By André Pachter
In 1968, Poland's Communist regime, alarmed by a wave of student unrest and aiming to appease a Kremlin that had turned viciously against Israel following its stunning victory over Moscow's Arab allies in the 1967 Mideast War, expelled the last remaining Jews--essentially, Holocaust survivors and their children--from what once was the largest Jewish community in the world. Thousands of Polish citizens of Jewish ancestry, including professionals and some party officials, were forced into exile, effectively ending over a thousand years of Jewish history.
One of the individuals made stateless by Poland's "Anti-Zionist Campaign" was a talented and aspiring young filmmaker named Andrzej Krakowski. He was stripped of his citizenship after being sent to Hollywood on a scholarship. But, as if to prove that success is the best revenge, he went on to become both an internationally respected director, producer and screenwriter and a published author and academic authority on the history, art and business of making movies. His book, The World Through The Eye of a Screenwriter, is becoming required reading in screenwriting courses in film schools across the United States.
Last month, nearly a half-century after being exiled from Poland, Krakowski, who teaches film and video at the City College of New York, where he is a tenured full professor, returned to his native city of Lodz in connection with a piece of unfinished academic business--his Ph.D. degree. On January 30, he successfully defended his doctoral dissertation and was granted a Ph.D. in film directing by the National Polish Film School (PWSFTviT), which has been one of the world's top-ranked film schools since its founding in 1948.
Krakowski's doctorate is believed to be the first Ph.D. in film directing ever bestowed on a U.S. citizen.
ENDNOTES: Krakowski has returned to Poland many times since the fall of Communism in 1989. Pollywood, his nonfiction book about the Polish Jews who built Hollywood, is a critically acclaimed bestseller in Poland; and, just last September, there was an exhibition of his cartoons in Warsaw, consisting of 76 drawings previously published in magazines and periodicals around the world. One of the cartoons, previously published in Foreign Confidential, appears below.
Among the films Krakowski has written, produced or directed are: "The Politics of Cancer;" "Looking for Palladin," starring Ben Gazzara, David Moscow and Talia Shire; "Triumph of the Spirit," starring Willem Dafoe, Robert Loggia, James Edward Olmos; "Managua," starring Louis Gossett, Jr., Michael Moriarty, John Savage and John Diehl; "Genghis Khan," starring Richard Tyson, Charlton Heston, Robert Mitchum and Lois Chiles; "Eminent Domain," starring Donald Sutherland, Anne Archer and Jodhi May; and "Tides of War," starring Ernest Borgnine, David Soul and Yvette Hayden. Eminent Domain is based on the Kafkaesque, true story of a senior member of the Polish Politburo (played by Donald Sutherland) who inexplicably becomes the victim of persecution. The film was shot in Gdansk and Warsaw.
Krakowski's powerful docudrama, "Farewell to My Country," tells the story of the postwar expulsion of Polish Jewry.
Today, only 3,500 Jews reside in Poland compared to more than 350,000 living there after World War II. Before the Holocaust, there were 3,500,000 Jews in Poland, 12% of the total population in those days. It has been estimated that 80% of American Jews have family roots in Poland.
|"The situation is definitely improving Now everybody is hurting." By Andrzej Krakowski.|