on the distribution of both films which were repeatedly shown on TV in classrooms and in public showings in many countries. Her plans were tragically cut short when she died in Chile within weeks of being diagnosed with brain cancer.

According to the wish of the two film-makers surviving family members, the film materials will be transferred to the Polish History Museum in Warsaw and become a separate collection in the Film and Video Archives of the Polish History Museum, a modern cultural institution under development in Warsaw.

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