My War – My Love (1975): A Polish movie on World War II that changed my life

My War - My Love (1975) movie poster

My War - My Love (1975) movie poster

Memory is a curious phenomenon. Sometimes memories of our personal past are evoked in the most unexpected manner, reviving nostalgia for days that are forever lost in the sands of time.

I have never visited Poland, but it’s been on my mind in recent days. 1 September 2009 marked the 70th anniversary of the beginning of the Second World War – which was sparked off by Nazi Germany’s invasion of Poland.

That’s also the day when the Anglo-American poet W H Auden wrote his deeply evocative poem, September 1, 1939. He wrote it sitting in a New York bar and distraught by the clouds of hatred gathering over Europe. I’ve been reading and re-reading it this year as the war Sri Lanka – which lasted almost five times longer – officially ended in May 2009.

As I wrote at the time: “Almost 70 years later, at the end of my own 30-year-long war, I have been reading and re-reading September 1, 1939. I’m trying to make sense of what is happening around me. The near hysterical mass euphoria on one side, and bewildered dejection on the other.”

I have only just remembered that Poland in September 1939 holds another significance for me. It has to do with the Polish film Moja Wojna – Moja Milosc (My War-My Love, 1975), which I saw in the summer of 1979 at a Colombo cinema as a 13-year-old school boy.

Not only did I see the film, but I also wrote an essay reviewing it and entered it into a competition organised by the Embassy of Poland. Growing up in a country that didn’t have broadcast television until that very year, I had only seen a handful of movies up to that time. I was no movie critic, but my views on the film and its resonance with my own times must have struck a chord with the judges. For I won the second prize in the Sinhala essay competition.

Being runner-up was no big deal by itself, but this was the first time that my writing was competitively judged and ranked by anyone outside my immediate circles. My prize included a fountain pen, white polyester cloth for school uniforms, and an LP record of Polish music (yes, LPs were still in use, but on their way out at the time!).

From My War - My Love

From My War - My Love

I would go on to win many essay competitions during my teens, and one day earn an honest living as a wordsmith. But that movie review – long since lost in the mists of time – was my first success. My career in literary crime was thus forged…thanks to a Polish movie!

From the little that I can still remember, 30 summers later, My War-My Love wasn’t a pretty film. It is set during the week of the Nazi invasion of Poland in 1939. Daring 17-year-old schoolboy Marek (Piotry Lyjak), inspired by the example of the Sobieski cadets during 1831 insurrection, vows to take on Germans single-handedly. He devotes most of his energy to protecting a young girl who lost her mother during the invasion.

As one reviewer wrote, “My War-My Love could not, by its very nature, end altogether happily, but the film can be regarded as life-affirming.”

War has no place for innocence - then or now...

War has no place for innocence - then or now...

That film was my first visual introduction to the horrors of war, a topic that was to dominate my own future for the next 30 years to come. In that Sri Lankan war, child soldiers several years younger than the film’s character Marek would play a prominent role.

At a far more personal level, I had never been in love when I saw My War-My Love. In the three decades to follow, I would fall in love three times — and lose out every time, though for very different reasons (none of which involved ‘my’ war). I must now carry the pain of these lost loves for the rest of my time. But that is another story…

Thanks to the wonders of Google, I’ve been able to track down some specifics about the film. It was directed by Janusz Nasfeter (1920 – 1998), a versatile Polish film maker whose career in writing and directing films spanned from the late 1940s to the early 1980s. He was 19 when the Germans came marching in.

It was one of many films that have used the Second World War as its backdrop. There have been several other Polish films that looked back on the Polish resistance, Poland Holocaust and Warsaw uprising of 1944 and other key events that left an indelible mark on the country. In fact, as this listing in Wikipedia shows, when Janusz Nasfeter made My War-My Love, the theme was pretty much covered by different Polish film makers in numerous ways.

I haven’t seen any of these other Polish films, and even My War-My Love is now only a distant memory. But as a moving image creation that moved my life in a certain direction, it would always have a special place in my heart.

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4 Responses to “My War – My Love (1975): A Polish movie on World War II that changed my life”

  1. cweinblatt Says:

    Sometimes authors use a novel or screenplay to support political or social beliefs; or to cry out for morality and ethical principles. This is no more clearly evident than with Holocaust books and films. Whenever we stand up to those who deny or minimize the Holocaust, or to those who support genocide we send a critical message to the world.

