Polish President Honors Iranian Filmmaker

picture.jpgTEHRAN (FNA)- Iranian film director Khosrow Sinai has been awarded the prestigious “Knights Cross of the Order of Merit of the Polish Republic”.

At a ceremony earlier this year (June 10th) in the Polish capital, the country’s president, Lech Kaczynski bestowed the honor on the Iranian filmmaker in recognition of his services to the Polish Nation, and in particular for his documentary “The Lost Requiem”, made in 1982.

Also honored were five Iranian citizens of Polish descent, survivors of the “Polish Exodus” living in Iran. They are: Fatemeh Fazelishahir, Maria Bajdan, Fatemeh Wandeh Vashi, Eleonora Barska and Helena Stelmach. Each was awarded the Siberian Cross.

The Lost Requiem tells the story of the war-time arrival in Iran of hundreds of thousands of Poles released from the Soviet labor camps of Siberia. During the two months of April and August 1942, ships crammed with emaciated men, women and children arrived daily at the Caspian port of Anzali. Their condition was desperate. Within weeks of their arrival, thousands had died from malnutrition, malaria and typhus. The healthy young men were evacuated immediately to Syria and Lebanon to aid the allied forces against Hitler. The remainder (mostly women and children) remained in Iranian refugee camps for up to three years before being evacuated to camps in East Africa, New Zealand and India. But a significant proportion decided to remain behind in Iran for good, and their stories are recounted in Sinai’s documentary “The Lost Requiem”.

Such a ceremony in the Polish capital would have been unthinkable just twenty years ago. Until as recently as 1989, it was forbidden to refer to the Polish Exodus in the Russian-dominated Polish media. In the West, things were scarcely better. The British and US governments, who had secretly betrayed their ally Poland to the Soviets at the Tehran Conference in 1943, continued to collude together for almost 50 years to cover up (or obfuscate) knowledge of the events. Almost alone among international filmmakers, Khosrow Sinai labored to bring the matter to the public domain.

It was an uphill struggle, however. Even today, the film is not on general release and is available only on DVDs distributed privately.

The medal of the Order of Merit is a five-armed red and white cross emblazoned with a Polish eagle and suspended from a dark blue ribbon.

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