At first, there was “Zakazane piosenki” (Forbidden songs) and the role of Halina Tokarska, followed several years later by “Pożegnanie z Marią” (Farewell to Mary) and the character of the doctor’s wife and then “Pora umierać” (Time to die) where she slipped into the famous role of Aniela. Meanwhile, she was acting in theatres as well. Danuta Szaflarska was a unique person. Not only because of her flawless acting, but also due 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 away. She was the longest performing Polish actress, spending 77 years on stage (1939-2016).
Danuta Szaflarska 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 to? 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 her private life she was married twice, first with Jan Ekier and then with Janusz Kiliański. What was left after those two marriages were only her two daughters because, as Danuta Szaflarska admitted, both her husbands wanted her to quit acting. After all, she left them but not the acting. During the Warsaw Uprising, she was a liaison and a promoter of concerts for the fighting insurgents and civilians.
She started acting by accident after 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 the Teatr Polski (The Polish Theatre) and in underground theatres. After WWII she came back to Poland and played in the Teatr Stary (The Old Theatre) in Cracow and, later on, in the Teatr Kameralny (The Chamber Theatre) in Łódź. Danuta Szaflarska moved back to Warsaw in 1949. She worked in the Teatr Współczesny (The Modern Theatre), Teatr Narodowy (The National Theatre) and Teatr Dramatyczny (The Dramatic Theatre) which were her sources of income for many years. She spent the last years of her career on the stage of the Teatr Rozmaitości (The Variety Theatre) in Warsaw, but she left for health reasons.
Danuta Szaflarska was awarded prizes 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. Danuta Szaflarska 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 Danuta Szaflarska 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 Danuta Szaflarska, we will always miss one thing – the “presence” she talked about.
text by Natalia Semczuk