Russia to honor Wajda

Director's 'Katyn' helps heal rift

SOCHI, RUSSIA – Veteran Polish director Andrzej Wajda is to receive Russia’s top humanitarian award on Sunday, according to Polish political weekly Polityka.

The decision by the Kremlin to award Wajda with the State Prize of the Russian Federation for Distinguished Humanitarian Contribution follows recent moves to heal a 70-year-old rift between the two countries over the Soviet massacre of Polish officers in a forest near Smolensk in 1940.

Wajda – whose own father was among those murdered – made a film “Katyn”

about the incident three years ago.

Initially banned from Russian cinemas, the film was screened on a minor state television earlier this year shortly before joint state ceremonies at the site of the massacre.

The film became even more prominent in the wake of the Polish presidential aircraft crash near Smolensk on April 10 that killed all on board, including Polish president Lech Kaczynski and more than 90 senior Polish politicians and officials.

Russia’s main state broadcaster First Channel aired Wajda’s film immediately after the tragedy and Russian prime minister Vladimir Putin visited the crash site with Polish premier Donald Tusk to lay flowers.

Wajda’s film seems to have become a talisman for mending decades of sour relations between the countries, with the Russians clearly keen on detente.

The prize, to be made to the 84-year-old director at a Kremlin ceremony on Sunday, is Russia’s equivalent of the Nobel Peace Prize and comes with a $200,000 prize purse.

Previous recipients have included dissident writer Alexander Solzhenitsyn and former French president Jacques Chirac.

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