Down

Sławomir Mrożek trail

Krakow

  • Krakow of His Youth Abandoned

    Sławomir Mrożek left Krakow twice. Once, at the end of 1959, soon after he married Maria Obremba. The newlyweds went to Warsaw. Mrożek left Krakow for the second time in 2008, when he and his wife Susana decided to move to Nice.

    Krakow of His Youth Abandoned

    Sławomir Mrożek left Krakow twice. Once, at the end of 1959, soon after he married Maria Obremba. The newlyweds went to Warsaw. Mrożek left Krakow for the second time in 2008, when he and his wife Susana decided to move to Nice.

    In June of 1963, the writer emigrated to Italy. He was escaping from the “one-of-us” atmosphere, because the external situation is closer to reality. He wrote to Jan Błoński back then: I say, when I go somewhere, they immediately greet me with this look on their faces, “Oh, our dear Mrożek is here”, this is why I ran away from Krakow not to be “us”, one of the characters, like our St. Mary’s Church (1963).

    He wrote in his Dziennik [Diary] the same year: First of all, the feeling of apathy and stagnation is gone. I had two such periods in my life. The first one was during my last years in Krakow. It was gone after I returned from the United States, after I made the decision to break up with Krakow and go for the uncertain [...] in Warsaw. Mrożek could not accept the state of pretending to have the life, which at the same time put him off and attracted to Krakow’s social life: Polish bar-and-party loitering, so popular in all circles and societies, Polish sexual freedom [...] Anyway, looking for an illusion that something is happening. Back there in Krakow, in a way against myself, because one part of me liked it very much and wanted it, but the other could not and was not able to, I had sensed it before I understood it later that this was not for me.

    It is important to remember that before his journey to the USA (July-August 1959), Mrożek felt a strong emotional connection to Krakow. That is why, years later, dreams of Krakow and searching for Krakow was deep down in the writer's mind: To drive in, slowly, on a September day, along this old and so familiar road from Katowice [Maria Obremba, his future wife, lived in Katowice and this is also the place where they got married – E.Z.P.], go out in the evening, all alone, not having let anyone know, dear God, I could not wish for anything more, and if it works, nothing else, nothing more can work for me (1966). Occasionally, he retrieved from his memory single images, which he wanted to protect from “tear and wear”, to preserve them intact. However, he warned himself about the trap of nostalgia: just don’t let yourself to be deceived by yourself, this is not a bigger nostalgia than that I felt for Krakow in Warsaw. It wasn't about the city with any specific buildings, of course, by for myself named Krakow [...]

    When he came to Poland for two weeks in June 1978 and spent three days in Krakow, he saw a completely different city: Krakow is a modern city now. It belongs to this new totalitarian humanity, in which you don’t want to have the same life, just like Nabokov, who didn’t want to see Russia anymore, because it didn't exist any longer. [...] In totalitarianism, under totalitarian regime, there is no mystery, because there is no life. Only here and there one can find ruins in Krakow, monuments of mystery, empty shells.

    Readers of Mrożek’s private writings may go on a journey in search of mysteries of his Krakow, forever inscribed in the “Pod Różą” Hotel, the stereoscope at Karmelicka street, on a rotten, enchanted, infinite afternoon of one of these indefinable Krakow seasons (1964), in a wine bar at 6 Sławkowska street, by Stary Theatre’s corner, on the corner of św. Jana and św. Tomasza street, in the “Apollo” and “Wanda” cinemas, at Kleparz market in May... And finally – this is probably the greatest mystery – near the Salwator cemetery.

  • Apartments

    Mrożek’s family arrived in Prokocim (back then, a village outside Krakow, this is most probably the Bednarska street he mentions in his Dziennik) in 1933, to move again to Bandurskiego street to a house with a view on Prażmowskiego street. Two years later (1935) they moved in to a house at Kielecka street. They lived here, most of the time, until 1943 – when they were relocated to the former ghetto in Podgórze: It was worse than we expected. Along the Vistula River, from the Third Bridge [presently the Most Powstańców Śląskich [Silesian Insurrectionists’ Bridge] – E.Z.P.] till Podgórski Market Square, there were rows of small factories and shops. Our apartment was situated there (2006).

    Apartments

    Mrożek’s family arrived in Prokocim (back then, a village outside Krakow, this is most probably the Bednarska street he mentions in his Dziennik) in 1933, to move again to Bandurskiego street to a house with a view on Prażmowskiego street. Two years later (1935) they moved in to a house at Kielecka street. They lived here, most of the time, until 1943 – when they were relocated to the former ghetto in Podgórze: It was worse than we expected. Along the Vistula River, from the Third Bridge [presently the Most Powstańców Śląskich [Silesian Insurrectionists’ Bridge] – E.Z.P.] till Podgórski Market Square, there were rows of small factories and shops. Our apartment was situated there (2006).

