‘Operation Hyacinth’ is a Polish crime film following a military officer as he investigates the murder of members of the gay community in Communist Warsaw. The story is set in the 1980s when the country’s LGBTQ + citizens had to be wary of both the Communist government and the Catholic Church. Robert is a brilliant policeman who works for a government that does not like those qualities. His father, Edward, a senior secret police officer, wants Robert to bow his head and follow orders.
However, as the killings continue to unfold, Robert finds a pattern. In his search for truth and justice, Robert made important discoveries about himself and his sexual identity.
Is Operation Hyacinth a Real Story?
No, ‘Operation Hycinth’ is not based on a real story. Both Robert and his particular circumstances are myths. However, the title of the film refers to a virtual campaign reportedly launched by the orders of General Czesław Kiszczak, then Polish Interior Minister at the time, November 15, 1985, and by Milja Obywatelska. The aim of the campaign was to create a national database for members of the LGBTQ community and its affiliates and acquaintances.
The official reasons given by the state include the most effective way to combat the spread of HIV, deal with prostitution, and monitor LGBTQ criminal gangs. The truth was very bad. Since the 1970s, Polish Security Services has reportedly hired gay and straight men to use them to capture gay intellectuals, writers, and musicians. Authorities reportedly badly injured the group of men, forcing them to check their colleagues for what was considered an anti-government ideology.
Through Operation Hyacinth, the state collected data on about 11,000 people. Files entitled Karta Homoseksualisty were created for detainees. Some have even been persuaded to put their signatures on a statement stating their sexual orientation, their multiple age-mates, and their lack of concern for children.
The cover-up ended in 1987. However, the documents continued until the following year. These inscriptions are known as Różowe kartoteki (index of pink cards or pink files). Interestingly, Operation Hyacinth probably had the opposite effect from what the authorities intended. Since 1932, same-sex relationships between consenting adults have been legal in Poland. During the Cold War, however, the Catholic Church, or the Communist Party of Poland, was not particularly open about human sexuality.
The LGBTQ community of the 1980s in Poland had a healthy sense of blame for their government. So when the campaign begins and arrests begin to take place, most of its members feel that it would be better for them to go underground. Many of them left Poland altogether. The operation has received widespread criticism from the international media, and the government has emphasized that there has been no campaign like Operation Hyacinth back in the day.
In September 2007, LGBTQ activists called on the Institute of National Remembrance to launch an investigation into so-called “communist crimes” and General Kiszczak’s involvement. However, IPN eventually rejected the application. Obviously, ‘Operation Hyacinth’ draws heavily on real events but ultimately is a fictional story.
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