23 September 2014

‘‘To my Father”: a docudrama about the Vinnica massacre by Montreal filmmakers

Young Montrealers of Polish origin are making a docudrama about the massacre of Ukrainians, Poles and Russians committed in Vinnica at the end of the 1930s. The project was made possible thanks to a Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs grant for the promotion of cooperation with the Polish diaspora and Poles abroad.

‘‘To my Father” (in Polish, “Ojcu”) is a directorial debut of Diana Skaya from Montreal. The Polish-born Skaya lived in Armenia for the first five years of her life before moving to Canada. The Vinnica massacre is a story that is close to her heart because it directly touched her family. . The production co-director is Liliana Komorowska, who is known for her roles in Andrzej Wajda and Krzysztof Zanussi films, as well as the production of the internationally award-winning film “Beauty and the Breast," about a woman’s battle with breast cancer.


The script of ‘‘To my Father” was inspired by a poem by the same name written by Skaya’s aunt, Alina Bandrowska, about her father Adam Bandrowski’s tragic life. Bandrowski, a teacher at  Vinnytsia’s technical agricultural school was arrested by the Soviet secret police, the NKVD, at the beginning of 1938. He shared the fate of more than 13,000 victims of the Vinnica massacre, perpetrated against Poles, Ukrainians and Russians living in Vinnica, under the pretext of the Soviet Union’s fight against the enemies of communism and Polish spies. The victims’ bodies were buried in a mass grave in a Vinnica park.


The massacre was  discovered  as late as in 1943, around the same time as the Katyn massacre. But unlike   Katyn,  the victims of the Vinnica massacre were only civilians, and their tragic fate is one of the lesser known episodes of Stalin’s Purges.



The film’s crew is made up mostly of young Poles living in Canada and in the United States, both professionals and amateurs.  The New York-based Antoni Porowski took the role of Adam Bandrowski, Olesja Achtemijczyk, who is originally from Ukraine, plays Jadzia, Adam’s wife. The film was shot by Jan Belina-Brzozowski, a graduate of the Polish National Film School in Łódź, on location in Montreal and Rawdon.  The film’s scenes showing an NKWD jail were filmed in the basement of the Polish Consulate in Montreal.


 “It would be really hard for me to come up with an initiative which better illustrates the cooperation of the Polish government with our diaspora abroad. Diana Skaya’s project has all the elements of what we would like to see in our modern model of cooperation with our diaspora abroad" said Andrzej Szydlo, Consul General of the Republic of Poland in Montreal.


The film’s patrons are:  the Polish Consulate in Montreal, the Polish Embassy in Kyiv and the Polish Consulate in Vinnica, which was helped the crew to obtain rare documentation during the pre-production stage. Thanks to the Vinnica Consulate’s help, the crew managed to find  the original arrest warrant for Adam Bandrowski, documents relating to the  investigation, his death sentence and the subsequent rehabilitation act.


The film’s production is co-financed by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs with funds for the promotion of  cooperation with the Polish Diaspora and Poles abroad in 2014.


The production crew is still looking for funds to enable them to finish and promote the film. For  information about how you can support the production, please  write to:      


MFA Press Office


© 2012 Ministry of Foreign Affairs