Kalina Jędrusik in Dziewczęta z Nowolipek / Girls from Nowolipki, photo: S. F. Kadr / Filmoteka Narodowa / www.fototeka.fn.org.pl
Kalina Jędrusik in Dziewczęta z Nowolipek / Girls from Nowolipki, photo: S. F. Kadr / Filmoteka Narodowa / www.fototeka.fn.org.pl

Actress and singer. Born on the 5th of February 1931 in Częstochowa, died on the 7th of August 1991 in Warsaw.

A star in television's early days, viewed as a controversial actress and considered the sex symbol of the 1960s and 1970s, Jędrusik fit neither Poland's period of 'small stabilisation' nor any of the formally recognised female types.

She was too rarely offered interesting film parts. Jędrusik remarked that she "wasn't needed, no one knew how to use my looks or my skills. My colourful feathers were plucked out" (Twój Styl, 2001, no. 09).

Kalina Jędrusik graduated from the State Theatre School in Kraków in 1953. She studied together with Zbyszek Cybulski, Bogumił Kobiela and Leszek Herdegen, all of whom became outstanding actors. After finishing her studies, Jędrusik left for Gdańsk where she made her debut as Katia in Barbarians, directed by Lidia Zamkow at the Teatr Wybrzeże in December 1953. In her few roles there, she proved to be a witty, perspicacious actress.

In Gdańsk, she met Stanisław Dygat, her future husband, already a recognised writer. They moved to Warsaw in 1955. Jędrusik played at the National Theatre (1955-57), Współczesny Theatre (1957-61), Komedia Theatre (1964-67), STS (Students' Satirical Theatre) (1969-72), Rozmaitości Theatre (1976-80), and Polski Theatre (1985-90). She performed the roles of Ophelia in Zamek w Szwecji / The Castle in Sweden directed by Andrzej Łapicki (1961), Katherina in The Taming of the Shrew directed by Zbigniew Bogdański (1977), George Sand in Lato w Nohant / Summer at Nohant directed by Wojciech Solarz (1977), and Mrs Carghill in Lord Claverton directed by Kazimierz Dejmek (1989). Her final role, as Eleonora in Tango (1990), was also directed by Dejmek.

The critic  Renata Wąsowska wrote:

Kalina Jędrusik, back then a young actress at the beginning of her career, expressed her artistic creed in one of her interviews: "I want to pass my truths to the audience as simply as possible. It’s the audience's task to experience it". At the time no one thought that Kalina's truths, which revealed the complexities, charms and mysteries of femininity in acting, would influence social conventions so deeply, that they would shock society, and finally split it audiences into Jędrusik's supporters and opponents.

-Iluzjon, 1994, no. 03-04

The actress' television appearances gained her huge popularity. Her debut in Television Theatre in 1956 was recognised, with her as Cleopatra in Gustaw Holoubek's Cezar i Kleopatra / Caesar and Cleopatra. Subsequent performances won her even greater acclaim:

She dazzled in the plays by Girardoux, as Ondine in Ondine and Agnieszka in The Apollo of Bellac, both directed by Adam Hanuszkiewicz at Theatre TV in 1958. The fair-haired girl looked completely amazed and amused by the world of male fantasies.

-Piotr Gacek, Przekrój, 2000, no. 31

 

1960 was a groundbreaking year for her, she recorded her first songs for the Radio Song Studio and made her first appearance in Kabaret Starszych Panów / Elderly Gentlemen Cabaret. Jeremi Przybora and Jerzy Wasowski were looking for a singing actress who would bring a touch of lyrical reverie to their third show. Many were shocked by their choice yet it proved a great success. They created an almost unreal stage - where Kalina could simply be herself.

-Maciej Maniewski, Kino, 2003, no. 07/08

In her first appearance in the Cabaret (in the programme "Kaloryfeeria") she played a girl made of a spare radiator rib. The founding myth thus included a Biblical story, yet with a sort of 'excess', a notion of the 'unnecessary'. In the following soirées Kalina-the girl would emerge and disappear, without a name, story or biography. She would not perform in skits, she would not have partners on stage, and she seemed to be outside the absurd presentations of Communist Poland. She sang all about her own being, more often that not in a lyrical style.

