Tadeusz Boy Żeleński

Tadeusz Boy Żeleński

The Great Cracow

Read by Piotr Czarnota, recorded by Radiofonia Association
English translation: Paulina Deryło

The city to which a Varsovian on his way to take the waters used to refer with contempt: ‘Cracow? What is Cracow? Only the Cloth Hall and Hawełka restaurant, started to disturb and intrigue the whole Poland. Pawlikowski and his theater became a legend. Paon cafe and its carousals became a legend, too […].

Then, the legend of an eerie, astral apparition spread throughout Poland – the apparition of Wyspiański. The legend of the city of painters, the city of stained glass, the city of poetry, the city of graves, the city of life, the city of art - the city of Cracow.

In comparison to these spiritual changes, physically Cracow has changed very slightly. Of course, the city grew a little, however slowly and bashfully. I have mentioned before how the special features of Cracow curbed its economic development, industry, commerce… Cracow was predominated by the element of clerks; yet, at this point there is a paradoxical symptom to be observed as well. A distinctive feature of every capital city is its ability to attract the most enterprising, ambitious and talented individuals. Well in Cracow, which is a capital city in its own way, it was exactly the other way around. Every year, there was a search for the most talented forces that were taken to Viennese ministries. The only people who stayed were lightweights or those who, engulfed by the artistic and bohemian allure of Cracow, were less concerned with their careers. Hence, along with the ensembles of artists, there were clerks with aesthetic taste, great lovers of art, reading, debating, and curious about everything.   

I’ll give you one example of the supremacy of art in Cracow. There was a young distillery clerk (a very decent government job) who was also an amateur musician. He fell in love and proposed to a young lady. She accepted his proposal on the condition that he would change his profession and become ‘a real artist’. He resigned from his post and commenced a strenuous education. They got married and moved to Paris. They suffered through poverty; today he is one of our most recognized musicians. In keeping with matrimonial tradition, the opposite scenario would be considered normal.  But that was Cracow at that the time.

English translation: Paulina Deryło

Tadeusz Boy Żeleński

(1874–1941)a congenial translator of French literature and a critic, satirist and journalist. One of the most important figures and chroniclers of Krakow of the time of Young Poland, and the name behind its legend. A graduate of Medicine at the Jagiellonian University. In 1905, the Zielony Balonik (Little Green Balloon), cabaret was set up in the Cukiernia Lwowska (Lviv Confectionery) run by Jan Apolinary Michalik on 45 Floriańska Street. It was soon to turn Boy (which was Żeleński’s artistic pseudonym) into a writer. This extraordinary period found reflection in Boy’s Słówka (Little Words). Until retirement in 1919, Żeleński worked as a physician in the railway hospital. When retired, 45-year-old Boy was able to fully devote himself to literature. In 1919–1921, he regularly wrote reviewsof performances at the Juliusz Słowacki Theatre for Czas. Left Krakow for Warsaw in 1921. After the German invasion, he was murdered on the night of 3rd/4th July 1941. (ezp)
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