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Web of Stories offers you the chance to listen to some of the greatest people of our time telling their life stories.

The Warsaw Uprising

Jan Józef Lipski

Social activist

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Depiction of the Warsaw Uprising in "Kanał"

Andrzej Wajda - Film-maker

The film Kanał was undoubtedly a fantastic idea for a film. The best evidence for this is the fact that after all these years, no one's made a second film about the Warsaw Uprising that could in any way compete with this one. I'm not saying this because it's my film, except what does this signify? I think this points to deeper reasons. How... and I've said this before, the future audience of Kanał, which was a Polish audience and in particular, a Warsaw audience, because, after all, there were still plenty of people living in Warsaw who'd returned after the city had been rebuilt having survived the Uprising but who had lost relatives and friends - what sort of film did they want to see? They wanted to see a film where a red and white flag was fluttering above a barricade. They wanted to see a film, irrespective of whether the Uprising had been a success or not, in which the spirit triumphs. However, Jerzy Stefan Stawiński's story didn't provide the opportunity to present this kind of reality. Stawiński describes from the point of view of a company commander who is carrying out an order. What sort of hope was there for the Uprising to have ended differently? If the commander of the Uprising, Nowak-Jeziorański, with whom I talked about this, told me that he arrived just before the Uprising began and spoke with the command which was to decide yes or no. Above all, they were counting on, that's why the Polish Army was in the West, that when the Uprising would break out there would be an air drop, since we had an air force, an air drop, and reinforcements would also come by sea as we had our own navy, too. When he told them that nothing of the sort was going to happen, they didn't want to believe him. They thought it was obvious that if the Uprising begins... eventually, in the course of the discussion, the only reason for the Uprising became apparent. Namely, that matters had gone too far and the Uprising had to happen because hatred of the Germans and the protest were so intense that whether we wanted it or not, so the command said, the Uprising had to go ahead. If the command had no control over the situation... In addition, what was amazing was that the Red Army was positioned on the other side and no one asked how it would behave in this case. Therefore, there were many questions surrounding the Uprising, the answers to which are provided by Stawiński's story, Kanał. Since there was no answer to these fundamental questions: who will help us, how will we manage if no one comes to our aid, how will the story of the Uprising end? That's why it ended the way it did, in the sewers. It was such an original point of view, I mean it was authentic, but the events, that it could have ended in such a way.

Freeman Dyson - Scientist
Sherwin Nuland - Surgeon
John Maynard Smith - Scientist
Marvin Minsky - Scientist