General Nil (2009)

 

 

 

Director:     Ryszard Bugajski.

Starring:     Olgierd Lukaszewicz (Gen. August Emil Fieldorf 'Nil' alias Walenty Gdanicki),  Alicja Jachiewicz (Janina Fieldorf),  Magdalena Emilianowicz (Krystyna Fieldorf),  Anna Cieslak (Maria Fieldorf ),  Zbigniew Stryj (Major Stefan Bajer),  Jacek Rozenek (Col. Jůzef Růzanski),  Maciej Radel (Michal),  Krzysztof Franieczek (Lieutenant Kazimierz Gůrski),  Maciej Mikolajczyk (Wiesiek),  Stefan Szmidt (Gen.Tadeusz Komorowski 'Bůr'),  Nela Biernacka (Zosia Fieldorf),  Maria Mamona (Helena Blociszewska),  Maciej Kozlowski (Tadeusz Grzmielewski),  Leszek Lichota (Roman Charewicz 'Klemm'),  Tomasz Dedek (General Stanislaw Tatar).

twentieth century Polish hero, Emil Fieldorf (1895-1953), aka General Nil

 

 

Spoiler Warning:  below is a summary of the entire film.

Siberia 1947.   Col. Emil Fieldorf helps nurse a young, sick man in order to keep him alive.

Flashback. Warsaw, Poland, 1944. A man is being pushed along in a hand cart by a younger man named Wiesiek. He has to stop so the German soldiers can check him out. They ask for his papers. First and last name? Walenty Gdanicki. Date of birth? February 2, 1899. Where do you work? Warsaw Railroad. They let him proceed on his way.

Walenty Gdanicki goes into the office of Dr. P. Lachowkz. A nurse opens the door and Gdanicki says: "Stanislaw Weller . . . an X-ray of the liver." He is shown into a room where two men say hello to the colonel. The men show the colonel photos of a German officer.

The colonel sits down and lays out the plan. He draws a map of the streets in the target area and says that they will need six men with tommy guns. Four will cover the two executors. The action will take place before the driveway to the SS headquarters. Everything should be over in one minute. The colonel adds: "Kill him."

Back to the present. The sick man calls out for Uncle Walenty. Walenty comes over to the bunk bed. The man asks if Walenty has ever been in Poland? Of course, he has. After all, he was born there. Two years ago they deported Walenty to Siberia.

The sick man says they deported his group to Kazakhstan in 1939. His mother died on the way and his father was shot. He himself was only eleven years old at the time.

Walenty says donít expect a paradise, but a least the young man will be in his homeland.

Flashback. Warsaw, February 1944. The assassins are in position on the designated streets. The targeted German comes out of headquarters and gets in his car. A woman sees the car coming and removes her outer coat to signal that the target is headed their way. A car blocks the target car from moving ahead and about five men start firing at the car and at the German guards. The driver and target are riddled with bullets. Then a man with a pistol pulls the officerís body from the car and fires some more bullets into him. Two of the assassins are wounded before they can jump into the get away cars.

A call is put into the leaders of the plot and the message is: "Mr. Franciszek has gone on holiday."

In a cemetery a man tells Walenty that the situation is changing quickly. On New Yearís Day the Soviets crossed their pre-war border with the Soviets. Now they are facing a Soviet occupation rather than a German occupation. Once they push the Germans out of Poland, they must keep at least a part of their army together. For two years Walenty has been commander of the sabotage units, he must now help them with their new situation.

They want Walenty to create a new conspiracy and take command of active combat. Walenty complains that they are in no shape to fight against the Soviets. These are Walentyís orders from the Polish government in London. The name of the project is Independence with a code name of Nie. The men shake hands and then separate.

Milanowek, January 1945. Soviet troops head through the town firing as they go. Walenty watches them from behind a wall with missing slats.

In a restaurant Walenty speaks with a younger man about his trip. The man says he went the shortest way via Sweden. The Schuppo (German police) stopped him in Szczecin [the capital city of the West Pomeranian Voivodeship and a major seaport in the vicinity of the Baltic Sea, in Poland]. Walenty says the Nie should be liquidated as soon as possible. Partisans fighting against the Soviets will lead nowhere.

Soviet soldiers enter the restaurant and the leader tells everyone to freeze with their hands up. A soldier sees Walenty push something under the table. The captain comes over and opens the little package which is full of American money. He figures he has caught a war profiteer and tells Walenty to stand up. The Soviet now tells Walenty that he will be chopping wood for a few years in Siberia.

Back to the present. Biala Podlaska, October 1947. The train pulls in at the station. The prisoners are let out of the box cars. Walenty starts coughing up a storm when he gets out of the box car. He then falls to the ground. A stretcher is brought to take him to get some medical care. One of the workers tells Walenty welcome home.

