Poklosie (Aftermath) (2012)

 

 

 

Director:     Wladyslaw Pasikowski.

Starring:     Maciej Stuhr (Józef Kalina), Ireneusz Czop (Franciszek Kalina), Zbigniew Zamachowski (Wlodzimierz Nowak), Danuta Szaflarska (Herbalist), Jerzy Radziwilowicz (Rector), Zuzana Fialová (Justyna), Wojciech Zielinski (Antek), Danuta Borsuk (Barmaid), Andrzej Mastalerz (Priest Janusz Pawlak), Anita Poddebniak (Shop assistant), Magdalena Gnatowska (Woman in shop), Ryszard Ronczewski (Franciszek Sudecki), Zbigniew Konopka (Bank's manager), Elzbieta Romanowska (Barmaid), Lech Dyblik (Woodcuter), Jaroslaw Gruda (Farmer), Jan Jurewicz (Grzelak), Stanislaw Brudny, Zbigniew Kasprzyk (Fireman), Robert Rogalski (Malinowski), Maria Garbowska (Palka).

the villagers in Poland turn on their Jewish neighbors

 

 

Spoiler Warning:

 

A Polish Airline plane coming from Chicago, Illinois touches down at the Warsaw airport.  A man gets off the plane and grabs a taxi.  The cab drivers talks with the traveler.  The fellow has lived in the United States for twenty years now.  The driver asks if the traveler is dissatisfied with life in the USA.? The American answers:  "They sure don't let a Pole man earn an honest buck over there . . ."   The fellow adds that he is traveling by train to his brother's place. 

When the train arrives at the man's destination, there is no one there to pick him up.  So he takes a bus further out into the countryside.  He gets off the bus and starts walking by a woodland area on his right.  He gets the feeling that someone in the woods is following him.  He finally stops, puts his bag down, grabs a log and goes into the woods.  He hears twigs breaking and decides to run through the woods.  He runs into a low hanging tree limb and gets knocked down.  So he returns to the road. 

It's dark now and the American is still looking for his now-missing bag.  A policeman in a car stops by him and asks if the fellow is lost?  He says he left his bag here and now it's gone.  The policeman asks where is the fellow going at this time of night?  He's going to Józef Kalina's place. Józef is his brother.  The policeman, Sergeant Nowak, knows of the long time gone brother.  The brother says his name is Franciszek Kalin.  The sergeants tells Franciszek to hop in the jeep and he will give him a ride to his brother's place.  Speaking of neighbors, Franciszek says that the Malinowskis always kept to themselves. 

Arriving at the house, the sergeant tells Franciszek (Franek) to come down to the station tomorrow and file a report.  Franek's brother Józef (Joziu) comes out of the house with an axe in his hands.  Franek asks about the axe and Joziu says up close its a much easier weapon to handle compared to scythe.  Now Joziu recognizes Franek and opens the locked gate.  Franek hugs his brother, but brother wants to know about his wife Jolka and the kids, who are now living with Franek in Chicago.  The family fled from Joziu's abuses of them.  Franek says they are living with him and Charlene is helping out with the children.  The brothers soon get into an argument because Franek wants to know why Jolka and the kids came all the way from Poland to stay with him.  Joziu goes on the offensive asking why did Franek leave the family behind when Joziu was only eight years old.  The confrontation is abruptly stopped when someone throws a rock through the kitchen window.   Joziu says he doesn't know who threw the rock or why. 

In the morning they go see their family's graves.  The brothers quarrel a bit more.  Joziu walks out of the graveyard, but is accosted by the village priest, telling Joziu that this matter is not over yet.  The priest tells Joziu to come to his senses. 

Franek goes to the center of town.  The people stare at the stranger.  He goes into the general store and buys a newspaper.  An old man sitting on a bench with two young men asks Franek if he is staying with Kalina?  Franek explains that Joziu is his brother.  He tells the old man that he knows his named is Suds, who owns the forge.  Suds just says that Franek is from America now.  Franek explains that he left for America just before Jaruzelski announced martial law.   Suds says that Franek is going to take Joziu to America when he goes back.  Franek says no, Joziu wants to stay where he is.  Suds asks if Franek is going to help his brother on the farm?  Franek asks if Suds thinks that Joziu needs help?  The grumpy old man now says that Joziu's farm has nothing to do with him.  Suds now leaves.

