Bogdan’s Journey: One Man’s Effort to Reconcile between Poles and Jews

JCC Manhattan and distributor Menemsha Films have announced an exclusive New York screening of Bogdan’s Journey, a poignant film that chronicles one man’s passionate journey to reconcile the truth between Poles and Jews after decades of conflict over Europe’s last Jewish pogrom.

Bogdan’s Journey premieres in New York on Tuesday, February 7, 2017. The screening will be followed by a group discussion to include the co-directors, Princeton historian, Jan T. Gross, the film’s protagonist, Bogdan Bialek, and moderated by Elzbieta Matynia of the New School.

Kielce, Poland, was the site of Europe’s last Jewish pogrom–in 1946. Townspeople killed over 40 Holocaust survivors seeking shelter in a downtown building, injuring 80 more. As news of the pogrom spread across Poland, Jews fled the country. The Kielce pogrom became a symbol of Polish post-war anti-Semitism in the Jewish world. Under communism, the pogrom was a forbidden subject, but it was never forgotten.

Bogdan’s Journey is a moving film about reconciliation between Jews and Poles, demonstrating how it’s an effective way of resolving conflicts.

After the fall of communism, in a free Poland, Bogdan Białek, a Catholic Pole, journalist and psychologist, talks publicly about the issue. Over time, with great effort, he persuades the people of Kielce to confront this painful history.

Beginning as a solitary figure, he confronts the prejudices in his fellow citizens, and strives to reconnect Kielce with the outside Jewish community, an effort that costs him dearly.

Following the film’s premiere in New York, the filmmakers, Michael Jaskulski, a Polish Catholic, and Lawrence Loewinger, an American Jew, will be joined by controversial Princeton professor Jan T. Gross, Bogdan Bialek and moderator Elzbietia Matynia for a post-screening panel discussion.

Gross is the author of “Fear,” a history of the Kielce pogrom and Polish anti-Semitism, provoking outrage and controversy in Poland.

Bogdan’s Journey has won several awards including a Special Award at the Warsaw Jewish Film Festival (2016) and Best Interfaith Documentary Award at the St. Louis International Film Festival (2016). It has been screened at the prestigious CAMERIMAGE International Film Festival in Poland (2016), the Millenium Docs Against Gravity (2016) and Watch Docs – Human Rights in Film 2016. The Polish Film Institute listed the film as one of the successes of Polish cinema in 2016.  The “Laboratorium wiezi,” one of the most prestigious Catholic social and cultural magazines in Poland, in referring to what Bogdan Białek has accomplished in Kielce, wrote: “[His] work about memory is the greatest achievement in Polish-Jewish relations.”