Intriguing new documentary series explores history and traces of Polish life abroad - beginning in today’s Lviv
A recently released documentary about Polish cultural heritage in Lviv is part of a fascinating new series of short films exploring the history and traces of Polish life abroad, with a focus on the eastern ‘Kresy’ region.
Entitled ‘Polskie Historie Kresowe’ (Polish Kresy Histories), the series begins with a 10 minute film entitled ‘Lwowski Antoni, Ostoja polskiej tradycji i wiary’ (Lviv’s St Anthony, Refuge of Polish Faith and Tradition), which presents a brief historical outline and contemporary insight into Lviv’s Parish Church of St Anthony and its Polish roots.
The ‘Kresy’ is the term for territories which were part of eastern Poland before WWII and were incorporated into what was then the Soviet Union at conferences held after the war, and which still retain strong historical and cultural connections with Poland.
An important meeting place for Poles in Lviv before WWII (then the Polish city of Lwów), and retaining a strong Polish connection after the war and until the present, the church’s origins date from the early 17th century.
But it owes its present form to the 18th century and the support of a foundation established by the Castellan of Kraków, Prince Janusz Antoni Wiśniowiecki, a descendant of the princely Wiśniowiecki family, influential in the period of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth.
Completed in a late baroque style in 1739, the church is significant as one of only two Roman Catholic churches in Lviv, alongside the cathedral, to remain continuously open throughout the period of the Soviet Union.
Other noteworthy histories include being the christening place of celebrated Polish poet Zbigniew Herbert in 1924 and the host for two valuable portraits of members of the Wiśniowiecki clan, that of Konstanty Christopher Wiśniowiecki and his wife dating from the end of the 17th century.
Co-produced by the Polonika Institute (The National Institute of Polish Cultural Heritage Abroad) and Fundacja Dziedzictwo Kresowe (The Kresy Heritage Foundation) using archival and contemporary footage alongside interviews, the film also shows the conservation work which both organisations have undertaken on the church, on its altars, frescoes, stairs and ongoing work on its polychromes.
Speaking to Polonia 24, director of the Polonika Institute, Dorota Janiszewska-Jakubiak said the film was “also very important for future generations, because this history, which is connected with Lviv, lies at the heart of the contemporary identity of Poles, but we should also remember that it is the history of contemporary Ukraine”.
The film has attracted considerable interest since it was released on the Youtube channel of Fundacja Dziedzictwa Kresowego two weeks ago and is the first in a series of planned films about interesting stories of Polish cultural heritage abroad, in territories once part of Poland.
The second film, due to be released next week, will focus on Maria Konopnicka considered the greatest female Polish poet from the period of realism, and her connections with the city of Lwów.
Speaking to TFN about the project, Jan Sabadasz, director of Fundacja Dziedzictwa Kresowego said: “The initial idea for the Polish Kresy Histories film series was to bring to life the issues around Polish Cultural Heritage abroad for viewers in Poland.
“We produced these two films at the end of 2021. Since the first one was released on our Youtube channel, we have been really positively surprised by the reception and interest it has received and it has already broken our online record for the number of views.
“Our plan is to produce more films, at least five of which will look at unique topics connected to Polish cultural heritage abroad, films about people, buildings and also not just focused on the Polish heritage of Lviv, but perhaps also Lithuania and Latvia.
“We also hope to have the films translated into English in the near future.”