    After the war, the writer’s family moved to a building abandoned by Germans at Prażmowskiego street.

    In the summer of 1950, Mrożek moved to the attic in the building where Leszek Herdegen lived at Studencka street. Since they had been friends since high school, Mrożek had been visiting him there for a long time. He recalled this during his emigration years: The second of September. This will always be the beginning of the school year. And this will always be Krakow. Świerczewskiego street [nowadays Studencka street – E.Z.P.]. Young lions, although I have always been a rabbit (1964).

    Since 1952 until he left Krakow, Mrożek lived at Krupnicza street in the Writers’ House.

    After he returned from emigration in 1966, he was staying with his wife, Susana, at św. Sebastiana street: The house, like almost all town houses in Krakow, is hideous, a result of 60 years of negligence. Occupied, especially the annexes, by “element” which I call “electorate”.[...]. Once, this street and this district was inhabited by middle-class bourgeoisie, before that – it was even slightly mansion-like. Communism destroyed it [...] (1966). After six years, Mrożeks moved to a new infill building at Staromostowa street where they had beautiful view on the Vistula River.

  • Schools and universities

    In 1937, Mrożek started his education in first grade of św. Mikołaja primary school at Lubomirskiego street. Since 1942, he attended the school at Żółkiewskiego street. After completing the programme of clandestine classes, he took his entrance examinations for the second grade of the Nowodworski Gymnasium and Lyceum (graduating class of 1949).

    Schools and universities

    In 1937, Mrożek started his education in first grade of św. Mikołaja primary school at Lubomirskiego street. Since 1942, he attended the school at Żółkiewskiego street. After completing the programme of clandestine classes, he took his entrance examinations for the second grade of the Nowodworski Gymnasium and Lyceum (graduating class of 1949): Gombrowicz did not take into consideration that the mass consisting of young people is the Nowodworski Gymnasium for Boys. Disgusting. [...] The current style (the style of the world nowadays) is to a large extent the style of the Nowodworski Gymnasium for Boys in Krakow. In a way, my style, when I was sixteen years old (1971).

    After graduation from high school he studied: architecture for three months (at the AGH University of Science and Technology back then; 1949), for several months at Higher School of Fine Arts (presently the Academy of Fine Arts; 1950) and Oriental studies at the Jagiellonian University (1951–1952).

  • Writers’ House

    Recently, the past has been haunting me. The fifties. Faces, objects. My unforgettable room at Krupnicza street. I am from Krakow (1964). Since June 1952 until 1959, that is until the end of his first Krakow period, Mrożek lived in the Writer’s House, on the fourth floor of the annexe.

    Writers’ House

    Recently, the past has been haunting me. The fifties. Faces, objects. My unforgettable room at Krupnicza street. I am from Krakow (1964). Since June 1952 until 1959, that is until the end of his first Krakow period, Mrożek lived in the Writer’s House, on the fourth floor of the annexe. A famous canteen – a place for discussions and all kinds of literary meetings organised by the Polish Writers’ Union was located on the ground floor. This was one of the most important places, which shaped him and which he had to face as a man and an artist. In 1963 he wrote: Throughout my life, the Krakow period, wherever I went, whatever I thought, it turns out, the canteen was always there. On the bottom, on the ground, discreet but mighty, it cast a shadow, it was the great determinant. In Warsaw, its spell was broken, its power over me diminished, but it didn’t disappear. I still suffer in the canteen.

  • Nowa Huta

    Sławomir Mrożek's debut was connected with Nowa Huta – the "front page" reportage Młode Miasto [Young City] devoted to everyday life and work of young people who were building the communist conglomerate plant and housing estate (Przekrój, issue no 272, 22nd of July 1950). The text, which the author called, many years later, the masterpiece of bad writing, that is writing the untrue, started with the following words: Between two shores – the year 1949 and 1955 – a giant six-span bridge has already been built: a great construction of the Six-Year Plan. A dream was caught with a net of mathematical calculations – its portrait was drawn in the form of technical sketches. We say: Nowa Huta is growing.