    We live in an age of vulnerability. Holocaust deniers ply their mendacious poison everywhere, especially with young people on the Internet. We know from captured German war records that millions of innocent Jews (and others) were systematically exterminated by Nazi Germany – most in gas chambers. Holocaust books and films help to tell the true story of the Shoah, combating anti-Semitic historical revision. And, they protect future generations from making the same mistakes.

    I wrote “Jacob’s Courage” to promote Holocaust education. This coming of age love story presents accurate scenes and situations of Jews in ghettos and concentration camps, with particular attention to Theresienstadt and Auschwitz. It examines a constellation of emotions during a time of incomprehensible brutality. A world that continues to allow genocide requires such ethical reminders and remediation.

    Many authors feel compelled to use their talent to promote moral causes. Holocaust books and movies carry that message globally, in an age when the world needs to learn that genocide is unacceptable. Such authors attempt to show the world that religious, racial, ethnic and gender persecution is wrong; and that tolerance is our progeny’s only hope.

    Jacob’s Courage has been reviewed extensively. Called, “gut wrenching and heart rending,” this love story takes the reader deep into ground zero of the Holocaust, encompassing the reader with constantly churning emotions. Despite the abject terror of this book, it also reveals the triumphant spirit of humankind and demonstrates how ordinary people can perform extraordinary acts of courage when the lives of loved ones are on the line.

    Charles Weinblatt
    Author, “Jacob’s Courage”
    http://jacobscourage.wordpress.com/.

  2. Sandra Says:

    “In the three decades to follow, I would fall in love three times — and lose out every time, though for very different reasons…” It’s far better to love and lose, than not to have loved at all, don’t you agree?

  3. newarkcemeteryuk Says:

    All Souls: 25th October 2009 Newark Cemetery
    is also an event that is held on the last Sunday in October each year organised by the Polish Air Force Association. This takes place at 3pm from London Road car park of the Newark Cemetery with a parade of standards With the Newark Town Mayor with members of the UK and Polish supporters with hundreds parading to the large Memorial cross to the Polish and Commonwealth War Graves Section.

    Newark Cemetery
    Spring bulb planting – this was scheduled for 10am-noon on Saturday 3rd October 2009. This will be followed at 1pm-3pm with visit to the Interpretation Centre display. (A former Chapel Left side East side) for a viewing by members of the public.

    During the Second World War there were a number of Polish stations within a few miles of Newark, from many of which operated squadrons of the Polish Air Force. A special plot was set aside in Newark Cemetery for Polish Air Force since Second World War. Many Polish Airmen that served both countries married and stayed in the UK and still have families in Newark and across the UK. They are also buried in Newark Cemetery among friends that gave their lives for Freedom, we will not forget the brave Airmen who are go buried in Newark Cemetery.

    397 Polish burials were made since the Second World War, with more Polish Airmen that remained and lived since the War have been added around the outside of the Polish War graves since. A Memorial cross to the Polish airmen buried here was erected in the plot and unveiled on 14th July 1941 by President Raczkiewicz, ex-President of the Polish Republic and head of the war-time Polish Government in London, supported by General Sikorski, Commander in Chief of the Polish Forces and war-time Prime Minister. When both men subsequently died, General Sikorski (aged 62) in 1943 and President Raczkiewicz in 1947, they were buried at the foot of the Polish memorial. General Sikorski’s remains were returned to Poland in 1993, but there is still a Memorial to him at Newark.

    General Wladyslaw Sikorski

    Prime Minister of Polish Government in exile during World War Two. In July 1941, he visited Newark to unveil a Memorial Cross dedicated to Polish Serviceman who died fighting alongside the British. He requested should he die while Poland was still occupied that would like to be buried alongside his men in Newark Cemetery.

    Died when the plane he was travelling in crashed over Gibraltar 4th July 1943. Whilst returning from visiting Polish soldiers in the Middle East.

    Thursday 15th July 1943 General Sikorski body was taken to the former Holy Trinity RC Church on Parliament Street, Newark for an Requiem Mass. His boby stayed overnight.

