It was his solely his conscience that prompted his actions - Pasikowski says about Jack Strong, the protagonist of his film.
Joanna Poros, PAP: Why did you decide to make a film about Ryszard Kukliński? Why did you decide to go with this particular story?
Władysław Pasikowski: It was the story which chose me. Personified by the producer, Sylwia Wilkos, the story made me a proposition for me to be the one to clarify the misunderstandings about the Colonel. I knew nothing more about Kukliński than the average person. That he lived, he served with the General Staff, he assisted General Jaruzelski, he betrayed, he spied for the CIA, that when he was exposed, he fled abroad, where he died. But, given the fact that I wanted to make a film, I had to take an interest in the Colonel and reach for some documents. And that's when it turned out, as history sometimes goes, that there's more to the story.
Enduring years of misunderstandings or slander, the Colonel was being accused of things he didn't do, so I thought that it was worth clarifying and sharing the knowledge I gained with others. Apart from that, his life made for fascinating material for a terribly interesting spy-sensation story with high stakes at play.
What is your personal opinion about Ryszard Kukliński?
– The Colonel's heroic act came at a time when no one expected it of him. Like I have often said, the situation cannot be compared to a man drowning in front of a bridge full of people. In that situation, although I am not denying the element of bravery, there is the pressure of ordinary people weighing on the potential hero. The same goes for occupation, where you had to become part of the opposition because your friends expected you to.
But the Colonel's war was "cold", the stabilisation was grey and the family had enough to get by, even more than enough. It was his solely his conscience, nothing else, that prompted his actions. But the Colonel was aware of the fact that all of us, all of Poland, could evaporate within an hour and disappear from the face of the earth as a result of the transformation of the cold war into a hot one. He couldn't allow that to happen. I think that it would have been easier for him to give his life than "military honour" and to be a dead man than a traitor, but he decided to do it anyway. He paid for it with his whole life, not losing it, but putting up with it.
After "Pokłosie" ("Aftermath"), referring to a very difficult episode of Polish history, you made a film about Ryszard Kukliński, whose figure brings up strong emotions in Poland, whose actions some consider controversial. Do you chose difficult topics for your films on purpose? And why have you been looking into historical content recently?
– Once again I'll use the producers as an excuse. I would like it if I were the one deciding about the choice of topics. Then, I would make a hilarious film, a so-called buddy-movie, about buddies who commit crimes and a very sad film about Polish teenage girls who sell their youth in exchange for a fashion career in Milan or Paris. Or then a pretty tragic film about Nangar Khel. But the producers aren't thrilled about my ideas, so my "compromise" is to go with their propositions. Consequently, that's where the ideas for films like "303" about Polish aviators in England, or "Stankiewicz" about Polish officers in the Army of the Tsar, or "GROM" about heroic, Polish soldiers, this time in Afghanistan, came from.
Answering the question indirectly, I think that it wasn't me, but the producers who butchered romantic comedies and adapted all compulsory school readings, discovered a fondness for history [...]
Marcin Dorociński on the set of Władysław Pasikowski's "Jack Strong", /photo: Marcin Makowski/www.makufly.com
In your opinion, is the discord surrounding Kukliński in Poland settled yet?
– No. Just like after the release of Gross's book, the dispute surrounding antisemitism wasn't settled, and my film which came twelve years later ignited it anew, the affair surrounding the Colonel, faintly covered by dust now, will make the headlines again and overshadow the film. But that's the price for making films about weighty topics. When you make a film about actors running around hotel hallways with naked arses, then you can count on the fact that the viewers, but most of all the critics will care about the film itself.
In the making of "Jack Strong" did you side with those according to whom Colonel Kukliński is a Polish hero?
Maja Ostaszewska, Marcin Dorociński and Władysław Pasikowski on the set of "Jack Strong",/photo: Marcin Makowski/www.makufly.com
Historians still know very little about Ryszard Kukliński's biography. What did your work on the script to the film about the Colonel look like, what sources of information did you use, did you contact people who knew Kukliński personally?
– The producers worked on the script for many years. I joined them at a later stage and could make use of their yearlong research. At my disposal I had copies of documents and interviews with people like former CIA officer David Forden, who directly "led" the Colonel as the most valuable contact in the Soviet sphere. My research reached Forden's superiors, Ambasadora Jerzy Koźmiński, and even Professor Zbigniew Brzeziński himself, who during Kukliński's days was President Carter's National Security Adviser. Work on the first record lasted for a couple of years, and under the watchful eye of producer Sylwia Wilkos, I wrote my version for some nine months, just like it is with kids... I was being cheered by the Colonel's wife, who unfortunately died before the first screening.
My last question concerns plans, new cinematic projects. Are you preparing to shoot a new film? If so, what will you tell us about this time?
– There is no such project on the way. And the ones that do exist have such long beards that they will probably die soon.
Ryszard Kukliński (CIA secret-agent pseudonym Jack Strong) was deputy director of the board of operating directors for the Polish Armed Forces general staff. At the beginning of the 70s he started cooperating with American intelligence. He passed strategic plans of the Warsaw Pact to the U.S. He warned them about the imposition of martial law in Poland. Kukliński were "evacuated" from Warsaw by the CIA and flown to safety in the U.S. in 1981. He lived in the U.S. under a fake name. His actions severely divided public opinion in Poland. In 1984, a court of the People's Republic of Poland sentenced him to death. He sentence was lifted in 1995. Kukliński died on the 11th of February 2004 in Tampa, Florida. His older son, Waldemar, was killed in 1994, the killers were never identified. According to the official version, his other son, Bogdan, disappeared without a trace during a sea expedition in 1993.
Read more about Jack Strong.
Source: PAP, edited by MG, translated by Mai Jones 28.01.2014