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Consequences of my indiscretion

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My attitude towards Jews
Jacek Kuroń Social activist
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Dla mnie sprawa żydowska jest sprawą niesłychanie głębokiego wyrzutu sumienia. Niesłychanie głębokiego, takiego nieustającego poczucia niemożności. Nie, po pierwsze innego statusu. Ja ten inny status czułem nieustannie. To, że jestem uprzywilejowany. To co już opowiadałem wiele razy, drukowałem nawet. Moja mama lubiła pływać, w związku z czym, a we Lwowie nie ma rzeki, jeździ się na baseny. I taki basen na Zamarstynowie – od nas do tego basenu... jest na przedmieściu – między miastem a tym basenem jest getto i tramwaj jechał przez getto. I ja patrzyłem na ludzi, na ten tłum ludzi na ulicach, jadąc na basen. Cały czas czułem, że ja jadę na basen, a ci ludzie tam umierają. Przy czym mnie się zdawało, że z pragnienia. Miałem takie... na końcu tego tramwaju wysiadaliśmy, wysiadaliśmy na bazarze, tam był bazar na końcu i mama kupowała wiśnie, dzieci żydowskie zagłodzone patrzyły przez takie kraty z desek. I potem szliśmy na ten basen. Więc ja naprzód nie jadłem wiśni, nie kąpałem się, ale potem zacząłem jeść wiśnie, kąpać się. No i to jeszcze pamiętam, jak przyszedł oddział Niemców z organizacji TOT chyba z opaskami. Stuknęli, rozebrali się, złożyli w kostki ubrania, weszli do tej wody. No to ja wyszedłem z tej wody. Czułem się strasznie, bo czułem się właśnie wpisany do "rasy panów". No takie dzieci uliczne, które do domu mama brała i karmiła jakąś zupą, a potem przecież wychodziły, wyganiała, były to bezdomne dzieci. Taka scena: bawimy się na podwórku, nagle słychać strzał. Od podwórka, od ulicy dzieli taka brama, jest taki tunel, brama i ten strzał jest pod samą bramą, więc straszny huk. Dozorczyni pyta, a dozorca zamiatał akurat przed domem, a dozorczyni była w środku. Pyta: "Co się stało?", a on mówi: "Nic, Ukrainiec zabił Żydka". I jedziemy pociągiem, w sąsiednim przedziale wybucha awantura o miejsce. Ktoś komuś mówi, że jest Żyd, pociąg staje na jakiejś stacji, większej, ktoś tam wychodzi i woła policję, milicjanta, bo u nas była ukraińska milicja w Galicji Wschodniej. Wkracza ten milicjant i bierze tego faceta i wychodzi z nim. Cały pociąg po prostu nic. Więc właśnie mówię: poczucie przynależności do "rasy panów" i takiej dzikiej, niesamowitej bezradności, i w rezultacie pretensji do rodziców, że te dzieci wyrzucają. To nie jest tak, że ja nie rozumiałem, że przecież nie można wszystkich, że trzeba wybierać, że to było przecież samobójstwo – ja to wszystko świetnie rozumiałem, zarazem miałem pretensje.

For me, the Jewish issue is one that stirs up enormous feelings of guilt, and a profound, constant sense of helplessness. No - first of all, a sense of a different status. I was constantly aware of this difference in status. I felt that I was priviledged. I've talked about this many times, I've even written about it. My mother liked to go swimming and so, as there's no river in Lwów, we used to go to the swimming baths. There were swimming baths in Zamarstynowo. From our home to these baths, which were on the outskirts of the town, between the town and these baths lay the ghetto through which the tram had to pass. I would look at those people, that crowd of people in the streets as I went to the swimming baths. I was constantly aware that I was going swimming while those people there were dying. Although I thought they were dying of thirst. I had this kind of... at the end of the tram, we got out, we got out in the market, there was a market at the end and my mother bought some cherries there while the starving Jewish children watched us through the fence. After that, we walked to the swimming baths. At first, I wouldn't eat those cherries, I wouldn't swim but then later I began to eat the cherries and I started swimming. I remember, too, when a unit of Germans turned up from TOT with arm bands, I think. They clicked their heels, undressed, folded their clothes into neat piles and got into the water. So I got out. I felt terrible because I felt as if I'd been included in the 'master race'. Street children whom my mother took in and fed with soup, later they had to go, they were chased away because they were homeless children.

There was this scene. We're playing in the courtyard when we suddenly hear a shot. The courtyard was separated from the street by a gateway, a tunnel, a gateway and the shot was right outside the gateway so the noise was deafening. The caretaker's wife asked, the caretaker was sweeping the pavement, his wife was inside. She asked, 'What had happened?' to which he said, 'Nothing. A Ukrainian killed a Jew'. Another time we were in the train when a row broke out over a vacant seat in the next carriage. Someone called someone else a Jew, the train stopped at a bigger station somewhere, someone got out and called the police, a militiaman, because we had Ukrainian militia in Eastern Galicia. So the militiaman took the guy away and no one in that train said a thing. That's what I mean about having a sense of belonging the 'master race'. You feel so unbelievably helpless. Therefore I had a grudge against my parents for chasing those poor, homeless children away. It's not like I didn't understand that you can't help everyone, that you have to be selective, that it would have been suicide, I understood all of that, but I still had a grudge.

The late Polish activist, Jacek Kuroń (1934-2004), had an influential but turbulent political career, helping transform the political landscape of Poland. He was expelled from the communist party, arrested and incarcerated. He was also instrumental in setting up the Workers' Defence Committee (KOR) and later became a Minister of Labour and Social Policy.

Listeners: Marcel Łoziński Jacek Petrycki

Film director Marcel Łoziński was born in Paris in 1940. He graduated from the Film Directing Department of the National School of Film, Television and Theatre in Łódź in 1971. In 1994, he was nominated for an American Academy Award and a European Film Academy Award for the documentary, 89 mm from Europe. Since 1995, he has been a member of the American Academy of Motion Picture Art and Science awarding Oscars. He lectured at the FEMIS film school and the School of Polish Culture of Warsaw University. He ran documentary film workshops in Marseilles. Marcel Łoziński currently lectures at Andrzej Wajda’s Master School for Film Directors. He also runs the Dragon Forum, a European documentary film workshop.

Cinematographer Jacek Petrycki was born in Poznań, Poland in 1948. He has worked extensively in Poland and throughout the world. His credits include, for Agniezka Holland, Provincial Actors (1979), Europe, Europe (1990), Shot in the Heart (2001) and Julie Walking Home (2002), for Krysztof Kieslowski numerous short films including Camera Buff (1980) and No End (1985). Other credits include Journey to the Sun (1998), directed by Jesim Ustaoglu, which won the Golden Camera 300 award at the International Film Camera Festival, Shooters (2000) and The Valley (1999), both directed by Dan Reed, Unforgiving (1993) and Betrayed (1995) by Clive Gordon both of which won the BAFTA for best factual photography. Jacek Petrycki is also a teacher and a filmmaker.

Tags: Lwów

Duration: 3 minutes, 28 seconds

Date story recorded: 1987

Date story went live: 12 June 2008