Food for the Soul: “Jack Strong”

Food for the Soul Series 

Check it out: Jack Strong: Movie to Rent

“Sovereignty is a word that is used often but it has really no specific meaning. Sovereignty today is nominal. Any number of countries that are sovereign are sovereign only nominally and relatively.” ~Zbigniew Brzezinski – Polish born US National Security Adviser during Carter administration, died May 26, 2017

By Nina Heyn, Your Culture Scout

A lot of you may remember the 1980’s. No, I don’t mean the shoulder pads and the ABBA. I mean the waning years of the Soviet empire. I mean Reagan’s 1987 challenge of “Mr. Gorbachev – tear down this wall.” It is one thing to watch any war, even a Cold War, on the TV news and another thing entirely to live it every day. This is why most movies about the Cold War, the KGB or communist regimes are complete fantasies: both versions of The Manchurian Candidate, The Hunt for Red October and The Russia House (both with Sean Connery), etc. While the The Cold War is long over, the relationship between Moscow and Washington seems to be the news of the hour again. So… here is a movie about how the real geopolitics work and what really went on behind the Iron Curtain.

Jack Strong is a great spy thriller and a real life story of a Polish Army colonel who made a heroic decision to wage a one-man resistance against the Soviets. The movie was made where the events took place (in Warsaw), it was made by the people who actually lived there during communism (Polish and Russian actors, an important Polish director Wladyslaw Pasikowski), and where a lot information was only recently declassified.

In 1970’s when the movie takes place, Poland was part of the Warsaw Pact – a military block of Eastern European countries (like Czechoslovakia or Hungary) that were meant to be the direct opposing force to the NATO alliance in Europe. The Polish Army was “allied” with the Soviet Army through the Pact which meant that all Polish officers were supposed to serve the military interest of the Soviet Union. Colonel Ryszard Kuklinski served in the headquarters of the Warsaw Pact joint forces and as such he was uniquely positioned to be aware of any Red Army plans in the Eastern Europe. One such “war game scenarios” in 1970’s was to confront the NATO forces with nuclear warheads deployed out of the territory of Poland. Col. Kuklinski decided that he was a Pole first and a Warsaw Pact officer second, and contacted the CIA to start passing the Russian military plans directly to Washington. He was a Cold War equivalent of the Deep Throat, except the stakes were a bit higher – this a one-man attempt to stop a European nuclear war.

For the Poles, especially those who remember life under the Soviet regime, this is a movie about the slow loss of sovereignty, the political helplessness of small country wedged for a thousand years between Germany and Russia and a great untold story of a Polish patriot who at a horrible cost to his personal life tried to stop the annihilation of his homeland.

For anyone else, this is a movie about the real Cold War, real espionage and the real game between the two superpowers. It is a terrific action movie that feels and looks authentic in every scene and which gives an insight into how crude, dirty, solitary and terrifying is the real life of a spy, especially the one who is part of the Soviet military machine. We see Kuklinski living in fear of being discovered, then in fear of not being able to escape. But he is not the only one who is afraid. There is a scene when the Red Army officer screams at a Polish Party member “Do something about your f…revolution!” He is afraid and rightly so — Solidarity is just round the corner, the fall of the Soviet Union as well. It is good sometimes to see a foreign movie which will have a different perspective from the US take on things, but movies outside Hollywood often lack the entertainment value. Jack Strong has both – some great political insights and riveting thriller scenes to watch as well.

Photo below:

Col. Kuklinski’s grave at the Powazki Military Cemetery in Warsaw is always full of flowers and vigil lights.

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