- Iwona Kurz, Dialog, 2000, no. 09

Jędrusik's appearances on Elderly Gentlemen Cabaret marked the beginning of her transformation into a star. According to Maciej Maniewski:

The evolution of the actress's character in the Elderly Gentlemen Cabaret was quite distinctive. She was to be (…) a girl – and later a lady – with a song. (…) Yet with the passage of time the mysterious girl transformed into an equally unique and fascinating character, although this time she had a name: Kalina. (…) In the beginning she appeared as a long-haired blonde in the cabaret, but after some time she cut her hair and dyed her naturally blond locks a chestnut colour - a colour she would never change again. She highlighted the shape of her eyes and lips with bold make-up. Her silhouette would be emphasised with the cut of her dress and a low neckline. These would remain Kalina's characteristic features. She knew how to use suggestively both her body and her captivating voice, almost blurring the line between what came from the authors and what was solely hers.

-Kino, 2003, no. 07/08

Jędrusik performed one of her best roles as the lady in Jan Rybkowski's television film, Odwiedziny o zmierzchu / The Visit at Sunset (1966). Maciej Maniewski remarked that in her performance "using seemingly unnoticeable, yet extremely precise means of expression, she creates a character who is tragic, who matures and gains more and more complex nuances as the plot develops (Film, 1984, no. 42).

Although the beginning of the 1960s proved very successful in Jędrusik's artistic career, adversities began to emerge.

The actress's career, which developed with lightning speed, and the uniqueness of her personality heightened the emotions of the audience. In the same characters (usually sensitive, enamoured girls) some noticed lyricism and subtlety, while others found them vulgar and obscene. Kalina's myth of a woman fully sexed, a shocker even, grew together with her life and artistic achievements. Soon in social consciousness it got a life of its own - the result of many rumours and made-up stories, which included those about her personal life.

- Renata Wąsowska, Iluzjon, 1994, no. 03-04

Kalina Jędrusik breaks stage norms, she does not care about etiquette, she is spontaneous, effervescent, sometimes to the point of being aggressive. She openly manifests her femininity, not taking the reservations of the more conservative audience into account. In fact, it seems as if she found a bit of pleasure in teasing them, showing up in dresses with extremely low necklines, acting with ostentatious liberty

- Konrad Eberhardt, Film, 1984, no. 42

An aura of sensation surrounding the actress grew after a column entitled "Jestem, jaka jestem / I am Who I am" (1963), published in the Przekrój magazine was attributed to her. It was written by her husband, Stanisław Dygat (using the pseudonym Anna Tarczyńska). The scandalous confessions were suspected to have been made by Jędrusik herself.

As Iwona Kurz wrote, "Kalina Jędrusik's television triumph proved only temporary. She disappeared from the screens in the mid-1960s; according to legend, this was thanks to the First Secretary, Władysław Gomułka himself." (Dialog, 2000, no. 09)

You could see her only in the Elderly Gentlemen Cabaret; Jeremi Przybora and Jerzy Wasowski threatened that no more cabarets would be produced without Kalina.

The film industry had become interested in Jędrusik in 1957. She made her debut in Tadeusz Chmielewski's film, Ewa chce spać / Eve Wants to Sleep. She played the small, lively part of a resident in a workers' hostel. Jędrusik showed extraordinary talent as a comedy actress which, sadly, directors utilised only in a couple of films. She played Kazimiera Paluch – Fatima – in the episode Uprzejmy morderca (2) / The Polite Murderer (2) in Stanisław Bareja's series Kapitan Sowa na tropie / Kapitan Sowa Is onto Something (1962). Her role as Zuzanna in Upał / Heat, a film directed by Kazimierz Kutz and based on Jeremi Przybora's script (1964), was performed with subtlety and humour. She made a self-parody in Jerzy Gruza's Dzięcioł / The Woodpecker (1970).

