Final Boryslaw Essay Documentary Film Memory

Michelle Feng
Explore how ‘’The Girl from Boryslaw’’ represents history and memory.
Representations of the past are explored through history and memory as the nature of each individual
concept and their reciprocation establishes the past. History is a discourse of documented events and
creates connection to the understanding of events and memory is tainted by individual and subjective
recounts of events. Although both components gather unique representations of the past, history and
memory have limitations, highlighting their conflicting nature. However, history and memory can
intertwine and lead to a more accurate representation of the past as they can complement each other 
with the sources they provide. The documentary, The Girl from Boryslaw, explores the experience of 
Sabina Wolanski, a survivor of the holocaust and exhibits how particular representations of history
and memory have limitations to represent the past. Through the use of various language forms,
mediums and perspectives, The Girl from Boryslaw, displays how history and memory become
intertwined with one another in order to represent the incomplete nature of the past.
The Girl from Boryslaw, represent
memory through Sabina Wolanski and highlights the limitations
of memory due to its subjective and fragmented nature that doesn

t account for the complete
representation of the
past. Through the  
characterization of Sabina,
McRobert positions
enter Sabina

s memory creating
a sense of realism as she recounts her personal memory
through the
form of an
This confrontation medium
the power of memory and
its events as
Sabina recounts her horrific experiences during the Holocaust.
Sabina’s personal memory is
exhibited through
ic statement of 
‘it was absolutely incomprehensible’ 
combined with
body language
ing her 
when she says

German authorities gave permission to the
local people to murder Jewish population’ 
the devastating impacts the Holocaust ha
and still continues to have
on Sabina.
Consequently, a  
suspenseful mood is created as responders are
forced to consider the actions of the Germans as Sabina

depressed tone reinforces the power of 
memory and it

s ability to linger in the mind of an individual despite the passing of time.
Sabina’s perspective has been dominated by her memo
of witnessing the suffering of 
Jews where her emotions apparent in the documentary suggest the subjective and selective nature of 
memory in its construction of the past.
close up shot of Josie Wolanski (daughter) as she
recounts her mother’s story of how Sabina’s ‘
brother and her father were sent to a labour camp in
the town of Boryslaw
’, distinguishes how Sabina’s personal memory has been passed down
generations. Additionally the continuous voiceovers of Josie emphasises the subjective nature of the
documentary as
representations of memory
allow responders to sympathize and achieve a clearer 
understanding of the victims and their suffering during the Holocaust.
The selectivity of memory
and its
impossibility to recall upon every
detail is emphasized by Sabina’s memory lapses ‘
think is was in
1967’, highlighting
her fragmented memory.
The constant
of Sabina’s
speech given in Berlin
illustrates that individual
is incapable of 

the whole past,
as she is ‘
the only one in [my] family who survived.’ 
Therefore The Girl from Boryslaw explores the
limitations of memory
due to its fragmented and subjective nature and its lacking of historical
evidence and documentation that accounts for the reality of the past.
The Girl from Boryslaw also explores how history is also limited in its ability to represent the
complete past. The documentary provides
an accumulation
of photographs provided by Sabina and
the zooming
into her youthful face to support the personal memory of these historical materials.
When Sabina offers statistical evidence as she claims
that she is ‘
voice of 6 million murdered Jews,
of which one-and-a-half million were children
’ in
her speech,
underlines history’s objective
nature to limit itself due to
collective memory
that effectively
minor events
individual memory
. The documentary also provides selected archival footage of the town of 
Boryslaw described as ‘
the Texas
of Poland’ 
accompanied by uplifting music juxtaposed against
footage with
diegetic music of Nazis marching and invading Poland. Although
these clips provide a sense of verisimilitude to the audience, they illustrate the selective nature of 
history; underlining the limitations that history has in representing the past.