A very unusual but ultimately very satisfying evening last night at the Polish Embassy in London.
Katy Carr and Hannah Lovell were present to introduce Kazimierz ‘Kazik’ Piechowski and to launch Katy’s single ‘Kommanders Car’ and Hannah’s documentary on the meeting between Katy and Kazik in Poland.
The back story is that Pierchowski was imprisoned in Auschwitz as a ‘political’ in 1940 for the crime of having been an Eagle Scout before the Germans invaded Poland. After two years he and three other political escaped using stolen SS uniforms and the Kommander’s car, also stolen. He later joined the Polish Underground fighting against the Nazis but after the war was then imprisoned by the Soviets and sent to the camps in Siberia for the crime of having been in the Polish Underground!
Katy Carr wrote a song, ‘Kommander’s Car’, based on the last few seconds of his escape from Auschwitz and this was presented last night along with Kazik himself, a stately and impressive 91 year old man.
The evening began with the documentary of their meeting in Kazik’s home in Poland in which he describes his childhood and becoming a Scout at age 11. He described how the Germans rounded up and shot the scouts as patriots and how he was eventually captured and sent to Auschwitz – the description of the SS Officer describing this a worse fate than death – “Better for us” – was chilling. Through the short film we see the area that Kazik was brought up in, the river that they used to swim across that was the border between Poland and Germany and the memorial stone to the Polish Scouts that were killed by the Germans.
All through there was no trace of bitterness or hatred but you could not but be chilled by the events of his life and impressed by the fortitude that saw him through the trials of his life.
We were then treated to a short concert by Katy Carr and The Aviators – her group of Cello & Violin – performing the song and a number of others.
The song itself is remarkable. I heard it before knowing anything of the circumstances of the story and the song builds a sense of impending desperation with the fear and the emotion growing until it hits a peak and then the impression of an plateau of emotion. Seeing the film of the escape you realise that the song covers only the last few seconds of the escape as the car is approaching the gate out of Auschwitz and the barrier is still down. The increasing fear and panic is mirrored in the song until they escapees bully their way through the gate and out towards freedom. Carr’s voice is high, almost soprano, and she puts over the song in a completely convincing manner. The result is haunting and intense and the melody stays in your mind afterwards with the refrain “We’ve gotta get away-ay-ay” coming back time and again.
A question and answer session followed with the inevitable pauses as English had to be translated into Polish and Polish to English but Piechowski remained standing throughout – “I am a scout” – and answered some difficult questions with dignity and humour.
He told the whole story of his role in Auschwitz – he was part of a small team who carried the bodies from the execution yard to the crematorium – and of how the four men decided that they would sooner kill themselves if caught rather than be returned to the camp and of how he had to take on the persona of an SS officer in order to bully the guards at the gate into letting them through.
He explained that he held no hatred for either Russians or Germans – “You cannot hate grandchildren for the crimes of their grandparents” and how he had visited Germany many times since the end of the Cold war.
This was the first of only two scheduled appearances by Mr Piechowski – the other is at Baden Powell House on Thursday evening – and it is remarkable how strong and positive he looks after many years of hardship and imprisonment.
31st Mar 2011, 6.30pm – 8.30pm, BADEN-POWELL HOUSE.
Nearest tube Gloucester Road or South Kensington.
Film screening of short documentary Kazik and the Kommander’s Car directed by Hannah Lovell and produced by Katy Carr
Live concert by Katy Carr, including song 'Kommander's Car,' alongside British, Polish and international scouts
Preview screening of Katy Carr’s ‘Kommander’s Car’ music video, directed by Hannah Lovell
A letter of commendation written by Chief Scout Bear Grylls presented to Kazik by the Scout Association
Exhibition by Galen Wainwright of drawings in charcoal featured in Kazik and the Kommander’s Car
Public event, free admission. Café on site.
Donations to the Museum of Auschwitz.
In association with Kinoteka film festival and the Polish Cultural Institute.
http://katycarr.com/2009/12/28/watch-kazik-and-the-kommanders-car-here/‘Like’ our facebook page and be entered into a draw to win 1000 CDs including rare, signed and promotional copies here!