Wednesday, January 24, 2024

Dr. Dorota Lekka Presents "Wielka Droga" Film about 2nd. Corps of Gen. Anders (1946), 4 Feb. 2024 at 4:30pm, Bolton Hall Museum

Still-shot from the film Wielka Droga (The Great Way), 1946, Polish National Film Archives.

The Modjeska Art & Culture Club is honored to present in California a unique film made in 1946, Wielka Droga (The Great Way), with an introduction by Dr. Dorota Lekka from the National Film Archive in Poland. The film tells the story of the soldiers of the Second Corps of the Polish Army under the command of General Wladyslaw Anders, the so-called "Anders' Army." The film contains unique archival materials. The screening will take place on February 4, 2024 at 4:30 p.m. -7:30 p.m. (film screening at 5:15 p.m.) in the Bolton Hall Museum in Tujunga (10110 Commerce Ave, Tujunga, CA 91042). Admission is free, the number of places is limited. RSVP: After the screening, there will be a discussion and a small reception. The meeting was prepared in cooperation with Jerzy Barankiewicz, the president of the Polish Art Salon in San Diego, where the screening will take place on February 10, 2024.


Dorota Lekka, PhD, Head of the International Cooperation Department at Poland's National Film Archive - Audiovisual Institute. Her responsibilities include the promotion of Poland's film heritage around the world, as well as coordinating the Archive's joint projects with international and external institutional partners.

Poster for Italian screenings of the film, in 1947, with changed text due to pressure from Soviet Union, from  IMDb.



The film depicts the fate of an engaged couple separated by various circumstances of the Second World War: from the siege of Lviv in 1939 to the formation of Anders’ Army inside the USSR, through its wanderings across Iran, Iraq, Palestine, and Egypt, to the Italian campaign. The most important and valuable element of the film is its authentic documentary footage, including the Battle of Monte Cassino, in which the film's protagonist Adam is wounded.

"The Great Way" is more than 75 years old, but has only relatively recently become known to Polish audiences. The only version of this film available in Poland to date came into the possession of the National Film Archive in 1962 from the USA. However, due to its inconvenient themes around Soviet Russia, the film sat on a shelf for 25 years without ever being shown to the public. Because it contained numerous authentic recordings showing the life of the II Corps along the entire route of its march, including drills, participation in military operations, and preparations for the Battle of Monte Cassino, it was treated not as a film but documentary footage, with only excerpts of it being made available.

The first screenings of the film in its entirety, though open only to students, took place in 1988 and 1989 in Katowice and Wroclaw. In April 1991 the film was televised, which was the first time it was shown to the general public in Poland. It was only then, 45 years after its premiere, that "The Great Way" came into the consciousness of viewers across the country.

Prepared by the National Film Archive – Audiovisual Institute, the now reconstructed film "The Great Way" stands as yet another highly important undertaking aimed at restoring the contributions of Polish filmmakers to Polish culture and collective memory. It is an act of giving due place in Polish culture to wartime and later emigrant artists, who, also being soldiers, shared the wandering fate and inconveniences of frontline conditions with the II Corps, at the same time, through their talent and the beauty they created, upholding the national spirit and faith in a return to a free homeland - which many never lived to see.

The journey of "The Great Way" to audiences in Poland was a long one. Thanks to the National Film Archive – Audiovisual Institute, today we have the opportunity to interact with a unique relic of Polish cinematography. Following the film’s heroes, we symbolically walk the path of the "Great Way" alongside Anders’ Army.


Henryk Vars straightens Leonidas Dudarew-Ossetynski's tie. Photo from the archives of Valerie Dudarew-Ossetynska Hunken, reproduced in the book Celebrating Modjeska in California: History of Helena Modjeska Art & Culture Club (Maja Trochimczyk, Moonrise Press, 2022).