Lodz, December 1947. Walenty goes to visit in the apartment of Mrs. Helena. She gives him some soup and bread and says that Mrs. Janina and the daughters must be very happy about his return. He says he hasnít seen them yet. He came straight here from the station.  The woman calls Walenty Mr. Emil. Walenty says that for some time there has been no Emil Fieldorf. Thereís just been a railroader Walenty Gdanicki. He then asks if he can stay here for a little while. Mrs. Helena says yes.

While Walenty sleeps, his wife and two grown daughters come into the apartment to see him. They fawn all over him. They all cry.

A man comes to see Emil. He wants Emil to do something about the Home Army, a bunch of fascists who are Polandís worst enemy. He urges Emil to go to the West. Emil says that would be cowardice on his part. He will stay and try to lead a normal life, at least for awhile until he sees whatís going on.

Emil walks along the streets of town. Suddenly, his friend Wiesiek waltzes over to him and calls him General.  Emil is very happy to see him and gives him a big hug. He asks Wiesiek what he has been doing?  Wiesiek says he and all the others are waiting for the General because they want to fight on.  Emil tells the young man to never join a conspiracy because: "Youíll die and your death will be useless." But Wiesiek just canít believe that all the fighting they did was for naught. Emil turns and walks away.

He goes to his wifeís apartment. Itís a little run-down, but Emil says his wife Janina was lucky to get it. The couple dances to some music. He still has not moved into the apartment for fear of being arrested.

Emil walks to General Tatarís house. Tatar comes to the door and asks if Emil has been followed? Emil says no. Tatar suggest they meet at a certain location in the park in a half-hour.

The two men meet in private and Emil says he is going to disclose his identity so he can get away in one piece and so he won't expose his family to harm.  He wants Tatar to tell him what he should do. Tatar says that he doesnít think Emil will be risking a great deal.

Lodz, February 1948. Emil goes to tell the Soviets his real name versus the aliases he used. A lieutenant wants to know what Emil did during the occupation by the Germans? Emil says he commanded the Kedyw Sabotage Unit of the Home Army. The lieutenant stands up from his seat. He calls for another officer to take down Emilís testimony.

A man named Stefan comes to see Emil. He says that Janina told him where Emil was staying. He then hands Emil a transcript of minutes of a Moscow trial that took place back in 1945. Stefan wants Emil to read the transcript.

Emil shows the document of Okulickiís testimony to his wife. She reads the part that affects Emil and that is where Okulickki agreed that Emil organized a unit to commit terrorist acts against the representatives of Soviet power in the USSR territory. His wife is very worried and she now says that Stefan was right. Emil should leave Poland.

The Russian military leader in Poland, Comrade Davidov, wants the masses to be ruled with a firm hand. "They should live under constant threat." His counterpart, Joseph Abramovitch, says that no one in Poland is going to believe that Emil is a traitor and a collaborator. Davidov says the bigger the lie, the more likely the people will believe it.  He urges Abramovitch to destroy all the symbols of the old bourgeois Poland.

Emil tells his wife that he loves all his family, but he finds it hard to act naturally around them. He says he needs to go somewhere to get a long rest.  His wife asks him wasnít seven years of separation they had enough of a rest already?

Emil notices more and more that the Soviets are following him everywhere. In the marketplace he is able to slip away from them. At home he talks about being constantly tailed. One of his daughters suggests that he leave Poland and live in a place where the people are free. Emil says all this repression will pass, but his daughter doesnít believe it.

Emil visits Stefan at his place in the mountains. Stefan figures that his friend wants his help to get him over the border and out of Poland.  Emil, however, tells him he doesnít want to leave Poland. He wants Stefan to find some good land for him that he can buy. He will build a house on the land and maybe raise sheep and work in carpentry. And maybe this would reassure the Soviets that he is not looking to escape from Poland.

Emil goes for a long hike. A man follows him and catches up with him when Emil stops for a break. He says his name is Roman Charewicz (aka Klemm) of the Vilna Brigade under Wilk-Krzyzanowski. Emil introduces himself as Emil Fieldorf, retired general. The man says he knows who Emil is. He is with an organization known as WiN (the Freedom and Independence Association).   The police have smashed two boards of the association so now they want to be able to hide better so they can resume more effective action. And since Emil is the only AK (home army) general still in the country, they want him as their leader. Emil is not very interested in the organization. He doesnít know if he can even trust this man. Roman says his organization canít survive without his leadership. Emil says nor can it survive with his leadership.

Emil has discouraged Roman, who says Emil is pushing defeatism. He also says that Emil is still on active duty. No one has released him from his duties. Emil leaves the man behind.

