Inside Roman Polanski's Polish Secret-Service File

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Jens Kalaene / EPA

Director Roman Polanski

This post is in partnership with Worldcrunch, a new global news site that translates stories of note in foreign languages into English. The article below was originally published in the leading German daily Die Welt.

"Dear Raymond," begins a letter written to Roman Polanski by his sister Annette on Jan. 10, 1957. Polanski was 23 years old at the time, a French-born Polish citizen and was studying film in Lodz, Poland; his sister was in Paris. The letter never reached him. Rather, it was opened by the Polish secret police and placed in Polanski's personal file. Today the letter can be found in file No. BU 1368/1705 at the Polish Institute of National Remembrance in Warsaw.

Die Welt was given an exclusive look into the 111-page dossier, which documents the director's constant struggle with the Polish authorities, and with his allegiance to the country itself.

Under Stalinist rule, Poland's borders were closed and foreign travel was a rare privilege. After the death of party leader Boleslaw Bierut in March 1956, the regime somewhat softened its public stance. In April 1956, Polanski requested for the first time the right to leave Poland and visit his sister in France. "I was born in Paris. I came to Poland in 1938. Since then, I have not seen my sister. Eighteen years have passed," he wrote to the Ministry of Interior.

He waited a long time for his travel permit to arrive, and it was not until Feb. 10, 1957, that he was allowed to go. After several other short visits by himself, Polanski went to France in December 1959 with his wife, the young actress Barbara Kwiatkowska.

In Paris, they were both invited to the filming of Robert Ménégoz's The Thousandth Window. But in Poland, Ménégoz's work was considered "progressive," which made Polanski's involvement with the film "favorable for propaganda," according to the Deputy Minister of Culture, Tadeusz Zaorski.

Polanski remained in France longer than he had anticipated. In 1961, he received a consular pass and was allowed to travel the world without any restriction. The same year, he returned to Poland to begin work on his first feature-length film, Knife in the Water.

The film depicts a world that many people in Poland must have had a hard time even imagining at the time. The protagonist is a successful sports journalist who drives an expensive car and owns a yacht. Roman Polanski described life as seen in the West. This kind of existence was not completely absent from Poland, but it was only available to those working very close with the Communist Party — even if officially, these values were despised and frowned upon.

After the initial screening of the film, party leader Wladyslaw Gomulka was furious. He publicly attacked Polanski, describing the film as "intellectually shallow," and claiming that it was too pessimistic and could cause confusion in the minds of the youth.

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