Saturday, January 26, 2008

story of the war-time arrival in Iran of hundreds of thousands of Poles

The documentary, filmed in 1985 by distinguished Iranian film maker Khosrow Sinaii, tells the story of the war-time arrival in Iran of hundreds of thousands of Poles released from the Soviet labour camps of Siberia. Ships crammed with emaciated men, women and children arrived at the Caspian port of Anzali almost every day during the months of April and August 1942. Their condition was desperate. Thousands died from malnutrition and typhus on arrival. The healthy young men travelled on to Syria and Lebanon to join the allied forces there. The remainder (mostly women and children) remained in Iranian refugee camps for a further three years, their lives totally transformed in the process. Their reminiscences, as well as the many graves left behind in Tehran, Anzali and Ahvaz, bear testimony to a chapter of Iranian history almost erased from public memory.

Abdol Rahimi filmed the arrival of the exiles in Anzali with his camera. His photographs are the most complete visual record of the event that exists.
"They were in bad shape”, he recounts in the documentary, “thin, ill and in rags. A friend of mine, a carpenter, used to make boxes [coffins] for them. About 50 were dying every day."

The events made such an impression on him, that even on his deathbed, he was still recounting to his friends the pitiful state of the refugees. Abdol Rahimi's heroic efforts to document the arrival of the Poles have never been publicly recognized or published

The Documentary “Lost Elegy”, is a priceless Iranian (as well as Polish) historical resource. At present it is gathering dust in the archives of the IRIB (Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting) in Tehran. Its condition is deteriorating rapidly. The film’s director Khosrow Sinaii warned that if nothing was done to restore it the documentary would soon be irretrievably lost to posterity. To date, all requests for prompt action have been met with silence by the film’s producers (IRIB).

Khosrow Sinaii was born in Sari in 1940. He studied film directing and screenwriting at the Academy of the Dramatic Arts in Vienna and music theory at the Vienna Conservatoire. He is famous for his documentaries "In the Alleys of Love", “The Inner Monster”, and “Bride of Fire”. He is married to the Hungarian visual artist Gizella Varga Sinai.

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