The presentation of the film is of special importance to the Club due to the unique information about the Second Corps of the Polish Army of General Władysław Anders, continuing the long-standing traditions of this thematic zone. Among the Club's activists in its first decade were veterans of Anders' Army, poet Kazimierz Cybulski and composer Henry Vars; the latter contributed to the preparation of the American premiere of Roman Maciejewski's Requiem in 1975. The Club presented Vars' music several times at private and public concerts. The first President of the Club, actor-director Leonidas Dudarew-Ossetyński, was a veteran of the Polish Army in France and a friend of Generals: Anders, Bór-Komorowski (godfather of Ossetyński's daughter, Valerie Hunken), and Stanisław Karpiński (commander of Polish pilots in the RAF). 

A meeting with Harvey Sarner, author of the book about Anders' Army, General Anders and the Soldiers of the 2nd Army Corps, took place in 1998 (President Edward Piłatowicz). The meeting with the veteran of the Second Corps, paratrooper Marcin Henzel, took place in June 2007 thanks to the efforts of President Dorota Olszewska. 

Meetings about the ordeal of Poles deported to Siberia took place in 2004 (the film A Forgotten Odyssey, with the introduction by survivor Kazimerz Cybulski, President Jolanta Zych) and 2016 (meeting with deportees to Siberia, organized by Dorota Olszewska; President Andrew Z. Dowen). A lecture about artists associated with the Second Corps, by prof. Jan Wiktor Sienkiewicz (Anders' Artists), took place in April 2017. 

The legendary actress and singer Hanka Ordonówna was also associated with the Second Corps. A play about her, written by prof. Kazimierz Braun, was presented by the Club in November 2013 (Polish Theater in Toronto at Magicopolis in Santa Monica). After leaving the camps in the Soviet Union with the Second Corps, which saved many civilians from the gulag, Ordonka took care of Polish orphans in India and Iran. Both events were held during the term of office of President Andrew Z. Dowen. 

General Anders' daughter, Senator Anna Maria Anders, appeared at the Gala Concert celebrating the 100th Anniversary of Regaining Independence in November 2018, co-organized by the Polish Consulate in Los Angeles and our Club at the Colburn School of Music in Los Angeles. Her speech was included in the Polish Album of the 50th Anniversary of the Modjeska Art & Culture Club (ed. Maja Trochimczyk, Elżbieta Kański and Elżbieta Trybuś), published in 2021.   

                                                                                              (summary by Maja Trochimczyk)


Secretary  Beata Czajkowska,  Prsident Maja Trochimczyk, Dr Dorota Lekka, Voicepreisdent Kasia Smiechowicz,Prezes Maja Trochimczyk

Designer Urszula Jaskolka Beaudoin i Artist Monque Chmielewska Lehman

Dr Dorota Lekka, Prof. Andrzej Targowski, Beata Czajkowska

Katarzyna Smiechowicz, Maja Trochimczyk, Dorota Lekka

Sekretarz Klubu Beata Czajkowska, Wiceprezes Kasia Smiechowicz, Dr Dorota Lekka, Prezes Maja Trochimczyk

Magdalena Alexiewicz, Guest

Thank you very much for organizing such a wonderful meeting with a film and reception. I feel truly honored to have been able to take part in it. It was wonderfully organized. The movie was fantastic and very touching. I cried silently after watching it. I saw and heard as if my parents were thrown out of Lviv in 1945 and were graciously allowed to come to Poznań and not be deported. Dad had already been assigned a job at the University of Poznań. Dad earned his doctorate in Lviv during the German occupation in underground education. His supervisor was the famous Professor Stefan Banach. I heard a lot about Lviv as a child. My parents spoke this melodious Polish language for many years... I am very, very grateful for organizing such a wonderful presentation. I felt like I was among great friends. Best regards and pay my respects.

Ryszard Szczebiot, Planned Guest

Thank you for your message and I hope that both shows took place in a calm atmosphere, i.e. without any clouds during the shows... ) We received several official warnings on Sunday not to leave the house in Camarillo due to severe winter storms. Thanks to your information, we watched several videos on YouTube about Anders' Army and the General himself, and it was also very nice and moving.

