Tuesday, June 13, 2017

In Afterimage (Powidoki) Communism Destroys an Artist. Bernie Sanders' Fans Should See Wajda's Final Film

A young man took the stage. He was earnest, pale, and underfed. "We are about to show you a film."

We students were excited. Kids love it when class is canceled and the teacher shows a film.

The young man continued in that weird English that could be heard only in the old Soviet Empire. The Iron Curtain guaranteed that its detainees didn't have much of a chance to converse with outsiders. Those very few people who could speak any English at all sounded as if they had memorized a purloined dictionary, reverse-engineered the grammar, and practiced only on Mars.

"Since you are Americans, you will not understand this movie," the young man promised, with a familiar resignation. The waiters in the restaurants with no food; the train station clerks who couldn't sell you a ticket and couldn't explain why; the librarians whose shelves were off limits: resignation flowed more reliably than water through the noisy pipes in the student dorm.

"Our history is peculiar," the young man informed us. We knew. We could exchange one dollar for fistfuls of Polish money. My Australian roommate, Kirstin, was about to visit West Germany. My Polish friend, Beata, gave Kirstin her entire month's salary, so Kirstin could bring back to Beata one spool of turquoise thread.

The movie began. Understand it? It swept me away. The 1973 film The Wedding (Wesele) manipulated images so skillfully that it might have been an amusement park ride. Through every breathtaking twist, The Wedding owned my rapidly beating heart, my flip-flopping guts, and my spine pressed against the seat.

The wedding in question was between an urban poet and a peasant. It was a bacchanalia, with orgiastic flirting, frenzied dancing, and percussive folk tunes, but there was simmering tension underneath. That juxtaposition – of celebration over the open mouth of hell – made it impossible for me to look away.

Images from The Wedding have stayed with me for forty years. A pretty young partier, her white face slick with sweat, elaborate red ribbons springing from her coiffure, stares blankly ahead. She holds a snifter of vodka in her fist, and sausages project out from between her fingers. She gulps the vodka and rotates her hand to bite off the tips of the sausages. Such crude power requires no subtitles.

There is a flashback. Years before, Polish peasants – just like those at this wedding – had sold Polish aristocrats' heads to Austrian overlords. The Austrians placed the heads in a wicker basket that bled onto the floor. A peasant whose face was caked with dirt dipped his hands into a bucket of blood. These memories are dredged up at the wedding. The poet sneers at his peasant bride. His face expresses all the hatred the elite feel for the great unwashed they try so hard to love.

I wish that I could find that earnest Polish man and tell him. No, I didn't "understand" The Wedding in that I had a command of all the facts. I didn't know that Polish nobles sometimes called serfs, my ancestors, "cattle." I didn't know that in 1900, poet Lucjan Rydel married a peasant girl as part of an effort to bridge the divide between the upper classes and the peasants, a rift that Poland's enemies reliably exploited in divide-and-conquer strategies. Only fifty-four years before Rydel's wedding, Jakub Szela led an uprising against serfdom, an uprising that took the lives of a thousand nobles. Austrian colonizers did purchase the heads of Polish nobility. Peasants brought in so many heads that the price was lowered from coins to salt.

Rather, I understood universal tensions. The poet was, in modern parlance, a well-meaning, politically correct elitist and virtue signaler who "went native" and tried to paper over tectonic divides with high ideals of universal brotherhood. The wedding guests struggled to allow the loud music – the musicians might have been playing "Kumbaya" – to unite them. This social engineering was doomed. Class conflict could not be mended with one party – nor, later, with one Party.

Other images from other films followed, in further visits to Poland and arthouse movie theaters in the US. In the 1958 film Ashes and Diamonds (Popiol i diament), a young patriot shoots a man he is convinced is part of the Communist Russian takeover of Poland. In fact, the assassin killed the wrong man – definitely once and possibly twice. Only twenty-four hours later, this assassin meets his inevitable fate. He is shot in the back. He attempts to hide from his pursuers among sheets hanging out to dry. His blood soaks through the sheets. I didn't understand all the implications of Ashes and Diamonds. I'm still not sure if it's a moral or an immoral movie. I do understand what I feel when I watch a beautiful young man stain sheets with his own blood.

In The Promised Land, (Ziemia obiecana) a 1975 film about the Industrial Revolution, robber barons celebrate while striking workers mass outside their mansions. A rock crashes through a window. The jagged rock is filmed with such skill and poetry that it becomes a character in the film. It demands, and gets, the viewer's full attention. Several moments of subsequent action are filmed from the rock's point of view. From the rock's perspective, the robber barons are marginalized and reduced in size. The rock is now in charge.

In A Love in Germany (Eine Liebe in Deutschland, 1983) race theory is demonstrated by Nazis investigating a Polish slave laborer who has had sex with a German woman. The Nazis use a tray that contains replicas of human eyeballs. Some eyeballs are typical of members of the master race; some eyeballs belong to life unworthy of life. The Pole is proven to be racially inferior. He is executed.

Maximilien Robespierre was the mastermind of the French Revolution's Reign of Terror, which took the lives of an estimated 30,000 victims. He was known as "The Incorruptible." Robespierre, scrupulous gentleman and ruthless mass murderer, is perfectly captured in brief visual gestures in the 1983 film Danton. Robespierre meets with a former ally, Georges Danton. Danton, trying to seduce Robespierre and rescue their alliance, now strained by Robespierre's mass killings, offers him a repast of French delicacies. The luxurious meal says to Robespierre, "Life can be good. Kick back and enjoy."

Danton challenges Robespierre: you want people to perfect, like the characters in novels. If they are less than perfect, you execute them. You have to love people as they really are. Danton fills a goblet level with the brim – a glass impossible to lift without splashing. By offering this to Robespierre, Danton implies: if you want to engage with life as it is, you have to get messy.

Robespierre lifts the brimful glass of blood-red wine, and, defying physics, and exercising perfect self-control, he manages to sip from it, without spilling a drop. Robespierre later sends Danton to the guillotine. His head is dropped into a wicker basket seeping blood, a visual echo from The Wedding.

