A Polish woman did not bow to Hitler. A play was created about her

At the Powszechny Theater in ód, it was rightly considered that Kwaśniewska’s biography was suitable for a play. Anyway, she was born in this city and started her sports career.

As was the practice of athletes in the interwar period, it was not limited to one discipline – for example, I practiced volleyball, long jump, javelin and swimming. She was the Polish champion in basketball and hazenie (a variety of handball). However, her greatest achievement was in the javelin throw, and the bronze medal she won in Berlin turned out to be not just an athletic success.

The 1936 Olympics were used for Nazi propaganda. For example, athletes expected the “Sieg Heil” salute. And the Polish woman, who finished third in the javelin throw, did not make the gesture while decorating the podium.

Then Adolf Hilter invited all the medalists to the box for an interview. The anecdote goes that he was going to say to Kwasniewska: “Congratulations to the little Polish woman,” and she had to reply: “I don’t feel shorter than you.”

The spear makers took a picture of themselves, which turned out to be very useful for Kwaśniewska during the war. Thanks to pictures with Hitler, she was able to save many people from the Pruszków camp. She survived the war and lived to see a free Poland – she died in 2007 at the age of 94 in Warsaw.

A year before the 110th anniversary of her birth, the character Kwaśniewska decided to remember the Powszechny Theater. The play, inspired by the biography of the ŁKS player, will be shown for the first time as part of the 18th International Festival of Fun and Unpleasant Arts. It was written by Radosław Paczocha and directed by Adam Orzechowski. For the writer, this is not the first relationship with sports. He also wrote the script for the movie “To Be Like Dina Kazimierz”.

– In our shows, we often feature important Lodz themes and characters. This time we were inspired by the story of Maria Kwaśniewska, a native of ód, an extraordinary woman, athlete, Olympic medalist, and beautiful man. We were stunned, it showed up during our conversations with Adam Orzechowski and Radoslav Pachocha – says Ewa Bilawska, director of the Powszechny Theatre.

We thought of a story that would allow us to build a global story about the good. Art, including theater, often examines the roots of evil and analyzes negative characters. And Maria Kwanowska was a very kind and sympathetic person. Experienced in life, she was altruistic oriented. In one of the conversations at the end of her life, she affirmed that she loves people, although they are not perfect, although they can be angry – added Bilawska.

The presentation also includes a reference to the famous photo with Hitler. – You’ve become a ticket to saving people. Kwaśniewska took a risk in the name of the honest idea of ​​saving human lives. Can we afford such a sacrifice? Her story is the starting point for asking questions about where the good is in today. Who is the other guy for us? How much are we able to sacrifice for it? – Adds theater director.

Adam Orzechowski, Technical Director:

I get the impression that only a handful of people know her story. Much has been said, for example, about Irina Sendler. From a theatrical and dramatic point of view, Maria Koanevska, with her sports career and experience in the war, is a very interesting character. In performance, we consider what Kwaśniewska gives us, as the embodiment of benevolence and devotion to moral principles, today. The good is not so amazing, the theater of the will of rejected, weak and forgotten people, pathological phenomena. The position of our heroine contrasts with the self-centered scientist.

– Kwaśniewska was reluctant to talk about herself, she was reluctant to give interviews, which is why the narrative in the performance is enriched with various threads, for example the stories of the children she saved. “Maria” is not a laurel or a monument to Maria Kwasniewska, we are interested in the image of a man with all the intricacies of his character. Besides – her everyday life was not a life in the light of medals, quite the contrary. This is also what we want to show.

– We perform when there is a war in Ukraine (when we started working, we lived in a different reality). This additionally imposes a new context for the interpretation of Kwasniewska’s history. Our perspective changes, our sense of security changes. War is no longer an abstraction for us.

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