Emil goes with two of his daughters to see a movie, after which they have fun talking at a table in a restaurant.

Lodz. October, 1950. Emil is angry when he tells the bureaucrat that he applied for retirement and a pension over a year ago. His family has no means of sustenance. The bureaucrat tells him to go back home for he will get an answer any day now. As Emil leaves the office he is placed under arrest.  They put him into a car and drive on a road heading toward Warsaw. He is placed in a large cell by himself.

The police now go to visit Emiís family. They start ransacking the house. One of the daughters is rude to one of the policemen and he punches her in the nose.

In prison Emil is interrogated. They have labelled him as one of the Polish reactionaries. The interrogator says they have enough information on Emil for three death sentences.

Under sad circumstances, Emilís family celebrates Christmas.

Meanwhile, the Soviet rulers hold their own Christmas celebration complete with a band and dancing. They have a toast to the coming new year of 1951. The bigwigs talk about Emil with some saying he was involved in almost every AK action against the German occupation. Davidov pipes up and says that Emil was also a leader of the reactionary anti-state organization known as Nie.  Joseph Abramovitch says they canít just kill Emil out of hand. They must provide a trial for him, find him guilty and then execute him.

Emil goes under more interrogation. Emil denies many of the accusations that he ordered the deaths of many leftist activists of the Underground and Soviet partisans. He explains that local Kedyw units were not directly accountable to him and he was only accountable to the Warsaw region.

For his refusal to confess his crimes he is thrown into cell 11 which is filled with quite a bit of waste water.

They ask one of Emilís ex-body guards to tell them all about Emil. He wonít cooperate so the young fellow is shot in the back of the head.

The police now start taking away all the possessions of Emilís family.

Emil is now in a cell with four other prisoners. The authorities have stopped interrogating Emil for now. The guards take out one of the prisoners. When he is returned later the prisoner is all beaten up.

The beaten man now starts blaming the prisoner who is a Jewish rabbi. The fellow says that Poland is now being ruled by a gang of Jews. He tries to kill the rabbi, but is stopped by Emil.

The Soviets , like the Gestapo, continue torturing their prisoners to get them to cooperate. They pull out the nails of an old man. The next scene shows the old man having to parrot what the Soviets told him to say.

Emil gets to see his wife for about fifteen minutes. He asks her to forgive him for any and all the bad things he did to her. She asks him to put all their disputes behind him as she is doing.

The court, of course, finds Emil guilty and sentences him to death.

He learns that Klemm was working for the police as their agent. Emil was wise enough not to accept his bait.

The Soviets still want Emil to cooperate with them. They tell him a higher court can overrule the lower courtís ruling. He will receive 15 years and be released after 3. This will be in exchange for Emil endorsing further activities of the WiN organization. What they are really after is all the equipment and money the Americans will send to the WiN organization. Emil refuses the offer.

Mrs. Emil Fieldorf tries to get some help from her husbandís defence attorney, but he is of little help to her.

Fieldorf is thrown into a room crowded with people everywhere. The prisoners treat him with a great deal of respect for what he did for Poland.

A pardon hearing for Emil goes on, that is, until the higher ups decide that the findings of the lower court will not be changed.  Emil will be executed.

Now most of the Fieldorf furniture has been taken away.

A guard asks Emil to sign a statement asking the Supreme Court for a reprieve. Emil says to the guard to let the guilty man ask for a reprieve for he, an innocent man, will not. Later his family begs him to ask for a reprieve from President Bierut. They try to make him feel guilty by saying he loves his pride more than he does his family. Emil finally gives in to them and will write for a reprieve.

The president refuses to give Fieldorf a reprieve.

Warsaw. February 1953. Fieldorf is taken from his cell. One of the guards is the young man whose life Emil saved on the train going from Siberia to Poland. The guards take him to a cell where there is a gallows. The noose is put around his neck and the floor falls out from under him.

His body is taken out for burial. The grave is a mass grave in a field up against a brick wall. The bodies are covered up with dirt.

"In March 1989, the Brigadier General August Emil Fieldorf was fully rehabilitated. His place of burial still remains unknown. None of those guilty of Gen. Fieldorfís death have ever been punished."

 

Spoiler warning:  Criticism of communist occupation of Poland and exposure of communist use of torture and imprisonment and death to eliminate even the heroes of Poland.  The portrait reminds one of the methods used by the Gestapo under Nazi Germany.  At times the film is hard to watch because of the brutality of the communist system.  Olgierd Lukaszewicz (as Gen. August Emil Fieldorf 'Nil' alias Walenty Gdanicki) was very good in his role as the heroic and calm general.  (The Nil of General Nil was a nom de guerre.  Nil is Polish for the Nile River which the General had flown over..)

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D. 

 

 

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