No Longer Our Homeland
documentary film by Kristof Gerega, 90 min., Germany/Poland 2016
The documentary ‘No Homeland’ impressively demonstrates the absurd course that things can take when the so called national consciousness awakes and a constructed and at the same time uncontrollable hatred destroys the hitherto peaceful life of a community forever. The war declares human beings as enemies, who have always regarded themselves as neighbors and friends.
Kristof Gerega discovered a for present times alarmingly exemplary (hi-)story, which ascends from his own roots and is not based on any underlying truth.
When the grandmother of the filmmaker dies, questions come up. Questions that won’t let go of him.
During the Second World War Ukrainian partisans committed ethnic cleansing of the Polish civil population in the former East of Poland. The German occupying power encouraged the Polish-Ukrainian-conflict for tactical reasons. Polish partisans exacted vengeance on the Ukrainian civilians.
The grandparents of Kristof Gerega were from Hanaczów, a village in the former East of Poland. With war coming to an end, boarders are redrawn. The grandparents were expelled from Hanaczów, they were separated, then met again in Radzimów, had children. Uncle Jan is the only one now living in the house of the grandparents.
We can speak of three protagonists: Next to uncle Jan there is Andrij, a young historian, who intensively researches the history of Hanaczów, as well as Edward, 87 years old, aiming for remembrance of the people who died in Hanaczów. Since nearly 40 years he tirelessly stands up for the erection of a monument, which is to be located on top of the mass grave. Today Edward lives in Puławy, close to the Polish-Ukrainian-boarder. He is still determinedly working for the erection of the memorial.
The latter are main as well as key figures. In a sense they act as the strong anchors of the film. In between them one can hear many important voices that generate an echo of the true and the constructed, which alone can provide insights into how things could have been.
After the war the disputed territory was given to the Soviet Ukraine. Resident Poles were by force displaced to the former eastern territories of Germany. The local German population was likewise forced to leave these territories. Today Hanaczów does not exist anymore. Home is lost, and the film embarks on a search. There will neither be judging nor condemning in this process. The filmmaker’s voice stays in the background. The close-ups of the faces speak for themselves. They are marked with deep wrinkles and furrows and the attempt to remember, marked with the conspicuous pain and the reflection of pictures of the loss of a home.
When looking and listening closely one will find that the documentary does not bet on what is explicitly said, but on the fine nuances between the lines; on the expression in their faces, when they pause and their gaze gets caught somewhere between two rooftops; on how the posture of their body changes as they try to remember.
The calling for humanity weaves the texture of all the interviews, the pictures, and the voice over spoken by Kristof Gerega. He does not furnish the film with comments, but with delicate stories of what has been handed down in his family, which gives the film at large an almost poetic fundament.Anne-Kathrin Heier
- Director, Script, Editing:
- Kristof Gerega
- Fabian Altenried
- Sounddesign, Mix:
- Gerald Mandl
- Anne-Kathrin Heier
- Editing Advice:
- Ute Adamczewski
- Kristof Gerega - Schuldenberg Films
- weltfilm, Kristina Konrad
Film Art Production, Malgorzata Zacharko