“Polish Airmen Fighting For Freedom” – interview with the film directors

a couple of days ago the British Poles portal together with The Polish Sue organised a special online event aimed at Polish and British audiences.  It was a very special event celebrating Polish contribution to the Battle of Britain.  It featured presentation of the film “POLISH AIRMEN FIGHTING FOR FREEDOM” with the introduction from Ambassador of Republic of Poland to the United Kingdom, prof. Arkady Rzegocki, and an interview with the film directors – Marek Borzecki and Cornelia Bouer-Borzecka.  The film was a reminder that Polish Air personnel helped to free Europe from Nazi tyranny and that a great debt is owed to them which should never be forgotten. This on-line event was part of celebrations of the Polish Heritage Days 2020.

Cornelia and Marek have been involved in many different projects relating to the activities of Poles in the UK. Their contribution to promoting Polish History/Culture/achievements has been acknowledged by being awarded with orders of merit from the Polish Government. 

Their aim has always been to pay respects to those who sacrificed so much for others during difficult times and to let younger people know about what these people did for all of us so that they too can be inspired to do remarkable things in their own lives and not only to measure success in terms of position and money, but also in what they have contributed to the wider community during the course of their life.

Following the event, we are pleased to present this interview with the Marek and Cornelia –  the film Directors, conducted by Iwona Golinska, the Founder of Polish Sue.

0:14 – Introduction from Ambassador of the Republic of Poland to the United Kingdom Prof. Arkady Rzegocki
1:58 – Film screening “Polish Airmen fighting for Freedom”
22:52 – Interview with Directors of the film: Marek Borzecki and Cornelia Bauer-Borzecki by Iwona Golinska – Founder of the Polish Sue
41:25 – The End

The whole interview below:

Iwona Golińska: How did this movie come about and why such a topic was chosen?

Cornelia Bouer-Borzecka/Marek Borzecki:  In 2018 we were asked by Richard Kornicki and Rodney Byles of the Polish Air Force Memorial Committee to help make a film about a permanent exhibition at the Polish Lounge, Northolt to make the story of  Polish Airmen and the exhibits relating to them available to wider audiences, as Northolt is a high security facility that is difficult to access. They approached us because they knew that we had a large film archive of Polish Airmen and celebrations and the knowledge how to go about realizing such a project. The suggestion of making the film had come from Rodney Byles, a PAFMC member with a wife of Polish descent. He was even more enthusiastic than the Poles to make this film and contributed a lot to the project. 

Richard, the son of the famous pilot Franciszek Kornicki, had been conducting limited tours a few times a year at Northolt during which he tried to acquaint the visitors with the story of the Polish Air Force using the exhibits housed there. The PAFMC is a caretaker organization that came into existence after the original Polish Airmen’s Association and subsequent Foundation had to close because the number of veterans had dwindled to nothing. The PAFMC takes care of the Airmen Memorial at Northolt and organizes the annual remembrance services there. The organization is also involved with educational work to promote the history and achievements of Polish Airmen. The production of “Polish Airmen Fighting for Freedom” is an attempt to make this information more widely available, the film and other information can be found on the PAFMC website and can now be accessed by audiences worldwide. The Polish Educational Society is also keen to show the film to Polish Schools all over the UK, however, this has temporarily been hampered by Covid19.

IG: Were there any difficulties you faced during the film making and production ?

CBB/MB: The biggest problem in making the film was a time constraint, the original time frame was to be 15 minutes, but, because of the wealth of material, the greatest problem was what to put in and what to leave out. Even with 21 minutes it was hard as there was so much more one would have liked to put into the film. The starting point had been to bring the actual exhibition to more viewers, but we decided to base the film on the narrative of Richard Kornicki because it tied in so well with the history of the Polish Air Force, starting from Poland going to Romania, France and finally reaching the „Island of the last Hope”. We eventually expanded our team to include professional editors Wojtek and Jan Bogdanowicz and historian Ryszard Matusiak. 

IG:  Who is the film mainly addressed to?

CBB/MB:  The film is in English to make it accessible to audiences outside the Polish Community.  It shows a longstanding connection between the Poles and the British and what cooperation between nations can achieve for the good of many.  It could be a promising sign for the future relationship between Poland and Britain. They managed to work together well before the European Union existed and we hope that his will continue.

IG:  What is the importance of this film? 

CBB/MB:  The importance of the film is to underline that historical knowledge and understanding is important for people during any age, and, hopefully, it makes us learn from people’s failures and successes. To some people the catastrophe of WWII and the threat of tyranny seem already to be remote and no longer relevant, when in reality matters can get out of hand very easily. Celebrations of historical events, such as the Battle of Britain, are therefore crucial to make people aware of the fact that our freedom can come under threat very quickly, an experience, that we have had to become familiar with now in a different context. 

IG:  What can we learn from the history of Polish Airmen’s that can as be still relevant for us?

CBB/MB:  What we can learn from the Airmen is that we have to continue to be vigilant and work together for our continued freedom and security and that we have to be thankful to those who were prepared to give their live for our existence and freedom and that, if need be, we have to be prepared to make sacrifices for this ourselves. The story of Polish Airmen is very relevant in demonstrating how humans should and can rise to a challenge for the greater good, an inspiration to us all!

IG:  Thank you for the interview – pleasure to talk to you and wishing you many successful and important movies like this one.

About the Film Directors:

Marek Borzecki was born in Lublin (1951), where he studied Education and Psycholgy at UMCS Lublin, and worked as a professional diver on special projects. He arrived in London in 1975 and to start with was interested in photography and filming under water, visitors from TVP Lublin invited him to become a correspondent in 1995. 

Cornelia Bouer-Borzecka was born in Koblenz, Germany (1954) the daughter of a refugee from Drohobycz. She came to London in 1974 and graduated with BA Hons in French Studies /International Relations/Politics from the London School of Economics and Political Sciences in 1980 and then worked in Wines and Spirits education and research until 1994 after obtaining a Diploma from the Wine and Spirit Education Trust prior to this. 

In 1986, Cornelia and Marek married and from the mid 1990s embarked on documenting the history of Polish Veterans, Polish Organisations, Polish Individuals and anything connected with the Polish Community on film and still camera and Cornelia had to familiarise herself with the Polish language. 

Over the years they made hundreds of reports for TVP, in particular TVP Polonia, and gradually also started to produce documentaries and moved into doing correspondence work for the main Polish News and other stations, as well as working with independent production companies.

To mention just a few, they made an interesting film about the Martyrs of the 20th Century at Westminster Abbey in (1998), The Dukes of Kent and the Poles (2004), about the Katyn Memorial, Gunnersbury (2005) and, most importantly, Moja Polska (2012) – the personal recollections of President in Exile Ryszard Kaczorowski on a hundred years of Polish Independence. They were fortunate to record these last interviews just before the Smolensk tragedy in 2010. Moja Polska has been shown many times on different channels of TVP, it was especially aimed at the young, something very important to President Kaczorowski. 

A more comprehensive list of films can be found on Marek Borzecki Polski film, but even this does only show a fraction of what Cornelia and Marek did over a 25 year period. 

Interviewed by Iwona Golinska, a Founder of The Polish Sue – a consulting organisation founded in Memory of Lady Ryder of Warsaw in 2016 in London.