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Magdalena Samozwaniec

Photo courtesy of the National Digital Archives.

Magdalena Samozwaniec

From the Memoirs of Not So Young a Wife

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Read by Marta Meissner, recorded by Radiofonia Association.
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English translation: Dominika Stankiewicz

But still, some of the elderly Cracovians remember that benighted town. Everything there was dark and gloomy, the only event to make it slightly more lively was the occasional ceremonious funeral cortège promenading across Cracow’s Main Square. It sounds like a bad joke now, but it’s true. Ladies of Cracow would prepare for such a funeral well in advance. Obviously, there were furs and stoles, women brought black hats to a modiste to have them freshened. For the mademoiselles, it was about the excitement of meeting their beaus in the procession.

So Cracow lived for these events and … the carnival, which drew the ladies and their daughters from the family estates. In the forlorn time of Advent the city was piously subdued. Religiously bigoted women clad in dark clothes and distinguished countesses alike—often in heavy mourning after their late husbands, in which most of them remained for the rest of their lives—rushed past the cobblestones and mud that shone like melted chocolate, all drifting toward Our Lady’s Church. It was the direst of offenses for a young widow to fancy ever marrying again! Such apostates from the communal custom were very much frowned upon by the Cracovian matrons. Not to mention the divorcées, who might just as well have been called “cocottes,” they were not welcome in society. The matrons would be indignant with their sons for their eagerness to take tea with such ladies. It should be noted here that at the time any small party was called a “tea,” even if the gracious hostess served her guests wine or champagne.

English translation: Dominika Stankiewicz
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Magdalena Samozwaniec

(née Kossak) – born on 26th July 1894 in Krakow, daughter of the painter Wojciech Kossak. She grew up in her family villa in the Krakow district Zwierzyniec. The villa was the centre of the artistic life of interwar Krakow. Together with her sister, a poet Maria Pawlikowska-Jasnorzewska, they were always in the limelight. However, Magdalena was the opposite of her sister: she was open and direct, always bursting with humour, she adored exciting, controversies and scandals. She gave vent to her temperament and sharp tongue by writing extraordinarily popular columns, in which she mocked bourgeois-aristocratic conventionalities. A satiric novel, Na ustach grzechu (On the Lips of the Sin), published in 1922, brought her fame. Her first marriage to a diplomat Jan Starzewski ended with a rapid divorce; the world of official dinners and diplomatic protocol proved too narrow for Magdalena. After the war, she married Zbigniew Niewidowski and moved to Warsaw, where she lived till her last days (she died on 20th October 1972). Thanks to her artistic oeuvre, as well as her temperament and lifestyle, she received a well-deserved nickname of the first lady of Polish satire.
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