My father, Mikołaj Szczebiot, was born in August 1919 in Glebokie and died in April 1980 in Warsaw. There is his grave at Powązki Cemetery and I am even planning to apply to the Institute of National Remembrance to mark it, which may protect the grave from destruction in the future. When the Soviets entered Glebokie in 1939, they deported most, if not all, of the young men deep into Russia. My father was forcibly sent to a coal mine in Vorkuta, where the conditions were said to be terrible. The formation of Anders' Army was a kind of salvation - it was better to die fighting for Free Poland than somewhere in the depths of a Soviet mine! My father walked the entire trail with Anders' Army. He fought at Monte Cassino and Ancone. I know about the first one for sure, because Father was awarded for it, and we had many photos from Ancona with Father and his companions. Earlier, still in Palestine, Father completed the so-called "Cadet Officer School."

My father didn't like talking about the war - in fact, he was very taciturn - it must have been a great trauma for all these young people, so it doesn't surprise me today. After the war, my father found himself in England. There were a total of six cousins there - twice, three brothers each. My father returned to Poland in 1956 (I was born in September 1957) - it was my parents' love by correspondence, although I don't remember who introduced them. Father's brothers and cousins settled permanently in England, but none of them is now alive. Their children and grandchildren remain there, with whom I maintain occasional contact. After arriving in Poland, my father had serious problems finding a job. Although it was supposedly Poland after the "thaw", my father was an "insecure element in terms of class". Finally, in 1960, he got a job at Polish Ocean Lines, where he worked until 1975. During a cruise to Greece, he suffered a heart attack, which forced him to take early retirement.

Maja Trochimczyk, President

Thank you very much for the touching screening of the film The Great Way about Anders' Army. I am from the Kresy family, but from the border area of present-day Belarus and Lithuania, not  from Lviv, as depicted in the film. I was very moved by the film, especially the scenes in the Gulag, with the prisoners singing of the Christmas carol God is Born and the anthem God saves Poland, and the scenes of breaking the black bread as a Christmas wafer, and of course the enormous tragedy of those rescued, i.e. the soldiers of the Second Corps scattered all over the world after the war, because they could not return to their enslaved country. 

In our Club named after Helena Modrzejewska, we had activists associated with the Second Corps such as Henryk Wars who was friends with our founder, actor-director-journalist Leonidas Dudarew-Ossetynski, and helped promote Roman Maciejewski's Requiem. The poet Kazimierz Cybulski often appeared in the Club's programs as poet and actor. There have been many meetings in our history about Siberian deportees and exiles, survivors of Soviet repressions, soldiers of WWII, and Anders' Army. This event that Dr Lekka organized was the last one in the series, and was very interesting and moving. Thank you for the great lecture!

The family of my mother, Henryka Trochimczyk, née Wajszczuk (1929-2013), lived in the Borderlands near Baranowicze, where my mother was born. There were small estates of the Hordziejewski, Gliński, Sudnik-Hrynkiewicz, Wojno-Sidorowicz, Ignatowicz,  and Wasiuk families... all close to Mickiewicz's Nowogródek and Lake Świteź. Aunt Irena née Wasiuk de Belina (1929-2017) was deported to Siberia with her parents, who died of starvation or disease after deportation, and the war orphan Irena traveled the Great Way along with other orphaned Polish children, saved by the Anders Army, through Iran, then Switzerland to Chicago.

My Mom's Aunt Tonia Antonina, née Wasiuk Glinska, was deported to Siberia with her sons after the murder of her husband, a former Polish soldier, by the NKVD. They shot him in the street, and within 24 hours Aunt Tonia was on the train to Siberia. She was my Grandmother's sister; after the war, she went looking for traces of the house and estate of Skarbkow, she found a pear tree in a plowed field. Everything else was destroyed and transformed into a collective farm. No house left standing. .. My great-grandmother and her mother was Konstancja Sudnik-Hrynkiewicz from another estate in the same area. I wrote poems about them in the book The Rainy Bread.