I delayed seeing 2007's Katyn. The title intimidated me – it left no elbow room for what the film would entail. It's like titling a movie Auschwitz. The bulk of the film is not spectacular, genocidal bloodletting, but, rather, a focus on widows and orphans stumbling through the aftermath, women and children who had no idea what happened to their husbands and fathers. It is not till the final moments that the eponymous massacre is depicted in cold, efficient scenes. Boxy Soviet trucks drive across a dirt road in a pine forest. Soviet soldiers open the back door of one truck; a Polish army officer emerges. The Soviets rapidly force the Pole's hands behind his back, tie his wrists and neck with rope, walk him to a mass grave, and shoot him in the back of the head. He falls forward. The Soviet soldiers walk back to the truck, and pull out another Polish officer. In the distance one hears shot after shot. This is assembly-line murder.

In the 1957 film Kanal, filthy and doomed Warsaw residents fight from sewers. The film's claustrophobia and sense of defilement gave me nightmares.

And finally two films that inspired me throughout my life. Man of Marble (Czlowiek z marmuru, 1976) and Man of Iron (Czlowiek z zelaza, 1981). In Man of Marble a woman filmmaker tries to tell a story. The Communist government will not allow her to tell her story. Thwarted, she returns in frustration to her childhood home and curls up on the couch. Her father, a plump blue-collar worker, listens to her. He tells her, "You have told your story. You just told me."

The story she wanted to tell was about a Stakhanovite, a Stalinist hero. I didn't know the word "Stakhanovite." What moved me so much about this film was the focus on a woman trying to tell a story, and being thwarted at every turn. I knew the experience from graduate school in the United States.

Andrzej Wajda directed all these films. He released artistically and politically relevant films from 1954 to 2016, the year he died at age 90. Poland, as the earnest man reminded us, has had a "peculiar" history. In the twentieth century, it was occupied by European colonialism, as part of the Hapsburg, German and Romanoff Empires, and by Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia. Wajda lived this history. His father was murdered at Katyn. Wajda himself served in the anti-Nazi, underground Home Army.

No doubt Poland's "peculiar" history inspired Wajda, but his themes are universal. He dramatizes the individual against the collective, and against the tsunami tide of history. Wajda transcribes the conversations idealists have when they are constructing their Utopias, and Wajda itemizes the price exacted by those Utopias. Wajda's individuals do not plan to be martyrs, but just by being who they are, they confront, and often succumb to, the ultimate sacrifice. In the opening of Ashes and Diamonds, a Pole who has cheated death says to other Poles who are sick of constant, ideologically-motivated killing, "Today, tomorrow, or the day after, any one of us could die. Chin up. You have to do your duty while you are alive. That's the important thing."

I feel like the above-mentioned earnest young man, the man who wanted to show us a movie he assumed we didn't want to see, in my attempt to encourage you to see Wajda's final film. Powidoki, released in America as Afterimage on May 19, 2017, tanked at the American box office. It has brought in only $24,000. There's no love story, no hope, and very few laughs. And yet for me Afterimage was a fully satisfying experience, and I want you to see it.

It's 1948. Wladyslaw Strzeminski, a fifty-something painter with international standing, is teaching a plein air class. Hania, a new student, arrives. She is dewy and lovely, and carrying a bouquet of daisies. Strzeminski stands above her on a hill. He is silhouetted against the sky; one can see that he is missing an arm and a leg. He lost both in WW I. When Strzeminski sees Hania's arrival, he rolls down the hill to meet her. His adoring students joyously follow, rolling down after him. Strzeminski delivers a spontaneous lecture. He tells his students that we see only what we are able to see. After we close our eyes and look away, an afterimage, opposite in color to what we have seen, lingers. "Every choice is good," he says, "because it is yours." His students beam at him. Hania has just developed a crush.

This is the one moment of joy, freedom, love and success Afterimage allows. Thus, it reverses the conventional bio-pic narrative arch. Usually we witness an artist's salad days, being misunderstood, alone, and poor. Eventually the artist is discovered and the film ends on a triumphant note. Not in the world controlled by Soviet Communism.

Strzeminski is in on the floor of his dingy apartment. He is working on a painting when suddenly the white canvas, and the light in his apartment, turn red. A banner celebrating Stalin has been raised over his apartment building. Strzeminski punctures the banner with his crutch. He is arrested.

A representative of the worker's paradise lectures Strzeminski in a drab office. Historians frequently debate the question: who was worse: the Nazis or the Soviets? The Soviets certainly make less stylish cinematic villains. Strzeminski inhabits a purgatory for artists, where the Communist bad guys all wear bad suits and worse haircuts and look as if they just chowed down a trough-full of potatoes. Every light switch is haloed by the grime of hundreds of fingers. Unlike Nazi Germany, there are no sexy Hugo Boss threads or shiny leather boots in this people's dystopia.

The Communist reads to Strzeminski. It's a manifesto declaring that the line between art and politics has evaporated. Art must be used to advance the workers. Individualistic art that reflects merely the impressions of the artist is decadent.

Strzeminski must acknowledge that he wrote those words himself. (Indeed, in 1936, Strzeminski named his daughter "Jakobina" – a name shared with French Revolutionaries.) But that was years ago, he says. His views have changed. With this mention of changing views, we are reminded of the opening scene. When Strzeminski, the onscreen character, recounts his theories of vision and art, he is also providing the viewer with program notes for the movie. Vision, the biological function and the metaphorical mental process, changes over time. We can never accept one vision as complete.

"Whose side are you on?" he is asked.

"On my own side," Strzeminski replies.

The Communist mixes honey with his vinegar. Join the revolution, Strzeminski is told. Create art that meets the revolution's needs. You will be rewarded with money and power.

Confronting such lures, Strzeminski is implacable. He will continue to create the art that his own individual vision demands.

Strzeminski returns to his apartment and his teaching. The naïve viewer might conclude that that wasn't so bad. Strzeminski wasn't sent to a concentration camp. That is true. He was not. Under Nazism, Germans had to confront the moral dilemma of participation in efficient and immediate genocide. In the Soviet Empire, all you had to do to compromise yourself morally was raise your hand at the same time as everyone else at a Party meeting, or withhold a bowl of soup, or a tube of paint, as we shall see.

Another Communist, this one bald, and more menacing than the first, delivers another lecture about the role of the artist in the revolution: deviation is verboten. To understand him, we must remember that Marxism understands itself to be scientific truth. An artist who creates art that deviates from Marxism's demands is comparable to a doctor who attempts to treat cancer with snake oil. That doctor is killing his patient. The non-Marxist artist is poisoning society.

