1 September 2018



'Directed by BAFTA Award Nominee Piotr Szkopiak, THE LAST WITNESS is a political thriller based on the harrowing true events of the Katyn Massacre in Spring 1940.'

'THE LAST WITNESS is a fictional re-telling of a bloody and heart-breaking story by director Piotr Szkopiak, whose mother, Emilia Szkopiak, was deported to Siberia by the Soviets in 1940. In 1942, Emilia left the Soviet Union and eventually settled in England in 1947, where she continues to live to this day. Her father, Piotr Szkopiak's grandfather, Wojciech Stanislaw Wojcik, was executed in the Katyn Massacre.'


'England, 1947. The fight for the truth begins.'

The story of the Katyn Massacre, the basis for this film made by a man with a deeply personal connection to what happened, is a grim but fascinating one. You know the way that Poland was pretty much carved up, first by the Nazis and then by the Russisans, in World War Two?

They had their hated German overlords to contend with first (Germany's illegal occupation of Poland was the incident that sparked off World War Two; Britain and France had each forged alliances with Poland stating that they'd go to war with Germany if Germany attacked Poland), and then their equally loathed Soviet rulers, who invaded them about three weeks into the war. Poor Poland. I don't think anyone would deny that she had a really shitty time of it in that awful war.

Anyway, in the Spring of 1940, Stalin and a number of his high-ranking Soviets ordered the gruesome murder of up to 22,000 Polish soldiers and prisoners-of-war. The operation was to be top-secret and it ended up taking its name, the Katyn Massacre, from the forest in which the terrible mass graves were first found.

Why did this happen? To deprive Poland of its best and brightest, is the most likely answer, so that she'd never rise again as a viable power with the resources to boot out the Russians and give 'em a collective what-for as payback for the invasion.

Some of the murdered men had been college-educated and were amongst Poland's military and technical elite. Take these away, Stalin figured, and then Poland was much less likely to be a threat to the Soviet Union in the future.

Such sickening, selfish reasoning. These men had families who loved them, mothers, fathers, siblings, wives, children, pets, hopes, dreams, hobbies, things they were passionate about. How dared anyone decide that their lives could be snuffed out? No-one has that right.

The Katyn Massacre handed Joseph Goebbels, the kingpin of Hitler's well-oiled propaganda machine, a real gift. Look at what happens when the Russians really get going, he was able to tell people. Look what dreadful atrocities they're capable of committing. Now don't you see how right we Nazis were to warn you all about the horrors of Bolshevism?'

Good old Joey Goebbels. He must have been jizzing himself with excitement (excuse my language) at this unexpected boon handed to him all perfumed and gift-wrapped by the Russians. He probably danced a jig around his office when he heard the news, his poor club
foot notwithstanding.

Of course, the Russians rather predictably blamed the Nazis for the perpetration of the murders. Ironically, lol, this was the one crime Hitler's men hadn't actually committed. The cover-up on the part of the Russians went on for years.

It wasn't until 1990 that Russia, under President Mikhail Gorbachev, finally admitted openly that their own Secret Police were responsible for the mass killings. They expressed regret and declared a worldwide Katyn Massacre Memorial Day. Was this enough vindication for the still grieving Poles? I don't actually know but, speaking personally, I wouldn't have thought so.

In the film THE LAST WITNESS (I totally forgot we were meant to be reviewing this, I was just enjoying the nice bit of history chat, lol), an English journalist called Stephen Underwood kind of accidentally uncovers the fantastical, almost unbelievable story of the Katyn Massacre and thinks it would make a terrific story for the newspaper he writes for.

He encounters resistance to his efforts to research and write the story every which way he turns, however. No-one wants this story to come out, least of all the British military. It's one of those situations where people say that 'no good can come of this story getting out now.' It's a story that's better off staying dead and buried, like the corpses of the murdered men, is what they're saying.

Underwood meets only brick walls and dead ends in his endeavours to uncover the truth about this shamefully hidden episode of World War Two history. That's until his own brother John, a captain in the Army, reluctantly tips him off about where in their archives can be found the file on the Massacre. 

Stephen will soon have in his hot little hands concrete, incontrovertible proof of what occurred in the dark, dense murky depths of the Katyn Forest. Will the powers-that-be still continue to maintain their unrelenting silence on the matter?

Why would the British military want this story pulled from the public eye? Well, they didn't seemingly want to antagonise the Russians, their eventual allies in World War Two. Hitler and Stalin were pals at first, of course, until Hitler had the unspeakable effrontery to invade the Soviet Union in 1941.

Stalin reacted to this outrage like he'd been jabbed in the arse with a red-hot poker. The Molotov-Ribbentrop pact was no more. Torn-up, kaput, finito, wiped out, all washed-up. Cuddly old Uncle Joe (Stalin) and the Soviets were from then on on the side of the Allies.

In fact, it was Stalin's men who were the first to reach Berlin in April 1945, a ruined, gutted burning city where its ruler, Hitler, was hunkered down in his little bunker under the crumbling old Reich Chancellery. 

Hitler at this time was busy feeding poison to his bow-wow Blondi and preparing to take his own life, after finally marrying his long-time mistress Eva Braun, of course. She'd waited long enough. She was not going into the piping hot hereafter with him without a ring on her finger at long last. I can't say I blame her, lol. It was the least he could do after all her years of being sidelined, watching Magda Goebbels taking her, Eva's, rightful place, beside Hitler at state functions.

Anyway, the British at this point needed the Russians and their mighty show of force against Hitler. They weren't going to go around accusing the Russians of committing a massacre that could just as easily be pinned on the nasty Nazis. Why would they? It wouldn't make any sense.

As to why they- the British- continued to cover up the Katyn Massacre after the war, well, one can only assume that it was a case of what we were discussing above a moment ago. Why bring all this stuff up now, in other words. What good would it do? Whom would it benefit? Let sleeping dogs lie. And they did let them lie, until they came bubbling to the surface in their own time, which sleeping dogs often do.

Alex Pettyfer as Stephen Underwood is terribly wooden in his role. He doesn't seem at all comfortable in it. I blame the ridiculous olde-timey moustache plastered to his upper lip and that awful cap he's made to wear in every scene. He looks like a total pillock, lol.

Ditto his married girlfriend Jeanette Mitchell, whose ridiculous amount of lipstick is all you can see when you look at her. It's her mouth we're meant to be noticing, not the amount of lippy she has on, lol. As it is, she looks a bit mad with that big red gash in the middle of her somewhat drippy face. Less is more, dear. Less is invariably more.

I loved Will Thorp as Colonel Janusz Pietrowski, the Liaison Officer responsible for helping the Polish troops under British command to be re-settled. He'd like nothing better than for the truth about the Katyn Massacre to come out and be broadcast across the world, but he feels like there are too many people against such revelations for it to ever happen.

Then Stephen Underwood comes into the picture. At first, he's only after a story. After meeting with Michael Loboda, however, the titular 'last witness' to the Katyn Massacre who knows that someone is trying to murder him the way they've offed all the other witnesses to the crime, he genuinely wants the truth to be told.

Will Thorp, by the way, played a chap called Chris Gray in long-running British soap opera CORONATION STREET. He also starred in forty-eight episodes of medical soap opera CASUALTY, playing a fella called Woody. I don't normally go for blonde men but this one looks hot in his uniform, all tired and surly and stubbly and moody and broody. Put it this way, I wouldn't kick him out of bed for leaving his stethoscope inside me after an appendectomy. I surely wouldn't.



Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger, poet and book-and-movie reviewer. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, womens' fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra's books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:


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