Life is a song

This reflective story is based on the life of Władysław Szepelak, poet, partisan, the prisoner of "Palace". Władysław Szepelak, who survived concentration camps in Auschwitz and Mauthausen is an extremely modest man and a great patriot - says Dariusz Walusiak, director of the film - With his own money he founded obelisk and memorial plate for his former commander and fellow partisans.

Władysław Szepelak was 15 years old when the war broke out. During the Nazi occupation, at the first occasion joined, together with his father, Union of Armed Struggle (the troop of cpt. Wojciech Bolesław Dusza alias "Szarota", fighting against highland collaboration), his nickname was "Mały". In September 1943, Gestapo surrounded Szepelak’s house in Bielanka. His father, grandmother and one of the partisans were killed while Władysław, his mother and uncle were arrested and put in a prison in Czarny Dunajec. Next they were sent to "Palace" in Zakopane, Montelupi Prison in Kraków and finally to Auschwitz. His mother and uncle both died in the camp, Władysław bearing number 168061 in February 1944 was sent to Mauthausen.

When U.S. army took the camp, he weighed 37 kg and suffered from tuberculosis, he had frostbitten fingers and toes. Upon returning to his homeland he found his house inhabited by the neighbors, so he moved to Regained Territories. In 1951 when he refused to join the collective farming, again was forced to leave his farm. He returned to Bielanka. He took up various works, he was building Nowa Huta estate and leather plant in Nowy Targ. As a construction manager he was building churches. Following his retirement in 1981 he devoted himself to a social work. But the passion of his life is writing. For his poetry was awarded with Oskar Kolberg Award, the prize money allocated to commemorate his commander and fellow partisans.

Władysław Szepelak is the last survivor of Gestapo torturehouse "Palace" in Zakopane, for many years he struggles to preserve the remembrance of its victims.

Pension "Palace" was built in 1930 by doctor Włodzimierz Schneider from Kraków. During the occupation Germans located there Gestapo (Geheime Staats Polizei – Secret State Police). Gestapo department in Zakopane was very large, over 40 people worked there and they got delegations in larger towns of Podhale.

Prison cells at "Palace" have been adapted from the basement of pension completed with bars. Thousands of Poles went through "Palace". There were six prison cells, among them dark-cell, where prisoner’s hands and feet were enchained in shackles to the walls. Similar cell was on the first floor of "Palace". Interrogators did not hasitate to use any means: beating in heels, stabbing pins under the fingernails, smashing and thrashing throughout the body, with sticks (or drawers) knocking out teeth, breaking bones, crushing the genitals. It is hard to say how many prisoners were incarcerated here, how many were killed. People were shot and murdered actually throughout and around the building. Inscriptions scratched on the walls of cells testified that besides Poles also many foreigners went through “Palace” torturehouse. Who of the imprisoned has not been killed or tortured in their homeland at Tatra Mountains, landed in the German concentration camps (located in occupied Poland, Austria and Germany).
In the late 90s of twentieth century, neither the state nor local governments did not redeemed the villa in order to preserve it for the national remembrance. "Torturehouse" was purchased by a private trader from the town. During the renovation in 1999 the original inscriptions on the walls and traces of blood were destroyed, someone has stolen the original bonds.

Today "Palace" is a sport, rehabilitation and training center. The Museum leases only a tiny fraction of the basement.

The screenings will be accompanied by the conference "At Giewont - in the grip of two totalitarian regimes 1939 -1956" containing several lectures. Dr. Maciej Korkuć of IPN will talk about Góralenvolk and Tatra Confederation as two different attitudes of the highlanders during the Second World War. "Independence activity of highland youth after the Second World War" - a lecture of associate prof. Grzegorz Baziura of the Jagiellonian University. MA Zbigniew Klima of Witold Pilecki State Higher Vocational School in Oświęcim will give a lecture entitled "Oral history - how to build a civil society on the example of the project At Giewont - in the grip of two totalitarian regimes 1939 -1956." Teresa M. Szakiel of the Małopolska Teacher Training Centre take care of the matter how to build the memory of small homelands.

Running time: 22 min
Script: Mirosław Krzyszkowski, Dariusz Walusiak, Bogdan Wasztyl
Realisation: Mirosław Krzyszkowski, Dariusz Walusiak
Production: Bogdan Wasztyl
Camera Operator: Mirosław Krzyszkowski, Dariusz Walusiak, Zbigniew Klima
Editing: Mirosław Krzyszkowski, Dariusz Walusiak
Music: Mirosław Krzyszkowski
Sound: Michał Mastykarz
Historical Advice: Wojciech Szatkowski, Barbara Wasztyl
Documentation: Barbara Wasztyl, Zbigniew Klima
Production Manager: Anna Gil, Paulina Wądrzyk
Location Manager: Paulina Wądrzyk
Reader: Jakub Kosiniak
Still Photographs: Paulina Wądrzyk
Translation: Anna Niedziela

TV broadcast:

  • TVP Kraków – January 2012
  • TVP Historia – January 2012

Public displays:

  • 12.12.2011 – Nowy Targ, the conference room of the town council, 11 a.m.
  • 13.12.2011 – Zakopane, ”Sokół” Cinema, 11 a.m.
  • January 2012 – Zakopane, Dworzec Tatrzański pub (with cooperation of the Tatra Museum).

Archives of:

  • National Digital Archives in Warsaw
  • Institute of National Remembrance, Department in Kraków
  • Museum of the History of Photography in Kraków
  • The Tatra Museum in Zakopane
  • Władysław Szepelak

Producers wish to thank the following for their assistance:

  • Dr. Nikodem Bończy Tomaszewski, director of the National Digital Archives in Warsaw
  • Teresa Jabłońska, director of the Tatra Museum
  • Wojciech Szatkowski, the Tatra Museum
  • Dr. Maciej Korkuć (Institute of National Remembrance in Kraków)
  • Association of Historical Reconstructions "Błyskawica" 
  • Krzysztof Musielak and Historical Reconstruction Group “17. INFANTERIE DIVISION”

Auschwitz Memento Association, 2011

Fundusz Inicjatyw Obywatelskich
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Auschwitz Memento
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