Back in class, Strzeminski is delivering a lecture about Van Gogh. We tend to think of Van Gogh's art as completely subjective. Surely sunflowers and stars don't look, in real life, the way they look in Van Gogh's paintings. No, Strzeminski says. Van Gogh's work is an objective record of Van Gogh's impression. Again, vision, literal or metaphorical, changes over time, and changes depending on the viewer. This is more than a throwaway observation in a country that has lived under several different forms of government in the past hundred years. Strzeminski insists that it is the artist's job to record his own impression. The vision that springs from his individuality – apart from governing ideology – is his sacred gift.

The lecture is disrupted. Strzeminski is fired. The Neoplastic Room, founded by Strzeminski and containing art by him and his sculptor wife, Katarzyna Kobro, is "liquidated." A former student is escaping Poland for Israel. She requests his artworks entitled "To My Friends the Jews." They were inspired by his witnessing of the Lodz Ghetto. She takes the artworks to Israel for safekeeping.

If nothing else, Strzeminski might have been able to comfort himself with the thought of his disciples, his students, who will carry his work into the future. No. The Party that could not efficiently deliver consumer goods delivers betrayal quite expertly. One of Strzeminski's acolytes is pressured to turn on him by "voting" against him. His other students put on an exhibition. Thugs arrive before the grand opening and destroy each work of art. Wajda's camera shoots the empty room of shredded canvas and broken glass. We hear approaching laughter and high spirits. It is Strzeminski and his young friends. They reach the door, open it, and witness what the Party has done to their individualism, their vision. Their laughter dies.

Strzeminski had created an artwork that the Party might embrace: a mosaic in an exotic-themed café. Africans labor under colonial oppression. Strzeminski arrives at the café to see chisels gauging his ceramic images out of the wall. He is a non-person; his art must be non-art, even if it flatters party obsessions.

Strzeminski, though a celebrated artist, had lived a simple life. Every day a plump matron brought him one bowl of soup and two slices of bread. Late in the film she arrives, smiling, and ladles his soup into his bowl. He admits that he can no longer pay. She dumps the soup back into her pot. "We'll talk when you can pay." She leaves. Strzeminski stares at the bowl. He licks it.

He takes work creating propaganda posters. He coughs. He is coughing blood. He wipes the blood on a red rag. The red of the Stalin poster that overwhelmed his apartment has co-opted, and is now sucking up, his essence. His red blood disappears into the red rag, as he disappears into the collective.

At least he can create his own art in his own time – no – he goes to a paint shop, where he has purchased supplies for years, and the clerk refuses to sell to him. He is no longer a member of the recognized painters' collective that has the right to buy paint.

At least he can escape with a trip to the movies with his young daughter. No. The newsreel before the film shows Aleksandr Laktionov's Socialist Realist painting, "Into the New Apartment." A smiling, babushka-clad woman, arms akimbo and a medal on her chest, gloats over her red-and-gold walled apartment. Her belongings are at her feet in a knotted rag bundle. Next to her, a Young Pioneer displays a portrait of Stalin. Strzeminski leaves the theater in disgust.

In addition to an artist's destruction by the state, Afterimage, in brief, subtle touches, gives us an intimate portrait of Strzeminski the man. He had been married to a sculptor, but he now has no contact with Kobro. She dies without his knowledge. Their daughter, going by the nickname "Nika," is lone mourner at Kobro's funeral. She marches to the grave in a red coat. Old women chide her. "It's the only coat I have!" Nika protests. She turns it inside out, displaying the black lining.

Strzeminski is angry. Why could he not attend the funeral? "She didn't want you there," Nika must inform him.

"I wanted to bring her blue flowers. She had such blue eyes. Like yours," he tells his daughter.

"You too have blue eyes," Nika says.

Strzeminski's student, Hania, has continued to bring him daisies. These bouquets are an irritant to Nika, who does not relish sharing her father's affection with an infatuated student not much older than herself. Nika throws the daisies into the garbage. The innocence the white flowers represent is discarded.

Strzeminski is unable to reciprocate Hania's crush. He takes a bouquet, dips it in blue pigment, and lays it on his wife's grave. An artist, he transforms the blank white canvas of the white flowers into a blue reflection of his eye, of a love gift to him into a love gift to another, a gift that emphasizes the bond between him, his wife, and his daughter. That he must "re-purpose" Hania's flowers demonstrates his desperate economic plight.

I asked poet Oriana Ivy what she thought of Wajda's use of blue. Ivy said, "In Polish 'blue' has the connotation of 'heavenly' and 'free.' Artists and other exceptional people can be called 'blue / heavenly birds.' Always said with envy. As my mother would say, he's the 'lover type, not the husband type.' His kingdom is not quite of this world. There is also a phrase, 'blue almonds.' It indicates unrealistic desires about what can't be."

Penniless, hungry, ill, Strzeminski is hospitalized. His friend, poet Julian Przybos, visits him. Przybos had joined the Polish Workers' Party. Przybos has medicine. The doctor is shocked. "Where did you get medicine?" he asks. "In Switzerland," Przybos responds. As a Party member and diplomat, he travels to the West, and purchases medicine that a Pole in Poland could not access. The doctor informs Przybos that it is the right medicine, but it is too late. Even so, Przybos says to Strzeminski, "I envy you. Through everything, you have remained yourself. You produce art that is a reflection of your individuality."

Strzeminski makes a final attempt to work. He will become a clothing store's window dresser. He makes a few attempts with naked, disjointed mannequins. He is overcome and collapses in a clutter of plastic arms and legs. Shoppers passing by the window do not notice him. An artist whose art it became a crime to display, a man missing an arm and a leg, dies on display, but without witnesses.

Wajda was himself a student in Lodz at the time of Strzeminski's persecution. There is a statue in Afterimage that looks very like the Stakhanovite statue at the center of Man of Marble. One has to wonder if Afterimage was not a very personal project for Wajda.

I find it hard to explain to Americans that though I lived in countries in Africa and Asia that are among the poorest in the world, I found Soviet-era Poland to be more depressing. In Africa, people had the sense that they could change their fate through their own choices. In Poland, I felt as if some behemoth was attempting to suffocate souls, and every breath was a heroic act of defiance. In visits to Poland and Czechoslovakia, my parents' homelands, I met men like Strzeminski. These were brilliant, ambitious men who had been erased by the state. They could not publish or have contact with their professional peers. They conversed with me, an American teenager, with the urgency of the wrongfully damned pleading their case to Dante. I rarely talk about these men because I know that most people would not begin to understand. I am intensely grateful to Andrzej Wajda for creating Afterimage. This is not a depressing film; it is a masterful, sympathetic evocation of one individual who, as Przybos said, never surrendered his individuality.