The two young guys seem also to want Franek to take Joziu with him back to the USA.  The police sergeant calls Franek over to the police station.  It seems they are still looking for Franek's bag, but Franek is more interested now in finding out if his brother is liked in the village?  The village priest comes in and takes the sergeant away.  Another policeman gives Franek a paper that fines his brother for damaging a public road.  The villagers wanted to lynch his brother, but Father Nowak, or rather the chief, saved him.   The road in question is the road to the old tannery.  A woman stops to talk to Franek.  She's the granddaughter to Sudecki, the blacksmith. 

The woman works in a medical clinic.  Franek asks her about the road to the old tannery and the woman says it' within walking distance from here.  She takes him to the road, saying the people say Joziu ripped up the road surface and stole it.  Franek is perplexed wondering why would his brother tear up a road.  The woman now tells Franek that she is going and she wants Franek to tell Jola that Justyna said "hi "to her.  Franek agrees.

Franek come to a part of the road that looks like rectangular holes in the road with no asphalt around.  Then he sees some steps up to the old tannery.  He climbs the steps, but barbed wire and a locked gate block his way. 

Franek asks his brother what's the story with the broken-up road to the old tannery?  Joziu won't tell him. 

The brothers go to a banker to get a loan with the farm as collateral.  The bank manager says he can't give Joziu a loan because his father never filled out the right ownership papers and had no right to transfer ownership of the property to Joziu.  Joziu gets angry and leaves the bank but Franek asks what does the banker mean when he says their father's title to the property isn't clear?  The banker suggests that Franek clear the matter up at the municipal office. 

The brother goes to the municipal office but it isn't open until Monday.  Joziu now goes to have a drink in a bar and Franek goes to a store.  A big guy comes over to Joziu, calls him a hick, and wants to know which soccer team is Joziu rooting for.  Joziu says he's rooting for Lech Walesa.  The big fellow head butts Joziu and then the big guy and two other friends keep kicking Joziu when he's down. 

Franek bought some clothes and now comes into the bar.  He sees blood on the floor and chairs pushed over.  There is no one in the bar.  He goes to the back of the bar to find someone, but no one's there. He comes out a door and finds a blonde woman tendering to Joziu's wounds.  Joziu says all he got was a bloody nosel.  The bar tender woman says it was the men who work down at the sawmill who caused the trouble. 

On the bus ride back to the farm, Joziu asks Franek is he really wants to know about the road?  Of course, Franek wants to know. So at the farm, Joziu takes his brother into mother's field.  Immediately, Franek notices a collection of huge stones in a section of the field.  Joziu says that these are the stones he took from the road to the old tannery, and other places too.  Franek asks how many stones are there?  328.  His brother says in 1998 when the flood swept away the main road they started using the old tannery road again.  After they cleared the road, they found these gravestones.  During WWII the Germans tore up the synagogue and the old Jewish cemetery. They used the gravestones to reinforce the road from the station to the tannery.  It stayed that way until 1955 when the county laid the new road.  Folks forgot about the stones until the flood came.  Joziu says he figured that this wasn't right, so he collected the gravestone from the roads and from around people's farms.  The people used the gravestones as thresholds, work surfaces and flagstones.  Filipowski even had one in his outhouse.  Joziu bought some of the gravestones from the people. 

Joziu learned the Hebrew alphabet and can read the names on the gravestones.  The people in the village think Joziu is crazy.  "Worst thing is, Jola took their side."  Franek says and now he's stuck with brother's wife and children. 

Joziu says the whole situation with the headstones made him feel bad.  "I kept thinking 'this is wrong,'  What if someone tore up our parents' headstone and put it by the church door so folks wouldn't get their feet muddy?"  Franek says they never had anything to do with the Jewish people in the area.  Joziu says he felt that he just had to do something with the headstones.  So now Franek says this is too dangerous for Joziu to do.  Does he think those sawmill workers beat Joziu up for no reason?    Joziu says it's just that there was no one else to look after the Jewish headstones.

Franek comes out of the store when the three sawmill workers drive up to the store.  They ask the two young guys on the bench, who Franek talked to when talking to Suds, where's Kalina got his place?  The two guys know Franek is watching them so they say they don't know.  So the sawmill workers drive away.  Franek now walks past the two young men and tells them thanks. 

Franek goes over to visit the old priest who Franek took his First Communion with.  The priest mentions that Franek did not attend his parents' funerals.  Franek admits that now he feels bad about that and has to live with it.  But the real reason, Franek came was to talk about his brother's situation with the priest.  The priest says most of the people think that the brother is doing the wrong thing, but he believes that Joziu is doing the Lord's work.

