By Ed West
I'm an unashamed Polonophile. If you grew up in a certain kind of Irish-British Catholic household in the 1980s, Poland was a heroic and tragic fairytale kingdom that, having endured the neo-pagan Nazis, was now held captive by the godless Soviets – and yet maintained its faith, chivarly and honour.
The story of medieval Christian chivalry battling against the monstrous modernists had a Tolkienesque grandeur to it (or Lucasian, you could stay - Star Wars has similar themes) and the election of John Paul II, and the overthrow of the Communists in early 1989, was the end of the hero's journey. The Evil Empire was destroyed.
Katyn tells the truth about Communism
The Soviet Union was certainly evil and one its worst moments was Katyn, the massacre of 12,000 Polish officers, policemen and intellectuals in April 1940. The Nazis discovered the bodies in 1943 but for some reason no one believed them when they said they hadn't done it this time. Our Russians maintained this lie and the West went along with it, as we went along with Stalin's vicious colonisation of our ally.
The massacre, and the subsequent battle for the truth, is the subject of an overwhelming new Polish film, Katyn. I went to a screening last week and, rarely for review screenings, there was total silence afterwards. The audience was stunned
The last 20 minutes is incredibly powerful, certainly the most devastating account of Communism's inhumanity I have ever seen. Without much melodrama we see unarmed men being taken from trains to trucks and down into a bunker and shot. Others are brought to the edge of the mass grave where their now lifeless friends lie in piles, and shot in the back of the head. The men – who have mothers and sisters and wives and daughters back home – say their prayers and clutch their rosaries. Their executioners impassively murder them and then share cigarettes, before burying the bodies and bayonetting the survivors.
The horrors of Nazism are so well known they are part of the cultural landscape. But even the wrongs committed by the West during the Cold War have been endlessly chronicled in cinema, television and theatre. Compare the number of films and plays about Senator McCarthy's victims (who lost their careers) compared to productions about Beria and Stalin's victims (who lost their lives).
It's because Western artists prefer not to tackle Left-wing tyrannies that Communism has always been given an easy ride.
People walk around with CCCP football tops, wear Che T-shirts, or go drinking in vodka bars called Revolution (an especially tasteless idea – would the council allow me to open a Nazi-themed bar called Lebensraum? Admittedly it would become a gay bar pretty soon). When David Beckham turned up one day wearing an Adolf Eichmann T-shirt I thought maybe for one second it was a protest about the casual way mass murderers are turned into icons (what Mark in Peep Show calls the “ironic veneration of tyrants”).
We shouldn't forget how bad the Soviet Union was, especially to heroic Poland. Katyn is out on 19 June – watch it, and next time you see someone wearing a Che T-shirt, punch them.