Boguslaw Linda's performance as Strzeminski is seamless. One sees no acting, only Strzeminski. Bronislawa Zamachowska, who, at only 13, played Nika, brings an astounding emotional gravity to her part and great heart to the film. Zofia Wichlacz's beautiful, unguarded face perfectly captures Hania's young, doomed, obsessive love. Krzysztof Pieczynski, as Julian Przybos, communicates the decency, craftiness, and regret of the man who played his cards right in a bad situation.

I want to show Afterimage to Bernie Sanders' supporters who like to chant, "Free college!" Free college, like free everything, has a hidden cost. This film depicts one potential cost.

This essay first appeared at FrontPageMag here

Danusha Goska is the author of Save Send Delete and Bieganski





Friday, May 26, 2017

Bieganski on American Gods: Czernobog



You can view Czernobog here.

He is Bieganski, now on American TV. 

Please read Bieganski. Please support the work of this book against stereotyping of Poles and other Bohunks.  

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Jim Cramer "Polish Army During WW II" Archetype of Stupidity, Cowardice, and Chaos.

I wrote my book "Bieganski" because I wanted to do my part to tell the Polish story, and to counter negative stereotypes of Poles. 

It took me a long time to get the book published. My writing was very controversial. I was attempting to publish a book in the very academia that relies on negative stereotypes of Poles. Once I did manage to get the book published,  Poles and Polonians, for the most part, didn't buy it, didn't read it, and no Polish groups (well, *one*) invited me to speak. 

I feel very frustrated at moments like this, when a national figure uses negative stereotypes of Poles to make a point. See story here about CNBC Mad Money host Jim Cramer. 

I feel frustrated because I wanted to work on issues like this in my scholarly life - but I found no partners in Polonia. So I moved on to working on other things. And thus today's blog post, on a very important matter, is short. It's short because I'll be publishing an article soon on a completely unrelated topic. My editor believes in my work and supports me.


Saturday, May 6, 2017

The Guardian Warns Against the Real Threat: Polish Neo Nazis

The Guardian warns humanity against the real threat to world peace: Polish neo-Nazis, here.

We Polak Nazis are mentioned only once, in an article so stupid I don't even want to talk about it. I just want to let you know that Polish neo-Nazis are out there, like Godzilla. Take cover.

Update: The author of the "Polish neo-Nazis" comment is Julia Ebner, a young GERMAN woman. Got that? She's German. She says the threat to world peace comes from a whole bunch of people, including Polish neo-Nazis. 


Oh, Polonia, you lose the propaganda war every day. Please read and use Bieganski

Ebner on camera here

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

"Tears We Cannot Stop" and the Left's Need to Denigrate Poor and Ethnic Whites (Including Poles)

Tears We Cannot Stop is a book by a powerful man. He is peddling white guilt and black victimization. He demands money, aka reparations.

For his project to work, he must denigrate poor and ethnic whites. He singles out Irish people, Italians, Poles and Jews who have no right to tell their story or remember their own history. They are merely "white" and must plug into his "white skin is magic" narrative.

FrontPageMag ran my review of this book here.

You can read the full text of the review, below.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

"Deaths of Despair" among Poor Whites, Left-Wing Hostility, and Bieganski in the Wider American Scene

I wasn't able to find a photographer's name
to attach to this photo. 
Article by me, below, about recent research into "deaths of despair" among American whites, especially poor whites. Article first appeared in FrontPage magazine here. Article relates contempt for and hostility to poor whites to the Bieganski stereotype. 

"Deaths of Despair" and Left-Wing Hostility to Poor Whites' Narratives.

Where there Is No Vision the People Perish

In March, 2017, Anne Case, the Alexander Stewart 1886 Professor of Economics and Public Affairs at Princeton University, and her husband, Sir Angus Deaton, a Nobel laureate, gained much media coverage for their work. They reported that death rates are rising among those American whites who are classified as "working class," "non-college educated," or simply "poor." Suicide, drug addiction, and alcoholism cause a significant enough number of these anomalous deaths that the researchers dubbed them "deaths of despair." There is no similar rise in death rates among Europeans in roughly comparable socioeconomic cohorts, or African Americans or Hispanic Americans, whose death rates are improving.

Case and Deaton are economists. They seek the cause and the solution to the problem they describe in facts and figures. I seek the cause and any potential solution to "deaths of despair" in narrative: in the stories that people tell about themselves, and the stories their opponents tell about them. Abundant examples of warring narratives are readily found in the comments sections of online discussions of Case and Deaton's work.

In The Atlantic, the most popular comment is from an anonymous "middle-aged white man." He wrote,

"We feel downtrodden, but we don't even get to use the language of the oppressed since we're universally acclaimed as the oppressor. And we don't even get to take on the role of an oppressor since we're powerless. We used to be breadwinners, but now we're not. We used to be fathers, but more and more often our kids aren't with us. We're certainly not the heads of household … We've abandoned religion, so there's no hope of a reward in the next life. We have no faith in a government who doesn't seem to care about us … the world has passed us by and doesn't need or want us anymore."

Responses to this plaintive confession are unsympathetic. Posters allege that poor whites are racist, ignorant, lazy, junk-food eating, beer-swilling opiate addicts who cause their own problems by voting Republican.

One April, 2016 Salon headline reflects the attitude: "We Must Shame Dumb Trump Fans: The White Working Class Are Not Victims."

In December, 2016, after Markos Moulitsas advised his readers to rejoice over coal miners losing health insurance, The New Republic suggested, "Liberals Should Try Not Having So Much Contempt for the Poor."

In October, 2015, In These Times asked "Why The Left Isn't Talking About Rural American Poverty." Their answer: the left assumes "that rural white voters are racist and illiberal and intolerant" and unworthy of concern.

Case and Deaton's work on "deaths of despair" among poor whites is a challenging topic for me. As my fingertips hover over a silent keyboard, my guts begin to twist and my breath becomes shallow. I am poor and white. My father mined coal and carried rich men's bags at a country club. My mother was a cleaning woman and factory worker. My grandparents, in the Old Country, were peasants. There are no princes, bishops, or admirals in my family tree. There are lots of folks who withstood Nazis, Soviets, kulturkampf, and czars. As a child visiting Slovakia I met an aunt who was gang raped by Red Army soldiers and I saw the beaten, animal look in the eyes of my loved ones when talk turned to the Nazi occupation.  