    General Sikorski was buried at Newark Cemetery 16th July, 1943. His body was returned to Poland when it was a free Country 14th September 1993.

    On the last Sunday in September each year the Airbridge special Memorial near the Polish War Graves takes place from members across the UK and Poland come to this annual visit, starting at 2:00pm Main gate on London Road, Newark.

    All Souls: 25th October 2009 Newark Cemetery
    is also an event that is held on the last Sunday in October each year organised by the Polish Air Force Association. This takes place at 3pm from London Road car park of the Newark Cemetery with a parade of standards With the Newark Town Mayor with members of the UK and Polish supporters with hundreds parading to the large Memorial cross to the Polish and Commonwealth War Graves Section.

    Many Polish Airmen were flying Spitfires fighters for Britain’s Royal Force during the Battle of Britain. Let’s paid tribute to the contribution made by Polish Airmen. By the end of the war, 17,000 Polish pilots and ground crew members had formed 14 squadron in RAF.

    We will Remember them

    During the Second World War there were a number of Polish stations within a few miles of Newark, from many of which operated squadrons of the Polish Air Force. A special plot was set aside in Newark Cemetery for Polish Air Force since Second World War. Many Polish Airmen that served both countries married and stayed in the UK and still have families in Newark and across the UK. They are also buried in Newark Cemetery among friends that gave their lives for Freedom, we will not forget the brave Airmen who are go buried in Newark Cemetery.

    397 Polish burials were made since the Second World War, with more Polish Airmen that remained and lived since the War have been added around the outside of the Polish War graves since. A Memorial cross to the Polish airmen buried here was erected in the plot and unveiled on 14th July 1941 by President Raczkiewicz, ex-President of the Polish Republic and head of the war-time Polish Government in London, supported by General Sikorski, Commander in Chief of the Polish Forces and war-time Prime Minister. When both men subsequently died, General Sikorski (aged 62) in 1943 and President Raczkiewicz in 1947, they were buried at the foot of the Polish memorial. General Sikorski’s remains were returned to Poland in 1993, but there is still a Memorial to him at Newark.

    General Wladyslaw Sikorski

    Prime Minister of Polish Government in exile during World War Two. In July 1941, he visited Newark to unveil a Memorial Cross dedicated to Polish Serviceman who died fighting alongside the British. He requested should he die while Poland was still occupied that would like to be buried alongside his men in Newark Cemetery.

    Died when the plane he was travelling in crashed over Gibraltar 4th July 1943. Whilst returning from visiting Polish soldiers in the Middle East.

    Thursday 15th July 1943 General Sikorski body was taken to the former Holy Trinity RC Church on Parliament Street, Newark for an Requiem Mass. His boby stayed overnight.

    General Sikorski was buried at Newark Cemetery 16th July, 1943. His body was returned to Poland when it was a free Country 14th September 1993.

    On the last Sunday in September each year the Airbridge special Memorial near the Polish War Graves takes place from members across the UK and Poland come to this annual visit, starting at 2:00pm Main gate on London Road, Newark.

    All Souls: 25th October 2009 Newark Cemetery
    is also an event that is held on the last Sunday in October each year organised by the Polish Air Force Association. This takes place at 3pm from London Road car park of the Newark Cemetery with a parade of standards With the Newark Town Mayor with members of the UK and Polish supporters with hundreds parading to the large Memorial cross to the Polish and Commonwealth War Graves Section.

    Many Polish Airmen were flying Spitfires fighters for Britain’s Royal Force during the Battle of Britain. Let’s paid tribute to the contribution made by Polish Airmen. By the end of the war, 17,000 Polish pilots and ground crew members had formed 14 squadron in RAF.

    Newark Cemetery which was set up in November 2005 by a group of people who got together to care for the cemetery, and promote it as a beautiful place to visit.

    Laurence Goff
    Friends of Newark Cemetery
    01636-681878
    Dakota DC3 flying over Newark Cemetery which you can view a few of the youtube also posted on my facebook under my full email address

    http://newarkcemeteryuk.wordpress.com
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/laurencegoff/
    http://www.youtube.com/user/laurencegoff

  4. Christy Says:

    Yes it is better to love and lose, than not to have loved at all. But loving as long as you live is better.


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