My grandfather Stanisław Wajszczuk (1895-1973) was in the White Tsarist Army during the revolution in St. Petersburg, witnessed the tragedy, then was transferred to the German front and found himself in captivity in Dachau. After escaping from the camp (with the help of the commandant's daughter) he served in the Piłsudski's Legions, fighting for Poland's independence. After the war, he worked at Radio Baranowicze and for the Polish Railways. In 1939 after the Soviet invasion, he and his wife, Maria née Wasiuk with two small children, including my Mom, escaped to their family in the Lublin region occupied by the Germans on New Year's Eve 1939. During their escape across the Bug River, after crossing the frozen river, a German soldier took everything from them - 295 gold coins sewn into the lining of my mom's coat. money, jewelry hidden in her teddy bear... But they escaped alive. My mother had frostbite on her cheeks and hands, and she always got spots on her cheeks in the winter. . 

Another family from Baranowicze of Roman Zawadzki from California, was arrested by the NKVD on the same winter escape route and ended up in the gulag, in Siberia, and then traveled with Anders' Army along The Great Way to Italy and then England. After the war they ended up in California, where  they were active in community groups.

There are many such stories among us, so we are very happy about the film and the story about the tragedy and survival of soldiers, artists and their families related to the national hero General Władysław Anders.

 5  FEBRUARY 2024

Maja Trochimczyk, Dorota Lekka z portretami Paderewskiego

Dorota Lekka, Maja Trochimczyk at Polish Music Center

Dr Dorota Lekka, PMC Dyrektor Marek Zebrowski, Krysta Close

Manuscript of Henry Vars's Piano Concerto with the theme song from Wielka Droga film.

Saturday, January 6, 2024

Agnieszka Couderq and Her Novel about Polish Jesuit in China, January 20, 2024, Playa Vista

Happy New Year!  This is the Year of the Dragon, so it is quite fitting to start it with an event about China.  Helena Modjeska Art & Culture Club is pleased to invite members and guests to a meeting with Agnieszka Couderq, author of a novel, The Last Envoy of the Ming Dynasty. Historical novel in two volumes. The meeting will be in Polish and will be held on January 20, 2024 5pm, at the Centerpointe Club in Playa Vista (6200 Playa Vista Dr, Playa Vista, CA 90094). The presentation starts at 5:20 to 6:20 plus QA period and a wine-and-hors-d'oeuvres reception. Parking under the building.

The author will have some copies available for signing and sale. The work is in two volumes: Volume I - The Sun, the Moon and the Cross; Volume II – Light and Darkness. The publisher is Oficyna Wydawnicza RYTM:

About the Author

The author is Polish and American, currently living alternately in Warsaw and Los Angeles. Initially growing up in communist Poland, she came to the United States in 1980 as a teenager and completed her studies in geophysics at the Colorado School of Mines in Colorado. Shortly after graduating, she contracted cancer, with little chance of survival. This near-death experience at a young age had a profound impact on her. It defined her entire life, creating a lens through which she viewed all its twists and turns, ups and downs. These experiences drew her very early to issues of faith and suffering. As an avid reader who read various books written by authors living on many continents, she has been developing her writing skills for years, creating stories for children and poetry. Only after encountering the story of Michał Boym during her studies in sinology did she feel the strength to writing a novel with a view to its publication. The book she wrote is the essence of her life experiences and thoughts. Having lived in many countries and cultures, she has learned to appreciate them. She seeks to know them in depth and does this primarily by learning their languages. Therefore, Ms. Couderq speaks Polish, English, French, Spanish and Chinese fluently and understands Russian well. 

About this Book

The Last Envoy of the Ming Dynasty is a fictionalized story about the authentic figure of the Polish "Marco Polo". - Michał Boym, a 17th-century Polish Jesuit and missionary in China, who, as the official envoy of the last emperor of the Ming dynasty, Yongli, went to Europe to represent the only Catholic court in Chinese history. Father Michał Boym SJ is considered one of the precursors of Western knowledge about the Middle Kingdom. One of his many works is Medicus Sinicus, the first treatise published in Europe on Chinese traditional medicine, whose roots date back to the third millennium BC. He is also among the European precursors of modern economic geography.