By merely mentioning left-wing prejudice against poor, white people, I risk being demonized as a flesh-and-blood embodiment of the very stereotype I am attempting to reject. I must be a KKK member. Silencing me earns the silencer points as a Politically Correct knight – not in white – oh, no, not in white – but in multicultural armor.

There isn't even a name for what I am trying to describe, no "Islamophobia," "transphobia," "looksism," or "ableism." Liberal contempt for poor whites is the hate that dare not speak its name. What do you call someone who chooses to condemn people he dislikes as "white trash," "rednecks," "Bohunks," "honkies," "crackers," "hillbillies," "greasers," "trailer trash," "Okies," or "knuckle-dragging-wife-beater-t-shirt wearing Neanderthals"? Possibly you call him "professor," "author," "congressman," "minister," or "late night comedian." Maybe you call him "Mr. President." During his successful, 2008 presidential campaign, Barack Obama told wealthy donors in San Francisco that poor whites are bitter xenophobes who cling to guns and religion. One blogger paraphrased Obama's message as, "Vote for me, you corncob-smokin', banjo-strokin', chicken-chokin', cousin-pokin', inbred hillbilly racist morons."

Yes, right-wingers support cutting government programs, and right-wingers can be snobs. But a right-wing person's ideological adherence to small government, free market principles, or even merely his own fist tightening around his earnings that the taxman craves to requisition is one thing. What I have felt in encounters with some-not-all leftists is something different. While the left protects some groups with speech codes and concepts like "microaggression," ugly slurs against poor whites are met with laughter – or a sense of righteousness. Not only is it okay to mock poor whites; doing so elevates the virtue status of the speaker. Why? Left-wing hostility to poor American whites is not caused by mere chance, but by real conflicts in how left-wingers and poor whites tell their respective stories.

During the mass immigration c. 1880-1924, the left passionately courted coal miners, steel smelters and garment workers. Marx wrote, "Workers of the world, unite!" but these immigrants didn't want to identify as workers. They identified as Poles, or Italians or Americans, or Catholics. And they didn't especially want to unite with other workers. In spite of robber barons' harsh treatment, the immigrants wanted to succeed at capitalism, not overturn it. Marx wrote that religion is the opiate of the masses, but these immigrants clung to their faith.

I tasted some of poor white's rejection of leftists' unrequited love back in the 1980s, when I was a fellow traveler with Manhattan's card-carrying communists. "Don't you see," a comrade instructed, "when chivalrous Polish men kiss your hand, they are silently demanding that you use those hands to wash dishes?" Being a Polish-American woman who runs a clean home is a cherished part of my self-identification. I could never adopt his ideal of a communist woman, who, apparently, is anti-dish-washing.

I repeatedly pelted my comrades with this question: Marx taught that the onset of the dictatorship of the proletariat was an historical inevitability. Communism was so appealing to the workers that humanity would eventually evolve into the workers' paradise. And yet, no one was less interested in bringing on communism than the workers themselves. Communism smashed "bourgeois" values. Free love, violence, and sedition were all morally acceptable. But in left-wing thought, there was original sin, and that sin was rejecting communism. American workers were not only uninterested in reading my comrades' free pamphlets, American workers, by ignoring Marx and living by capitalist and Christian values, were deeply immoral.

My comrades replied to my question by identifying themselves as the "vanguard," a more advanced and more enlightened version of the working class. It was the vanguard's job to bring the workers into alignment with the party. They were, in short, an intellectual and moral elite whose goal it was to educate, lead, and save American workers. Working class Americans were not yet quite smart, moral, or trustworthy enough to run their own lives. The vanguard's self-definition condemned American workers to a contrasting definition: "You reject us because you are stupid."

The left realized that poor whites were not embracing them. They moved on to more revolutionary populations. Poor whites were abandoned for blacks.

Harvard sociologist Orlando Patterson, himself a black man, remarks that young African Americans, as a group, perform worse than other groups academically, and yet they have among the highest self-esteem. Why? Their positive self-image "has powerful support from some of America's largest corporations." Drugs, crime, sexual conquests, and hip-hop music earn blacks "a great deal of respect from white youths." American culture has worked hard to elevate the self-esteem of African Americans, and to marginalize any critique of them. When poor whites attempt to adapt to and succeed in American capitalism, leftists dismiss them as contemptible, counter-revolutionary suckers. Patterson describes powerful whites rewarding blacks for playing the role of the outlaw. Blacks who don't play the outlaw, from Booker T. Washington to Sidney Poitier to Ben Carson, are derided as "Uncle Tom."

The left has shown that it can abandon blacks, too, and move on to even more revolutionary Muslims. In 2010, black journalist Juan Williams said that when he sees passengers in Muslim garb on airplanes, he gets nervous. NPR fired Williams for this comment. NPR's president, Vivian Schiller, publicly stated that Juan Williams, because he fears Muslims on airplanes, requires the ministrations of a psychiatrist. 

The left's self-definition as a vanguard who is leading the less enlightened masses to a Utopian future plays into another, related reason why the left has such a problem with poor whites. It's a blunt and primal urge: everyone wants someone to feel superior to. African Americans traditionally supplied that need in the US. The Civil Rights Movement rendered taboo overt displays of white-over-black. The need to feel superior to someone did not disappear. Poor white people filled the gap. Two kinds of poor white people, Poles and Southerners, were selected as epitomes of everything that was supposed to be wrong with the entire class.

UC Berkeley folklorist Alan Dundes described how Polak jokes suddenly became popular in the 1970s, shortly after the previous decade's Civil Rights advances. Dundes wrote, "Lower-class whites are not militant and do not constitute a threat to middle-class white America ... with the Polack [joke] cycle, it is the lower class, not Negroes, which provides the outlet for aggression and means of feeling superior."

Poet Lloyd van Brunt is from the south. He, too, saw the Polak joke as an expression of contempt for all poor whites.