Her best and most captivating comedy role was that of Joanna in Jan Batory's Lekarstwo na miłość / A Cure for Love (1965), where she performed the part of a girl in love who, by an unfortunate twist of fate, becomes entangled in a crime story. Jędrusik portrayed the character with natural and sincere humour, filled with youthful energy and expression.

In her TV Theatre work, Jędrusik starred as Renée in Jezioro Bodeńskie / Lake Constance, and as Zita in Podróż / The Journey, directed by Stanisław Wohl, in 1959. In Jerzy Gruza's The Ides of March (1962), she played Cleopatra, then played Helena in Piękna Helena / Beautiful Helena (1965) and Gwendolen Fairfax in The Importance of Being Earnest (1968). In the play Łokietek, czyli Mazurek Dąbrowskiego / Elbow-High or Dąbrowski's Mazurka, directed by Jan Kulma in 1976, Jędrusik played both Dezyderia, the queen of San Domingo, and Catherine the Great.

Jędrusik's TV Theatre roles included Polly in The Threepenny Opera directed by Konrad Swinarski (1958), Eleonore in The Italian Straw Hat directed by Andrzej Łapicki (1962), Dorine in Tartuffe directed by Tadeusz Byrski (1962), Laura in Indyk / The Turkey directed by Jerzy Goliński (1964), and Lidka in Lydia Ate the Apple directed by Jerzy Markuszewski (1964).

In the 1970s, Jędrusik performed the part of Duchess Caroline Borescu in The Lenoir Archipelago directed by Edward Dziewoński (1970), as well as Pulcheria in Dom otwarty / The Open House directed by Józef Słotwiński (1977).

 

She gave an outstanding performance in the adaptation of Breakfast at Tiffany's, a part tailored for her by the director Dygat and approved by the play's author, Truman Capote, from New York. The play Sceny z życia Holly Golightly / Scenes from the Life of Holly Golightly (1972) was directed by Kazimierz Kutz. Kalina sang a beautiful ballad written by KomedaJa nie chcę spać, ja nie chcę umierać / I Don't Want to Sleep, I Don't Want to Die. Sad Holly Golightly was said to be Kalina's favourite character.

-Małgorzata Terlecka-Reksnis, Twój Styl, 2001, no. 09

She was the general's wife in Paragraf 4 / Catch 4 directed by Marek Piwowski (1981), Amati, the prima donna in Branzilla directed by Michał Kwieciński (1986), the doctor's wife in Żeglarz / The Sailor directed by Wojciech Solarz (1986), Kalina in Zabiję cię Heleno / Helena I'll Kill You directed by Włodzimierz Pawlak (1987), Ksena in Maestro directed by Marek Nowicki (1988), Paulina in Idziemy do wujka / We're Going to Visit the Uncle directed by Zdzisław Wardejn (1989), Seymour Williams in Autumn Manoeuvres directed by Krzysztof Szuster (1989), Mrs. Bat in Vatzlav directed by Kazimierz Dejmek (1989), and the landlady in The Castle directed by Marek Grzesiński (1989).

Jędrusik was the most interesting performer of female characters from the prose of Stanisław Dygat. In Gustaw Holoubek's short film Czas przybliża, czas oddala (1) / Time Moves Closer, Time Moves Away (1), part of Spóźnieni przechodnie / Those Who Are Late (1962), she played Anna, a woman who awakens the man in a shy boy. In Jan Rybkowski's short film Nauczycielka (5) / The Teacher (5), she appeared in an amusing scene with Dygat, her husband. In Janusz Morgenstern's Jowita / Jovita (1967), she starred as Helena.

In that film she played a beautiful and attractive woman even if she seemed passive most of the time, as if she were handing over the screen exclusively to her partners. Yet it was she who was the focus of attention, bringing in an erotic anxiety and creating a sensual tension.

- Maciej Maniewski, Kino, 2003, no. 07/08

Her appearances in theatre, television and film became rarer in the 1970s. Yet she played one of her best roles in 1984, as Lucy Zukerowa in Andrzej Wajda's film and television series Ziemia Obiecana / The Promised Land.

