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Helena Modrzejewska

Helena Modrzejewska

Memories and impressions

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We postpone visiting picture galleries, museums and private studios until the next day; still talking about the unfortunate fate of our nation and art, we slowly enter a long avenue lined with chestnut trees, which encircles the city like a ring, closing near to the Wawel Royal Castle.

This avenue, called Planty, is for the people of Krakow a favorite place to stroll in warm seasons of the year, but also in the wintertime it is not entirely deserted; students from various schools always find an excuse to walk on fresh snow in their beloved Planty. Really - no one bypasses this avenue. I remember when I was a young candidate for dramatic arts, I used to get up at five in the morning, take my part and memorize it while walking up and down in the shadow of wide-branched trees. At eight I had to go back, as I didn’t want to be exposed to students’ jokes.
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Helena Modrzejewska

Helena Modrzejewska (1840–1909) – an outstanding theatre actress, the author of memoirs. She was born as Jadwiga Helena Misel in Krakow on the 12th of October 1840. She was educated in a private ladies’ school run by Radwańskie maids and in the school of the Presentation Virgins at ul. Św. Jana. She began her acting career in an troupe in 1861, and a year later she debuted in Lviv. In the years 1865-1869 she performed in the Krakow theatre, where she won recognition and popularity. From 1868 she was engaged by Warsaw Government Theatres for eight seasons in a row. In 1876, she emigrated to the USA, where she had a very successful career as Helena Modjeska and gained the status of the most outstanding Shakespearean actresses. She acted 256 roles in Polish and English. She was also active in social and political life; after her speech at the World Congress of Representative Women in Chicago in 1893, where she spoke of the situation of Poles in lands annexed by Russia, she was banned from performing in Russia by the Tsar. She died in Newport Beach on the 9th of April 1909 and was buried at the Rakowicki Cemetery in Krakow. In 1910, her memoirs Wspomnienia i wrażenia were published. Her career in the USA became the subject-matter of the novel In America (2000) by Susan Sontag.

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