When Michael Boym, a young, promising and idealistic Jesuit, arrives in Portuguese Macau at the end of A.D. 1644, little does he expect that only five years later he will meet the (platonic) love of his life and be thrown into the vortex of epochal changes and political intrigues taking place on both the Asian and European continents. While the power of the Ming dynasty crumbled under the pressure of the pagan Manchus, Father Boym undertook a dangerous journey across lands and oceans to defend it before the most powerful Catholic rulers and the Pope himself. In this diplomatic role, he violated the rules of his order, the Society of Jesus, while participating in the power game between the main colonial players in the Far East, the Portuguese, Dutch and British, and in Europe, between the local powers.

The narrator of the novel is the "author", an old friend of the main character and a fellow Jesuit, and the scenes of Michał Boym's presence at the court of the Ming Emperor, and then during his legation in Europe, are interwoven with events taking place at the same time in China in the last phase changes between the Ming and Qing dynasty. Most of the circumstances described in the book are consistent with the facts. Readers will therefore learn about the geopolitical panorama of Europe and Asia in the 17th century and the history of relations between these two parts of the world.


In the autumn of 1649, Father Michał Boym, a young Polish Jesuit missionary, arrives at the court of the Chinese Emperor Yongli, the last ruler of the Ming dynasty, in crisis. He is to help his Austrian brother, Andreas Koffler, in leading the path of Jesus Christ to the only Catholic imperial court in the history of the Middle Kingdom. Boym's missionary zeal does not come without a price. He must leave his life in a wealthy Polish family and break the promise he made to his brother. The compulsion to choose between keeping promises made to loved ones and calling on the Lord will haunt the Pole until the end. At court, he meets the love of his life, the Dowager Empress Helena. Older than him, she is a beautiful, brilliant and powerful woman and, like him, deeply religious. He also assists at the baptism of the heir to the throne. This event marks the culmination of over a hundred years of Jesuit missionary efforts in Asia. It creates an unparalleled opportunity for the Vatican and Catholic European powers to gain the upper hand in the fierce competition against British and Dutch interests. The prospect of Catholic China, his great faith, and his intense yet platonic feeling for the Empress are the driving force that drives him to overcome countless dangers and obstacles that test his convictions and commitment to the Church and its cause.

Faced with constant attacks by the Manchu Qing dynasty, which controls the northern part of China, the two Jesuits convince the emperor to send Boym to Europe to gain support for the Ming dynasty. From now on, his fate will be inextricably linked with his legation. In addition to official letters, he carries with him the fruits of his studies on Chinese culture - the first European atlas of China and the first treatise on Chinese medicine by a European. From the very beginning, his mission fell victim to great European politics and economic rivalry between the main players of this era of the decline of the Habsburgs and the rise of Louis XIV's France, as well as their game for influence in the Vatican. On the other hand, due to the competition of the Dutch East India Company in the Far East, the Portuguese in Macau feel more and more pressure to side with one of the warring dynasties. The same dilemma divides the Jesuit Mission into two competing factions: the Qing and the Ming. The political division in the secular and religious spheres of the Portuguese Estado da India works to the detriment of Boym's mission. And so, when he goes to Europe, another envoy goes to the Vatican on behalf of the "northern" Jesuits. He is to convince the Vatican and European courts that the cause of the Ming dynasty is irretrievably lost, and the only force in China to be reckoned with is the Manchu Emperor Qing Shunzhi.

Father Martino Martini SJ also travels with his most precious opus - his own atlas of China. And so a race begins between two brothers that will decide the future of the Chinese Empire and the Catholic religion in the Far East, and will make one of them famous. Meanwhile, in China, the armies of Chinese traitors who defected to the Manchu side and Ming loyalists are fighting a bloody brotherly war between themselves, the outcome of which remains open...

More about Michał Boym:

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