Jacob Mendez
Jacob Mendez

The tragic fate of a Polish actor. It still raises a lot of controversy to this day

It was a high-profile case that touched cinema and theater lovers and the entire acting community in Poland. The story still evokes great emotions to this day. Kazimierz Junosza-Stępowskione of the most outstanding and most beloved actors of pre-war Polish cinema, died on July 5, 1943 at the hands of soldiers of the Polish Underground State, who were to execute the sentence passed on his wife Jadwiga Galewska. The circumstances of the actor’s death have not been fully explained to this day.

According to Stanisław Janicki – an expert in Polish pre-war cinema – Galewska was addicted to illegal substances and during the war she extorted money from the families of people arrested by the Germans, under the pretext of arranging their release. Some sources also say that she collaborated with the Germans. For her activities, she received a death sentence issued by the authorities of the Polish Underground State. Junosza-Stępowski became an accidental victim. He died a few hours later after being taken to hospital. However, the course of events was never fully explained.

On February 20, 1989, the premiere of Jerzy Sztwiertnia’s film took place “Bewilderment”, inspired by the occupation fate of the outstanding actor Kazimierz Junosza-Stępowski and the mysterious circumstances of his death. It’s been 35 years since this day. In the film, the names of the characters were changed, and the creators focused mainly on the personal drama of two people – a woman sinking into addiction and a man “bewildered” by feelings who is unable to soberly assess the situation and effectively stop his wife from self-destruction.

The main roles in the production were played by: Władysław Kowalski (Władysław Janota-Czerkański – the prototype of the character was Kazimierz Junosza-Stępowski), Maria Pakulnis (Jadwiga Czerkańska, Władysław’s wife – the prototype of the character was Jadwiga Galewska, artistic pseudonym Jaga Juno) and Krzysztof Kolberger (actor Korowicz, Czerkanski’s friend). It’s been 35 years since this day.

The hero of “Daze” There is a famous 60-year-old actor, Władysław Czerkański, who, despite warnings, marries a beautiful, young dancer, Jadzia. During the occupation, when the Association of Polish Stage Artists issues a ban on performing in events organized by the Germans, Czerkański tries to get money for his wife’s treatment. When the woman persuades her husband to play a director collaborating with the Germans in a film, he categorically refuses. Czerkańska begins to extort money from people, promising in return help in her release. Jadzia agrees to provide information to the Germans in exchange for stimulants. Soon she is sentenced to death.

Kazimierz Junosza-Stępowski he was one of the most outstanding actors of pre-war Polish cinema. He was born on November 26, 1880 in Venice, into a wealthy landowner family. He studied at junior high schools in Kraków and Kamieniec Podolski. Initially, he planned to devote himself to an opera career, but eventually he turned to acting.

During the first years he performed in various theaters in Poland, including: The Polish Theater in Poznań, Aleksander Zelwerowicz’s in Łódź, the Słowacki Theater in Kraków, then he moved to Warsaw, where he played in the Polish, Rozmaitości and National Theaters. He quickly became one of the leading actors of Polish theater.

He became involved with the cinema in 1902, appearing in “The Return of the Birman”, one of the first Polish films. From 1916 to 1939 he appeared in over 60 films, including: such hits of pre-war cinema as “Znachor”, “Professor Wilczur”, “Girls in Nowolipek”, “Młody las”, “Heroes of Sybiru”, “Wrzos”, “Ordynat Michorowski” and “The Leper”.

His attitude during World War II remains controversial to this day. As you can read on the website, after the outbreak of the war, which found him performing in Vilnius, he returned to Warsaw. He was critical of the September campaign. Initially, he worked as a bartender in cafes, and also ran his own place, “Znachor”. He rented a room to a German colonel and, despite the threat of repression, categorically refused to participate in a propaganda film.

Kazimierz Junosza-Stępowski died tragically on July 5, 1943. He probably tried to cover his wife with his body, who was sentenced to death by the Polish Underground State authorities. He died after being taken to hospital.