"Unlike blacks and other racial minorities, poor and mostly rural whites have few defenders, no articulated cause ... And they have been made to feel deeply ashamed of themselves – as I was. This shame, this feeling of worthlessness, is one of the vilest and most self-destructive emotions to be endured. To be poor in a country that places a premium on wealth is in itself shameful. To be white and poor is unforgivable ... That's why I call them the Polish-joke class, the one group everybody feels free to belittle, knowing that no politically correct boundaries will be violated ... trying to hide some shameful secret, some deep and unreachable sense of worthlessness ... is the legacy of America's poor whites."

This culture-wide treatment of poor whites as inferior is so powerful poor whites resort to it themselves. As a graduate student, I worked on the Polak stereotype. One day I was seated at a staff table with other university personnel. One of my peers proudly remarked that she had received her degree at one of the best universities in the South. The following words popped out of my mouth, "'The South' and 'best university' cancel each other out."

Everyone at the table laughed, except for the Southern woman. Her face fell. I had hurt and humiliated her in public, and no one at the table had the sense to come to her defense, and to chastise me.

It took me years to recognize that in the same way that my fellow Americans had been brainwashed into unquestioningly accepting prejudice against Polaks like myself, I had been brainwashed into unquestioningly accepting prejudice against all Southerners.

Not only did I feel it was acceptable to make such a nasty comment to a peer and friend, I felt righteous doing so. I had been brainwashed to locate the sin of racism in the South. By making fun of a Southerner in public, I was avenging Emmett Till. More on this point, below.

White working class culture, or cultures, are simply different. My grandparents didn't speak English. Two of them could not read or write. I've been hungry enough that I think throwing food away is sinful. In a million, similar, small ways, I am culturally closer to other low class whites, from north or south of the Mason Dixon line, than I am to middle class people.

Rich liberals have learned, at least publicly, to interpret black people's cultural differences as "different not worse" and often "different and better." Black people are soulful, musical, good athletes. Illiterate black grandmothers are griots, warehouses of unique tribal wisdom. Illiterate white grandmothers are slobs, proof of poor whites' inferiority.

When I served in Peace Corps in Africa I saw this romanticization and exoticization of non-whites run amok. I knew a volunteer, a daughter of two Ivy League professors and a descendant of Mayflower arrivals, who hired an African man to clean her house, because, as she told me without any hesitation, she enjoyed watching his scantily clad, heavily muscled black body performing domestic chores. She was a thoroughgoing political liberal.

Recently a wealthy, liberal friend remarked to me how much she admires and envies black and Hispanic women's body attitudes. "They parade their fat in midriff-baring tops and spandex tights, even if they have cellulite." She found this beautiful. For herself and her family, this friend maintains a strict regime of diet and exercise. She keeps her husband and children slim with Fitbits, a fridge full of wilting kale, and, affixed to household surfaces, notes recording weights, exercise routines, and optimal food choices. 

This romanticization of "people of color" may have reached the point of self-parody in the opening sentence of best-selling author Emma Donoghue's 2017 book, The Lottery Plus One: "Once upon a time, a man from Delhi and a man from Yukon fell in love, and so did a woman from Jamaica and a Mohawk woman. The two couples became best friends and had a baby together. When they won the lottery, they gave up their jobs and found a big old house where their family could learn and grow." This fantasy would lose its allure if it were about "cisgendered," working class whites. Who wants to read about Stan and Heather and Frank and Jane, who work at Walmart and live in Buffalo?

Having black friends earn points for rich liberals. Poor white friends earn scornful glances and inquisitorial questions: "Slumming?" Once I visited a friend's summer home. His spinster aunt was weirdly protective of her handsome young nephew. Every vocabulary word, every item of clothing, every food choice, made me feel like a witness in the dock giving high-stakes testimony to prove a case I never really understood. I had never eaten lobster; indeed, I had never been on premises where lobster was served. I tasted and it found I didn't like it. Scandalous! I went to bed early. I heard my friend's "liberal" aunt harangue him, in a voice certainly loud enough for me to overhear. "What's this all about? What's she doing here? She is not our type. She lives in New Jersey. And not the desirable part. I've never heard of anyone like us living there." I rose at dawn and left, truncating my visit. John and I had been friends for a year – but I had never met his family, nor visited his exclusive zip code. John's aunt won. We never spoke again. I've not eaten lobster since, either.

With the power of the new invention, TV, the Civil Rights Movement tarnished white supremacy. TV brought police dogs and lunch counter hooligans into American homes and changed how we assessed Jim Crow. Rejection of American racism was propelled with America's horror over Nazism's crimes committed in the name of a master race. We came to understand racism as America's original sin. We needed a scapegoat – someone to be blamed for that sin. Empowered whites chose poor whites as that scapegoat, as their trash receptacle. Numerous observers, writing in the 1970s, noted how popular culture was beginning to insist that racial prejudice was a phenomenon to be found exclusively among poor, not rich, whites. These observers also pointed out that when it came to real, measurable behavior and attitudes, poor whites were no more racist than rich ones. Sociologist Richard Hamilton's "Liberal Intelligentsia and White Backlash," which appeared in Dissent in 1972, sounds like it could have been written today. "In the world view of liberal intellectuals, those persons who share decent and humane values form a tiny minority standing on the edge of an abyss … there are so few people who share those values." Not included among those who share decent values are "the dangerous white working class." Hamilton cited a series of opinion polls proving that working class whites are not the bogeyman that the liberal intelligentsia were making them out to be.

In Archie Bunker, Norman Lear, a Hollywood producer, put race hatred in the mouth of a fat, cigar-chomping, working class slob in Queens. South of the Mason-Dixon line, somehow slavery and Jim Crow became, not a blot on rich white landowners, but on the kind of poor white sodomizers, idiot-savant banjo virtuosi, and inbred cannibals and serial killers who inhabited the Grand-Guignol fantasies of Deliverance, Prince of Tides, and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Racism has been contained – in the bodies of poor whites. Like hazardous waste, we must be quarantined.

Of course there are racists among poor whites, as there are among rich ones. But liberals use a distorted, self-serving metric to differentiate between racist and non-racist. When it comes to how one talks about race, there are differences between poor whites and rich, white liberals. In this instance, poor whites are again defined, not as black people might be, as different-but-equal or even different-and-superior, but rather as different-and-sinister.

I have lived among black people all my life – my childhood next-door neighbors and playmate were black, and I live in a majority-minority city now. To me, black people are no better or worse than anyone else, and I employ no conversational kabuki to talk to or about black people. There are no Magical Negroes in my narratives.

