fot. Marlena Bielinska/ Move
text by Natalia Semczuk
First, there were “Zakazane piosenki” (Forbidden songs) and the role of Halina Tokarska, several years later “Pożegnanie z Marią” (Farewell to Mary) and the character of the doctor’s wife, then “Pora umierać” (Time to die) where she slipped into the famous role of Aniela. Meanwhile, she was playing in theatre as well. Danuta Szaflarska was a unique person. Not only because of her flawless acting, but also thanks to her wisdom. She took an active part in the Warsaw Uprising, but she didn’t like to talk about that time. She loved and treasured life, for she grew up in the world which could easily take it back. She was the longest performing Polish actress – she spent 77 years on stage (1939-2016). She passed away this year in February.
Mrs Danuta once said: “There was a time when I was in a constant rush. I was travelling by tram, for instance, and I wanted it to drive faster. I had this rush inside myself. And then I suddenly realised: ‘Wait, where am I hurrying up? What awaits me in the end is only a wooden coffin.’ Get rid of this inner rush. Look at the world around you, watch what is happening around because we have only one life and we can find so much beauty in each and every thing. The very fact that we are alive is something wonderful”. Many people agreed with her sooner or later. Maybe this is why she lived 102 years: because she learned not to hurry up – and, primarily, not to hurry up to dying. In private life she was married twice, first with Jan Ekier, later with Janusz Kiliański. What was left after those two marriages were only her two daughters because, as Mrs Danuta admitted, both her husbands wanted her to quit acting. After all, she left them, not the acting. During the Warsaw Uprising, she was a liaison and an promoter of concerts for the fighting insurgents and civilians. She started acting accidentally, being persuaded by her friends. In 1939 she graduated from Państwowy Instytut Sztuki Teatralnej (The National Academy of Dramatic Art) and moved to Vilnius for a short time. She played there, in Teatr Polski (The Polish Theatre) and in underground theatres. After WWII she came back to Poland and played in Teatr Stary (The Old Theatre) in Cracow and, later on, in Teatr Kameralny (The Chamber Theatre) in Łódź. Mrs Danuta moved back to Warsaw in 1949. She worked in Teatr Współczesny (The Modern Theatre), Teatr Narodowy (The National Theatre) and Teatr Dramatyczny (The Dramatic Theatre) which had been her sources of income for many years on. She spent the last years of her career on the stage of Teatr Rozmaitości (The Variety Theatre) in Warsaw, but she left for health reasons.
Danuta Szaflarska was awarded prices for her work several times, for instance in 2007 at the 32nd edition of the Gdynia Film Festival for her role in “Pora umierać” (Time to die). She was also awarded the Złota Kaczka in 2008 for the best Polish actress of the century. On 8th March she unveiled her own star on the Łódź Walk of Fame on Piotrkowska Street. Mrs Danuta was involved in charity actions (fund-raising for rescuing the Powązki Cemetery in November 2016) and took part in political life (being a honorary member of the committee supporting Bronisław Komorowski in the early presidential election campaign in 2010 and in the presidential election campaign in 2015). She was fully devoted to her passion, yet never forgot to “simply be a human”.
Today, what is left after Mrs Danuta are only frames from films, photos and interviews she was always eager to give. In one of these interviews she said: “I used to think that we have to play roles. Now I know we have to live”. While writing about Mrs Danuta, we will always miss this one thing – the “presence” she talked about.