In “Requiem for Irena”, we embark on a journey through the eyes of 98-year-old Irena Osadzinski, a Polish woman who was deported to Russia in 1939 from her village of Olesko, Lviv Oblast. Through her son’s perspective, who is a pianist, and a music composition written specially for her, Irena shares her life story of the injustices faced by Polish citizens during this time, and the lifelong impact it has had on her and generations to come.
As Russia invades Ukraine, the Polish diaspora from Lviv relives the traumatic events of their own forced deportations. In September 1939, Germany and Russia invaded Poland, dividing the spoils and deporting 1.7 million Poles to slave labour camps in Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and Siberia. With the war continuing and Stalin needing help, a Polish-Soviet treaty allowed for the release of military-age Poles, and a new Polish army was formed under General Anders. Unfortunately, only 160,000 Poles managed to escape the Soviet Union, and the Yalta conference in 1945 redefined the borders of Europe, leaving many Poles in exile.
Irena’s story, and those like hers, highlights the devastating effects of war on individuals and communities. It also serves as a reminder of the forgotten pages of history, and the importance of remembering and honouring the sacrifices made by so many. The film also raises questions about what it means to be a stranger in one’s own birthplace, and the struggle for belonging and home.
Amidst all this, Irena now resides in a Polish retirement home in Wales, donated by the British government in recognition of the Polish contribution to the Allied victory. However, this home is no longer in Polish hands, and the memories and history of the Polish in Wales will fade along with it. This film not only tells the story of Irena’s journey but also highlights the ongoing struggles of the Polish diaspora and the cyclical nature of history. It is a powerful and emotional reminder of the sacrifices made by so many and the importance of keeping their memories alive.
Requiem for Irena • 52min • English spoken • 2023
Film preview: Requiem for Irena (2023) | IDFA Docs for Sale