"A conservative is a liberal who has been mugged," quipped Irving Kristol. Given statistical realities, poor whites are more likely to have been victims of black crime than rich white liberals. There is an historic, silenced narrative in New Jersey. Many Italians, Jews, and other immigrants' children, all of them over fifty years old, have recounted to me detailed narratives about their family arriving in the US, struggling to reach home ownership in Newark, Paterson or Camden, and being driven out after their white child was singled out for a beating by black bullies, or their store was burned, or their street hosted a National Guard tank. They know these details of their biographies are taboo, so they merely speak these stories, and never commit them to print. These stories are whispers, and when the tellers die, they may leave no trace.

In print, in official narratives, in college classrooms, in journalism, all of these working class Italians, Jews, and Irish are simply racists. When blacks began to move to northern cities, those city's white residents engaged in an historic "white flight" whose only motivation was white supremacy. The official story is that poor whites are ignorant racists who remade American demographics and ruined American cities with their irrational hatreds.

Economically better off and liberal whites are more likely to have had ancestors who owned slaves, killed Indians, or exploited natural resources. They may have had black servants. They are more likely to suffer from white guilt. As Shelby Steele describes, rich and liberal whites expiate their guilt by becoming the magnanimous saviors of blacks. They do this through government programs like welfare and affirmative action. They assume that all whites should feel as they do – that high taxes and government programs are the only non-racist approach.

Poor whites are much more likely than rich whites to experience any of the goods of life – home, wealth, achievement – as coming after lifetimes of hard work, delayed gratification, self-sacrifice, and stoically swallowing biblical amounts of insult, frustration, and disappointment. Poor whites may conclude that African Americans' surest route to advancement is through right-wing solutions like a work ethic rather than through left-wing solutions like government handouts. Given this, poor whites are likely to be positioned as the philosophical and economic opponents of rich white liberals' narrative of white guilt and its expiation through paternalistic government programs.

I have never seen my rich, white, liberal friend "Tom" interact with a black person. I've attended parties at Tom's house with dozens of guests, all of them white. Tom proves his virtue by adopting stilted speech codes when discussing black people. 

When I say to Tom that I think that LBJ's Great Society may have damaged the black family and developed a crippling dependency, Tom reacts as if I had said, "Let's go lynch someone." He has concluded that I am a hardcore white supremacist because I question welfare. Tom doesn't give me enough space to mention that I reached my conclusion at least partly by reading the work of black economists, Thomas Sowell and Walter E. Williams.

Poor whites cannot tell their own life stories in a left-wing environment. If they attempt to do so, poor whites must be silenced, or, most generously, "corrected."

I attended college decades ago, shortly after the Civil Rights successes of the 1960s, and during the rise of the Polak joke, and the evil redneck Southerner as the most reliable go-to cinematic villain. Deliverance was released in 1972, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre in 1974, and The Deer Hunter, about a bunch of working class, rust belt Bohunks who are somehow single-handedly both responsible for and victims of the Vietnam War, was released in 1978.

Like a lot of poor whites, I attended a "non-selective" school. We worked as waitresses, gas station attendants, and landscapers, took a shower, and went to class. Our professors, with Ivy League degrees and attitudes, held us in open contempt. In English classes, we were assigned to read, of course, the canon: Shakespeare, Hawthorne, Hemingway. We were also assigned to read works newly appearing on college syllabi, like The House on Mango Street, about Chicanos and Puerto Ricans, and The Color Purple. Our professors divided the world into elite whites and struggling, noble "people of color." I was never assigned anything that reflected the life I or my friends lived. There were no struggling white people on our syllabi. No one like my mother who worked two minimum-wage jobs: running a noisy, stinking wick machine in a candle factory during the day and cleaning offices at night. My mother told me that she once saw a police officer kick my downed father in the stomach. This story could not be told at college; in the professors' world, only black men were ever mistreated by police. There were no white girls like me who worked full time as nurse's aides, attended school full time, and got straight A grades. No, I enjoyed "white privilege," the equivalent of a comic book hero superpower, that magically protected me from all harm and delivered into my lap whatsoever my heart desired.

My friends and I survived on contraband wordsmiths we passed around with urgency, as if they were bits of bread in a distant prison. I didn't learn of Anzia Yezierska, Jean Shepherd, Jack Kerouac, Bruce Springsteen, or Dorothy Allison from teachers; I learned about them from friends, and they kept me going. When I mentioned to my betters how much their work meant to me, I was given little lectures about why their work was not "art."

If we told our stories, our professors' stories, about rich, empowered whites and struggling, noble minorities, would crumble. We poor, white college students were not allowed either sympathy for our struggle nor pride in our successes. If we had to work menial, minimum-wage jobs, it was because that was all we deserved. If we got A grades in spite of lives that left us exhausted and tuition bills that left us eating potatoes for a week, we got those A grades because we were privileged.

The white privilege dogma receives religious defense. Even for the purposes of discussion, it cannot be questioned. Somewhere some poor white person is trying to tell a liberal that he had to defy odds and work very hard to acquire everything that he has. In response, the liberal screams, "Oh yeah? Well, slavery was much worse!"

The poor white person might respond, "I know. I've read Frederick Douglass' Narrative. I've also read John Guzlowski's Echoes of Tattered Tongues, about his Polish parents' enslavement under the Nazis. Have you? I've read about the Muslim Slave Trade that, in time, geography, and number of victims, dwarfs the Atlantic Slave Trade. Have you? I've read about my ancestors, who were serfs until 1861. Have you?"

The liberal, as sure as night follows day, will respond, "You are a beneficiary of structural racism!" "White privilege" and "structural racism" are no poor white person's superpowers; rather, they are rich liberal's kryptonite; they exist to erase poor whites' biographies.  

Leftist dogma locks poor whites into the bottom rung of a human classification system as rigid as the Darwinian hierarchy of species. Given how "privileged" poor white people's lives are, given "structural racism" that greases their chutes to pots of gold, if a white person has not succeeded, that person must be especially worthless. Right-wing people who invest in the Horatio Alger narrative do not imprison poor whites in such a rigid system. They believe that if we try hard, we can make it. Right-wing people, in my experience, unlike liberals, have no ideological need to silence poor whites' mention of their own struggles, or poor whites' pride in their accomplishments.