Father Janusz Pawlak stops Franek one day to tell him that the parish priest is retiring and he wants to make sure the transition goes smoothly without the media snooping around.  Franek wants nothing to do with this young priest.

Franek tells his brother that it's harvest time.  Brother says he's arranged for the harvester to come down on Monday.  Franek says he has arranged with the parish priest to have the Jewish headstones removed.  Joziu says no to that.  He's not retreating from what has has done. 

Franek drives the tractor down the road and the drivers of the passing cars really beep at Franek to harass the brother.  One guy just keeps following the tractor.  Franek stops the tractor, gets off, grabs a wrench and chases after the car that turns around to get out of there.

Now Franek changes his mind on the subject of the headstones.  At night, he and his brother now pick up some more headstones.   And they are going to take the headstones that are on the church's property.  Franek put in a fake emergency telephone call about a dying person in the next town.  Franek waits for the priest to leave and then drives the tractor onto the church property.  The church has Jewish headstones around their well.  The two brothers put the headstones into their trailer and then take off with the headstones.

Someone has spotted the two brothers and now a large crowd has gathered just outside the church gate.  The people are determined not to let the tractor out of the gate.  Thank goodness, the old parish priest is there.  Suds tells the parish priest at these two Yids here are stealing church property.  The priest says he asked these men to move the stone so he could renovate the vicarage.  The stones were placed there unlawfully during the war, and it's time they went back where they belong.  And, he says, the Kalinas are as Polish as you and I.  And they're good Christians, too.  "As for you, Suds, I never see you in church, and you're going to fry in hell."  He tells everyone to go home now.

Now the tractor heads for mother's field where the other gravestones are at. 

Now the brothers await the arrival of the harvesting machine.  It was supposed to arrive at 4 a.m., but now it's already late.  Joziu goes to the rental place and demands to know where is his harvester.  The manager just keeps saying the machine broke down and it was taken to a repair shop.  The Kalinas are furious with the manager and refer to him as the bastard.  Joziu decides to oil up his reaper to do the harvesting.  Meanwhile, Franek rides his bike in search of the harvester.  He finds it working on a neighbor's wheat.  The driver says to Franek that he was about to go to the Kalina place, but the manager sent him out here instead.  Franek gives up.  He gets off the property just as two big men were rushing up to confront Franek. 

Franek goes to do some research on the Kalina properties and the properties of the neighbors.  The man in charge tells Franek that if he's looking for plot numbers, he will have to check against several registries.  Franek looks up his family's entry in the register and finds that the entry's not right.  He says both plots are down by the river bend, but now that's all marshland.  The man in charge figures out that the so-called land reform only confirmed the status quo after the war.  Franek says:  "So by the time of the reform, father was farming different land than he had before the war?"  Yes.  Now, who owned the plots before the war?  Franek finds out that the former owner was a Jewish man.  He checks the property of his neighbors and keeps finding the same outcomes.  All the land in the area before the Nazis came was Jewish land.   Franek concludes:  "They took land belonging to murdered Jews.  All of them."

Joziu finds that his buildings have all been painted over with anti-Semitic signs. And now he finds his dog killed. 

The unknown car follower now runs Franek off the road while riding his bike.  Franek returns home and finds his brother removing the anti-Semitic graffiti.  Joziu asks Franek to bury his dog.  These people cut his dog's head off with the scythe.  After burying the dog, Franek tells his brother that all these farms in this area around here were Jewish farms from the woods down to the river.  After the Germans killed the Jews, our people took their homes and land.  Living here were twenty-six families with over a hundred people.  Folks here are scared of the Jewish people coming back and claiming what's theirs.  And there's documents in the archives to prove it.  Under communism nobody would have dared to question land distribution.  And now the Jewish families today might not know their families once lived here.  And now the brothers know why the town folks don't look kindly on the Kalinas. 

The brothers start reaping their wheat.  Later they take a brake to go down and look at their father's now marshland property.  Franek says that in America people keep saying that Poles denounced Jews to the Germans.  They find the remains of their old farmhouse.  Joziu gets discouraged and the brothers go home.  At night in bed, Franek can see that somebody has set fire to the area with the Jewish gravestones.  The brothers rush out to try to put out the fires.  The fire department comes, but no one will help the Kalinas.  They only use the water on their neighbor's properties.  The two brothers get in a fight with the firefighters and police and they wind up in jail. 

The old parish priest gets the brothers out of jail.  Later Franek interviews an old lady, who doesn't remember a great deal.  The one thing she remembers is that she never sold the Jews out, like the others did. 

