A great Pole died, who was leading Poland towards the truth. The author of a few dozen documentaries and a few feature films – a few of them were honoured with the supreme awards during international film festivals, among the others, in San Remo, San Sebastian. In 2011 in Montreal he was awarded with the prestigious reward FIPRESCI, granted by film critics for the film ‘Black Thursday. Janek Wiśniewski died’.

I will remember Mr. Antoni sitting with his wife in on the fifth or fourth bench in the Dominicans’ parish church under invocation of St. Dominic in Warsaw – he never wanted to sit on the first one, because, as he used to say, he did not deserve it. Engrossed in prayer, listening to sermons and singing of the Dominican choir during Sunday Holy Masses at 2 p.m. Sometimes he came up to the choir and thanked. Humbly. With a slight smile.

For over forty years he was the inhabitant of the Warsaw district Służew and Dolinka in the district Mokotów. Also for years he was a visitor of a café nearby the underground station. He used to meet his acquaintances and colleagues there. In the same string of buildings he also had his last assembly room of his last film ‘Smoleńsk’.

Patriotic-artistic inspirations

He was born in Warsaw during the war. He lived with his parents and siblings in one of the most beautiful places of the city – at the corner of Królewska and Marszałkowska streets. As he used to say, after the war his patriotic awareness had been formed by his parents, uncle Robert Krauze from the battalion ‘Parasol’ and Radio Free Europe. Marian Hemar had an unquestioned influence on his artistic taste, however – what Antoni Krauze often emphasized – the person who had the biggest influence on his artistic perception was the first scene of the war he remembered. A tragic scene, as it was associated with burning Warsaw, however, it was in his mind as one of the most beautiful images. He used to say: - It will be domineering in my whole artistic life.

That dramatic power of colours of the burning city pushed the young boy to an artistic school. Later – to the University of Fine Arts. However, the last one, as he used to say, did not play an important role in his life. Whereas what had an enormous influence on the career of Antoni Krauze was his cooperation with a literary biweekly ‘Modern times’, in which he published his poems. As he used to say, it was just that biweekly which had become his another school of looking at the world. At that time he met the authority of the his generation – Stanisław Grochowiak, also such artists as Miron Białoszewski, Zbigniew Herbert, Ernest Bryll, Marek Nowakowski. But what the biggest influence on the young student of arts was the Warsaw Students’ Theatre of Satirists, thanks to which he could have a new look at the communist reality. In the theatre Krauze observed the way of telling with using images and decided to transfer what was happening around, into the movie reality. He was inspired by a new Italian and Scandinavian movie: Antonina, Fellini, Visconti, Bergman, Widerberg. So he decided to study at the National Film School in Łódź. When he was graduating from it in the mid of the 60s of the last century, he was slightly disappointed. – It seemed to me that the best time of education has already passed – he said.

Astonishment of a censor

His appetite for films was raised by his presence in an excellent film team ‘TOR’ managed by Stanisław Różewicz. His first film was ‘Monidło’ – a sophisticated and ambiguous TV image, which gained a lot of awards and opened the artist a way to the great career. Later there was a film ‘Meta’ according to the prose by Marek Nowakowski. ‘Too brave’ as for the year 1971 – that film closed the door for the career of Krauze as a film director. Censors were very astonished how such an image could have appeared in the mind of the ‘socialist creator’.

When the film ended and lights were turned on, everything was explained. A comrade Stefański, a vice-president of TV, said to the chief of censorship, neither asking nor stating: ‘Well, comrade director, is it true that we cannot present this film?’ – Antoni Krauze mentioned it to ‘Niedziela’ years ago. The film had been lying on shelves for 10 years. Such a decision of censors eliminated those creators from movie industry, who did not think in the same ‘ideological’ way. However, Krauze was supported by a film director Wanda Jakubowska, a person extremely influential, and Stanisław Różewicz. Due to it, Antoni Krauze was not excluded from movie industry. He could realize one of the most important films in Polish movie industry- ‘God’s finger’ for which he was awarded with the Prize named Andrzej Munk.

The most important award

Another film made by the artist did not raise acknowledgment of communist decision makers. In order to ‘become correct’ Krauze got a right to present a prose of a communist writer Zbigniew Safjan. He directed an ‘ideologically non-principal’ image out of the average criminal story, as a censor wrote. And although ‘Fear’ was awarded for being directed in San Sebastian, there was no permission to distribute it widely. So, another film by Krauze became ‘a colonel’ but the award in San Sebastian helped the film maker a lot. Communist management of movie industry was not able to imprison the artist ‘on shelves’ so easily.

After some time Antoni Krauze began his long cooperation with TV station, despised by movie makers. However, despite receiving lots of awards, he acknowledged the election of Karol Wojtyła a pope and creating Solidarity movement as the greatest award.

How Krauze perceived our matters

The election of John Paul II became the reason of my return to Church – the film director told ‘Niedziela’ years ago. – I had rejected religious life too early to undertake an independent lifestyle, although my family was very religious. The election of John Paul II was an improbable event for me. Even today I do not have any doubts that the prayer to Holy Spirit of John Paul II on the Victory Square in Warsaw was the beginning of all the good for Poland. After all there would not have been the Solidarity movement but for the action of the Holy Spirit. We would not be courageous. In communism at any time every man could be arrested, killed. But at that time, after this prayer, we stopped being scared. Although maybe….

Unfortunately still not everybody and not always. During my work on the film ‘Smoleńsk’ I met people who were scared of everything. They were even scared of telling the truth….Did we think we would not like to get to know the truth then, in the 70s, 80ss? No! An actor respected by me, has recently told me that he was afraid of acting in the film ‘Smoleńsk’, as it may turn out that the assassination is the truth. And what then…? I thought that an essential human feature is getting to know the truth, that we need it like air to live. It turns out that today, despite the fact that nobody is at danger of losing their property, breaking up contacts with other people – some people resign from the truth. I cannot imagine it even today…..It is the year 2014. Is Poland free today, or not? Unfortunately, I think that now the authority is terrorizing people psychically, particularly those who think differently. What is our country like today? After all, this is Poland of unsolved crimes and various kinds of current wrongdoings which require judgment. So, if the future generations want Poland to change into free, better, they must judge the crimes. Here I do not mean sentencing the old communists to imprisonment but the court should say that it was a crime and it should be punished. Because it cannot be permitted that people are committing terrible crimes and they will never hear that they are responsible for them. Evil must be named evil, as there is no life without it. But do we want to get to know the truth….

It was such Antoni Krauze and we will remember him so.

Translated by Aneta Amrozik

Niedziela 8/2018 (25 II 2018)

Editor: Tygodnik Katolicki "Niedziela", ul. 3 Maja 12, 42-200 Czestochowa, Polska
Editor-in-chief: Fr Jaroslaw Grabowski • E-mail: redakcja@niedziela.pl