     

    Nowa Huta

    Sławomir Mrożek's debut was connected with Nowa Huta – the "front page" reportage Młode Miasto [Young City] devoted to everyday life and work of young people who were building the communist conglomerate plant and housing estate (Przekrój, issue no 272, 22nd of July 1950). The text, which the author called, many years later, the masterpiece of bad writing, that is writing the untrue, started with the following words: Between two shores – the year 1949 and 1955 – a giant six-span bridge has already been built: a great construction of the Six-Year Plan. A dream was caught with a net of mathematical calculations – its portrait was drawn in the form of technical sketches. We say: Nowa Huta is growing.

  • "Warszawianki" and other places

    In Mrożek’s Dziennik and in his letters, we may find several reminiscences on Krakow cafés, restaurants and bars. It is not always possible to identify their addresses. The most famous ones can be found in a letter dated in 1964: I would never think that once, when I was leading a riotous life, I spent several years in the company of scamps and frivolous women (a recollection of which still evokes tender emotions), drinking vodka in Feniks, Warszawianka or the Francuski Hotel, that one day I would come to my senses and I would burst with such virtue like a torch with flames.

    "Warszawianki" and other places

    In Mrożek’s Dziennik and in his letters, we may find several reminiscences on Krakow cafés, restaurants and bars. It is not always possible to identify their addresses. The most famous ones can be found in a letter dated in 1964: I would never think that once, when I was leading a riotous life, I spent several years in the company of scamps and frivolous women (a recollection of which still evokes tender emotions), drinking vodka in Feniks, Warszawianka or the Francuski Hotel, that one day I would come to my senses and I would burst with such virtue like a torch with flames.

    The famous café "Warszawianki" at Sławkowska street (which he consistently called "Warszawianka") was juxtaposed with a soup kitchen at Smoleńsk street run by Felician Sisters. He was looking for a legend connected with the places of his youth which could be compared to the most important legend of that time connected with Paris: I was about twenty years old and I didn’t go anywhere beyond Krakow, I didn't even know there was any Saint-Germain-des-Prés, I used to go to dinners given out to the poor by nuns and had my own immense troubles and storms. My huge tiny things. What Saint-Germain, I hardly anticipated that there was a “Warszawianka” café at Sławskowska street where real artists meet, but I didn’t know a single artist’s face (1965).

    We may search for a wine bar at the very same street: What will happen to this fierce power inside of me? I would ask this question in the wine bar at 6 Sławskowska street (1965). One of the bars became a topic of Mrożek’s reflection from 1973: Violence and lies (boredom of violence). He me, then I him, and he me once again, so then I him and he me. "...And I kicked him there" (a waiter from the bar Krakowski at Starowiślna street, that is Bohaterów Stalingradu. Do we mean von Paulus?)

  • Two theatres

    The two most important theatres in Krakow became the topic of one of Mrożek’s feature pieces (1976), but not as a place for staging plays, but as a stage for artistic events which are inseparable from the history of the city and Poland.

    Two theatres

    Two theatres

    The two most important theatres in Krakow became the topic of one of Mrożek’s feature pieces (1976), but not as a place for staging plays, but as a stage for artistic events which are inseparable from the history of the city and Poland. He recalls Wesele directed by Tadeusz Białkowski (the premiere took place on the 11th of November, 1946) and Hamlet directed by Roman Zawistowski (premiere on the 30th of September 1956): I don’t know whether the adaptation of Wesele in the Słowacki Theatre in Krakow, just after the war and the occupation ended, was better than any other staged since then. But even if computers gave incontrovertible proof that it wasn’t better, so what? No later adaptation imprinted itself on my memory this way, no other was that much important. And not only for me. I guess that the adaptation of Hamlet in Stary Theatre in Krakow in 1957 wasn’t the best of all possible ones. [...] But so what? Back then, in Krakow, in Poland, half of the city had flushed cheeks because of this Hamlet, and as much was played by Hamlet, as by the time and place.

    Pic. Paweł Mazur

  • Press

    To earn his living, Sławomir Mrożek started to publish his texts in Krakow’s press soon after his high school graduation. Incited by Adam Włodek, he debuted in Przekrój with a social realist reportage on Nowa Huta (1950). He worked full-time for Dziennik Polski (1950–1954) – he was a reporter travelling around the Malopolska region.  Echo Krakowa published his feature pieces (1955–1957). He published several series of drawings in Przekrój (until 1967).

     

    Press

    To earn his living, Sławomir Mrożek started to publish his texts in Krakow’s press soon after his high school graduation. Incited by Adam Włodek, he debuted in Przekrój with a social realist reportage on Nowa Huta (1950). He worked full-time for Dziennik Polski (1950–1954) – he was a reporter travelling around the Malopolska region.  Echo Krakowa published his feature pieces (1955–1957). He published several series of drawings in Przekrój (until 1967).