The character of a rich Jewish woman head over heels in love was kept in a uniform tone, created with one broad stroke. Jędrusik showed her with brilliant expression, intentionally exaggerating at times. By highlighting the character's animalistic nature the actress created a role as if from Fellini's films. She laid out the dramatic accents with precision, thus building up the atmosphere of a growing danger. (…) While treating the role very emotionally, she also put great emphasis on deepening the psyche of this originally unambiguous character.

- Maciej Maniewski, Film, 1984, no. 42

Following this role the actress disappeared from the screen for a couple of years. She played a colourful gypsy woman in a German film, Levins Mühle / Levin's Mill (based on the Johannes Bobrowski novel), in 1980. She then appeared in Horst Seemann's television series, Hotel Polan und seine Gäste / The Polan Hotel and Their Guests, in 1982. Jędrusik's role as the mischievous criminal in Ryszard Ber's film Gdzie jest trzeci król / Where Is the Third King (1966) and as the seductive Wąsowska in Wojciech Jerzy Has' Lalka / The Doll (1968) are also notable.

Other film roles include a prostitute in Dziś w nocy umrze miasto / Tonight a City Will Die directed by Jan Rybkowski (1961), the actress Barbara Percykówna in Jutro premiera / Opening Tomorrow directed by Janusz Morgenstern (1962), Robroncka, the castellan's wife in Mazepa directed by Gustaw Holoubek (1975), the make-up artist Gertruda in Baryton / The Baritone directed by Janusz Zaorski (1984), the millionaire's wife in O-bi, o-ba, koniec cywilizacji / O-Bi, O-Ba –The End of Civilization directed by Piotr Szulkin (1985), Madame Elli in C.K. Dezerterzy / H.M. Deserters directed by Janusz Majewski (1985), Maria Prymasiak in Dziewczęta z Nowolipek / Girls from Nowolipki directed by Barbara Sass, and the revue actress in Misja Specjalna / Special Mission directed by Janusz Rzeszewski (1987).

Jędrusik's final roles, in 1991, were as the professor's wife in Ferdydurke / 30 Door Key directed by Jerzy Skolimowski, and as the voice teacher in The Double Life of Veronique directed by Krzysztof Kieślowski.

Now, in the chaos of all the changes and redefinitions of social conventions, her artistic image looks like the most beautiful female portrait painted with a master's hand. You think of Kalina with a feeling of nostalgia and emotion, you worship her using the finest words: outstanding, unique, irreplaceable. Yet no one seems to be able to say why another Polish talent had been wasted in such a stupid and mindless way.

- Renata Wąsowska, Iluzjon, 1994, no. 03-04

The actress is the focal point in two television films. In Jan Sosiński's Kalina, a monologue is created from fragments of two interviews with the actress, and in Tadeusz Pawłowicz's Nie odchodź / Don't Go, the director quotes memories about her, stories told by twelve people who knew her well. A popular vote for the best actress in the history of Polish film awarded her third place; it was organised by Film magazine in 1996 as part of the hundredth anniversary of cinematography.

A biography about the actress written by Piotr Gacek, Kalina Jędrusik. Muzykalność na życie / Kalina Jędrusik. Musicality of Life, and published in 1994.

Her major awards include:

  • 1961 – best song performance award for "Mój pierwszy bal / My First Ball", which received Radio Song of the Year
  • 1962 – "Express Wieczorny" popular vote Golden Mask for most popular television actor
  • 1963 – "Express Wieczorny" popular vote Golden Mask for most popular television actor
  • 1964 – First Prize and Honourable Mention for the song "Z kim tak ci będzie źle jak ze mną / Who Will You Feel So Bad With if Not With Me" at Opole Festival
  • 1966 – First Prize and Press Award at the Premieres Concert, Opole Festival
  • 1967 – "Wild Flowers" Wielkopolska region audience popular vote award for the role in the film Jowita / Jovita
  • 1988 – Notable Culture Activist medal

Author: Halina Olczak-Moraczewska, April 2006.

Translated by: Helena Chmielewska-Szlajfer

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