Finally, of course, contempt for religion supplies rich liberals with yet another a Politically Correct excuse for their contempt for poor whites. Not all liberals are wealthy or atheist, and not all poor whites are religious, but atheism is more frequently found among high-income people, and religiosity is correlated with poverty. Bill Maher has said that religion is "stupid and dangerous," and that Americans' belief in the Bible is "proof that this is a stupid country." Maher called the God of the Bible a "dick." Richard Dawkins compared religion to smallpox. Sam Harris called Christianity an "engine of stupidity." Christopher Hitchens said that people who believe in Jesus Christ would believe in anything. The Bible provides the most important, life-affirming narrative for millions of poor whites. To rich white liberals, the Bible is the opiate of the people and a seal of poor whites' stupidity.  

Rich liberal contempt for poor whites is not a victimless crime. Richard D. Kahlenberg has shown how Affirmative Action programs, meant to elevate African Americans, victimized poor whites – and disproportionately aided rich and middle class blacks, including recent African immigrants whose ancestors never experienced antebellum slavery or Jim Crow. Marie Gryphon makes the case that Affirmative Action has done more harm than good to African Americans. Princeton sociologists Thomas Espenshade and Alexandria Radford demonstrated that "diversity" "punishes poor whites." Diversity programs are designed in such a way that poor whites and white Christians are underrepresented on elite college campuses. George J. Borjas, the Robert W. Scrivner Professor of Economics and Social Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School, has shown that recent immigration trends have hurt poor whites.

I'm no Nobel-Prize winning economist. I don't know if any of the above cultural trends and hostilities contribute to shortening the lives of Case and Deaton's subjects. Whoever wants to address "deaths of despair," though, must at least take these trends into consideration.

Danusha Goska is the author of Save Send Delete



Sunday, April 9, 2017

"The Zookeeper's Wife" 2017: Strong Story, Fine Performance, Mediocre Film

"The Zookeeper's Wife" is a strong story. The 2017 film adaptation suffers from a weak script and direction that do not serve the story. Jessica Chastain gives a superb, understated performance as Antonina Zabinska, a real person. Antonina was a gifted zookeeper – why call her "wife"? – who helped save 300 Jews in Warsaw, Poland, during the Nazi occupation. She and her husband Jan were part of the Polish Underground and Armia Krajowa, or Home Army. The film is worth seeing to see their story, but it's just an okay film, not the great one it could have been.

Jessica Chastain is externally very beautiful and fragile-appearing. In her understated performance, she plays a resourceful, animal-loving Polish lady to perfection. She's the center of the film. All of the other characters are in the shadow of Chastain's central light.

Lutz Heck had the Nazi-goal of reviving extinct species like the aurochs and the tarpan – primitive cattle and horses. Heck participated in the looting of the Warsaw Zoo. He selected which animals he wanted shipped back to his own Berlin zoo. Heck also lusted after Antonina. She had to do a careful dance of manipulation of Heck to protect her activity saving Jews. Heck is played by Daniel Bruhl, who also played a lovelorn Nazi in "Inglorious Bastards."

Czech playwright Arnost Goldflam appears as Janusz Korczak, the author, broadcaster, children's rights advocate, physician, and overseer of an orphanage. Korczak famously stayed with his orphans rather than accept any of the many offers he received to be smuggled out of the Warsaw Ghetto. The real Janusz Korczak was a slim man; Goldflam is portly. His appearance not only doesn't mesh with the real Korczak. Goldflam doesn't look like someone who'd been living under starvation conditions forced by the Nazis for the past three years. The scenes with Korczak and his orphans did make me cry, but they seem like a detour from the film's main narrative.

One problem the film faced: we have all seen Holocaust movies. Sad but true, during much of this film I was simply disinterested, waiting for it to show me something I had not seen in another film, to tell me something I had not yet heard. The film opens with Antonina happily taking care of her lion cubs, pregnant elephant, devoted young camel, and her son's pet skunk. We all know what will happen next: Nazi planes will bomb; Jews will begin to wear armbands. Brutality will increase and then there will be mass transports on trains.

Perhaps the film could have opened in media res, during the Nazi bombardment, and focused more closely on Antonina's interior life. The film tosses away references to her tragic history. Her parents were murdered by the Soviets and she had had to live on the run. Why not weave those facts into a richer portrait of the central character?

Poles who helped Jews in Nazi-occupied Poland had to scrounge food for their wards while they, the Poles, lived under forced starvation conditions. They also had to dispose of human waste without drawing any attention to themselves. The film never explores how the Zabinskis managed these considerable feats.

The film falls into a historically revisionist trap when it implies that Nazis were interested only in Jews, and Polish Catholics were allowed to live out the war in beautiful clothing. Nazis served Poles brandy in snifters and politely debated their actions. The film also implies that Nazi policies were in effect in Poland before the war began. Antonina and her son Ryszard see Jewish porters carrying heavy loads in Warsaw's market. Antonina makes a comment about how "they" are mistreating Jews. The scene is simply misleading.

Too, Nazis murdered and displaced more Polish non-Jews in the early days of the war than Polish Jews, but the film depicts Nazis as focusing almost exclusively on persecuting Jews. When the Nazi invasion begins, Jan makes a comment about how he has nothing against Jews. This is just a dumb thing for him to say. The bombardment of Warsaw was a thousand times worse than the film suggests. There are scenes were some herd animals are buried and others are set free in a forest. Poland was so desperate during the war that those animals would have more likely been butchered for meat, as happened to horses that fell in Warsaw's streets. The film just wants to tell a simple-minded, and false, story about privileged Poles and persecuted Jews. If the film had conveyed the threat the Germans posed to non-Jewish Poles as well as Jewish ones, the Zabinskis heroism would have been revealed as even more profound.

Poles fought much more than the film depicts. Jan Zabinski was a member of the Armia Krajowa, or Home Army. He taught in the underground university. He sabotaged trains and built bombs. None of this is shown in the film. Jan comes across as a hapless victim who can only stand by open-mouthed and watch as his wife attempts to twist lovelorn Nazi Heck around her sexy finger.

Polish-Jewish relations during the war were very, very, very complicated. I'm not using too many "verys." The film depicts Poles helping Jews, but it makes virtually no mention of Polish anti-Semitism. Not all Poles were heroes. Some betrayed Jews and their rescuers to the Nazis. In one scene, a Pole witnesses Antonina help a Jew. The Pole promises Antonina she will not betray her work. Had this eyewitness betrayed Antonina, the Nazis would have murdered the entire family, including Ryszard, the young son. These tensions and obstacles are only hinted at in the film.