Polish Cinema: Sami Swoi (Sylwester Checinski, 1967, Poland)

Sami Swoi (“Our Folks”) is a classic comedy in Poland. You can find a statue of one of the main characters in the city of Torun, and there is a museum devoted to artifacts in the film in Silesia. Yet the film has not received much attention abroad, perhaps because the director Sylwester Checinski is not recognized among the canon of Polish auteurs. There’s very little written on the film in English. 
I discovered the film after seeing it mentioned in Anne Applebaum’s travelogue Between East and West (1994). She discusses the film in the context of the great population transfers during the post-war period, in which farmers from Eastern Poland were moved to the Recovered Territories - lands which were formerly German but became part of Poland following the war. In many cases - as we see in the film - the Eastern Poles’ new homes were freshly lived in, with teapots still on the stove.
Checinski’s film captures this moment in Polish history with a great deal of humor, while also conveying some reality of the situation. Casimir Pawlak and his family have been moved in a train cart - along with their family cow - to a plot of land in the Recovered Territories. They soon discover that their small farming plot is right next to an old neighbor from a rival family - Kargul. Hilarity ensues as the Pawlak and Karguls continue their fighting in an increasingly absurd fashion. Meanwhile, a romance begins budding between the two children of the families.

Sami Swoi has a happy ending, although the film is cheekily subversive in its view that heritage and tradition outweigh lofty political goals. In one great scene, the two families fight over a cat - each wants the cat to stay on their property to get the rats. A local party official has to come and resolve this dispute, dividing the labor of the cat. He asks them - “So the nation’s to be split because of your cat?!”



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