Franek goes back to the old tannery and climbs over the gate.  He goes inside the tannery.  He uses his cigarette lighter as a light source.  He sees cell doors.  He comes out and speaks to Suds' granddaughter.  He says they kept them here, but not the Jews.  Now she takes Franek to see Suds.  Franek asks Suds if he remembers how the Germans took the Jews from the village during the war?  Suds wants to know why Franek wants to know.  Franek says:  ". . . I got their farm [his family's farm] now, and I want to know since when."  Suds doesn't want to say.  He says he minds his own business.  Now Franek asks him how many years has he lived in his present house?  Suds' grandsons now come to the rescue of their grandfather.  They threaten Franek.  Franek leaves.

Franek tells Joziu that he found out from old Mrs. Palka that the Germans took the Jews in the summer of 1941.  And now Franek wants to go back to father's original house that is now in ruins.  Joziu asks what's that place going to tell them?  Franek answers: "That the Germans never deported the Jews from our village."  And this would mean that the Jews are still here. 

The brothers start digging in the remnants of their father's house.  They keep digging until they start to find human skulls in the ditch.  They start finding other bones too, besides skulls. 

Now it's morning and the brothers are sitting on one of the earthen hills they created.  An old woman walks over to them and sees the human bones they dug up.  She comments:  "Found them at last, the poor souls.  Why don't you bury them in that graveyard you made?"  The brothers ask if the woman saw it.  She says:  "Everybody saw it.  They herded them into the Kalinas' cottage then set fire to it.  Laughing, drinking vodka.  . . .and inside the young 'uns were crying, all crying, and then there was only the silence and the dying."  The brothers think the Germans did this, but the old woman tells them:  "Weren't no soldiers here."  The killers, according to the woman, was:  "Everybody, the whole village."  Malinowski lit the fire.

The brothers go now to confront Malinowski.  He is not going to confess, but the two men keep pressing him.   So now he is going to tell the truth to the boys and they are going to choke on it, he says.  Two people lit the fire.  The second man was your father Stanislaw Kalina.  Furthermore, their father hacked them Jews with a saw and kicked Halszka Minta's head all over the road, because one time the woman had refused their father's advances.  Joziu runs away

Joziu sits amongst the gravestones on the blackened earth. 

Joziu finally comes home.  He asks his brother what should they do now?  Joziu suggests that they rebury the skeletons and tell no one about them.  Franek rejects that suggestion.  Joziu gets mad at Franek and tells  his brother:  "Go back to America, and leave the whole business to me."  He then says that when Franek went to America, he renounced him as his brother.  As far as he's concerned, his brother died in 1980.  Joziu hits Franek, knocking him down.  Franek fights back and Joziu hits him several more times.  Franek gets up and knocks Joziu down.  He then grabs the axe and stands over his brother with the axe.  He comes to his senses, goes inside the house to get his stuff and then walks himself down to the bus stop. 

Someone now comes up on Joziu. 

Franek takes his anger and frustration out on bus stop itself.  He kicks and smashes in the lower part of one wall of the bus stop.   He doesn't realize that the bus has arrived and the passengers saw him kicking the hell out of the bus stop.  Franek sees the bus, grabs his stuff and gets on the bus. 

Suds' granddaughter comes with her pickup truck and stops the bus. She comes aboard and Franek guesses that something has happened to his brother. 

The police are at the house along with a lot of neighbors.  Franek goes to the barn. The front door opens and everyone can see Joziu's  bloody and dead body nailed to the back of the door in crucifixion style.  Everyone is shocked at the violence of the scene.

Franek goes to the Jewish gravestones and sees a bus parked by it.  Then he sees that the people who were on the bus are Jewish and they are holding a ceremony for the Jewish dead.  The gravestones have now been put in straight rows and columns in mother's field.  A rabbi reads from a holy book, while rocking his upper body forward and back, forward and back.  Franek lights a candle for the Jewish dead and then leaves.

 

Very powerful story of a terrible thing that was done to a group of about a hundred Jewish people in a small Polish village.  And this time the Nazis weren't the ones committing genocide on the Jewish people.  The villagers were jealous of the Jewish members of their village and were extremely greedy to get the land that rightfully belonged to their Jewish neighbors.  And then they removed all traces of the Jewish having lived in their village.  But one day a good man discovers that Jewish gravestones were used to strengthen the roads through the village.  He felt this was just wrong and did something about it.  This panics the villagers, who are afraid that the happenings at the village will be discovered and they will be punished.

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D. 

 

 

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