Jacob Mendez
Jacob Mendez

Weronika Humaj about the film “Sami swoi. The Beginning”: I put my fears aside

PAP Life: Adam Bobik, Pawlak’s actor, your film husband, before entering the set, watched Sylwester Chęciński’s trilogy over and over again because he wanted to see as much as possible from Wacław Kowalski. How did you prepare for the role of Mania?

Weronika Humay: – I remembered “Our Own Ones” from my childhood. I think what interested me most was the theme of Jadźka and Witia’s forbidden love. When I found out that I would play Mania Ziębicka, I watched the entire trilogy, but only once. Maria Zbyszewska created a wonderful character there, but I felt from the beginning that my heroine would be different from the one we know from the trilogy. Because “On our own. The beginning” it’s a different movie, a different story. From Maria Zbyszewska I “borrowed” several features that distinguish Pawlak – a certain statuary, restraint in gestures, some kind of stiffening, and at the same time the strength that I saw in her. For me, the main material for working on the role was the script, brilliantly written by Andrzej Mularczyk. Funny and touching at the same time. And even if earlier there were sometimes doubts whether this project would be too risky, that maybe we were violating some sacredness, when I got to know the script, I put all my fears aside.

Mania doesn’t say much. You play with gestures, looks. For me, Mania’s eyes show both resignation and great strength. He knows he has to cope.

– Mania was an interesting character to play. When I was reading the script, the thought crossed my mind more than once: “What a hard life she has, why is she with this Pawlak, why can’t she escape.” I looked at the history of Pawlak and Mania’s marriage from my perspective and it was impossible for me to imagine that it was possible to be in a marriage without love. When Mania marries Pawlak, she doesn’t feel anything for him, and what’s more, she finds out that he loves someone else. Can you imagine a sadder beginning to a marriage that will last a lifetime? But could Mania do something? Escape? Where? That’s why, really, having no choice, she tries to arrange this marriage with Pawlak. Where did she get the strength to endure? Maybe out of love for his son?

But on the other hand, it cannot be said that this marriage was unhappy. It seems that the longer they are together, the better they understand each other.

– Nobody understands Pawlak like Mania (laughter). I even think that she turned out to be a better wife for him than his beloved Nechajka. Mani’s calm had a soothing effect on the explosive, quarrelsome Pawlak. Over time, they came together, and anyway, they both had no choice and the best they could do was try to fit in. Over time, they got better at it. There was affection and attachment. These were times when a different relationship model operated. No one bothered about Mania’s feelings.

Recently, we have been learning more and more about the lives of Polish peasant women. The film “Chłopi” and the best-selling book “Chłopki” by Joanna Kuciel-Frydryszek fit into this trend.

– I read “Chłopki” after the film was made and this book made a great impression on me. Women like Mania were a generation of heartbreak. They raised children, worked in the fields and in the kitchen. They lived for their family, did everything for them, and their needs came last. I have peasant roots, and after the film I looked at the fate of my great-grandmother, grandmother and mother differently.

You grew up in Wiśniowa, a village in Lesser Poland. What image of the countryside do you have in your head?

– Until I was 10, I lived with my parents and siblings in Nowa Huta. Only then did my parents move with us to the countryside, where my mother comes from and where her family home was. As a child, I spent every holiday there, so everything related to the countryside and farm work is well known to me. My grandfather also reminds me a lot of Pawlak – not in terms of character, but in his love of the land. He simply loves his land more than anything. This sense of belonging, this sense of identity is extremely strong. As I get older, I notice it more. It so happened that I left my family home quite early, I was sixteen, when I moved to Krakow, went to high school and lived in a boarding school. In the afternoons I went to music school. Then I got into the Theater Academy in Warsaw and stayed there. Here I have my life, work, friends. I like visiting my hometown and I try to do it as often as possible.

You have as many as five siblings, such a large family is rare these days.

– On the one hand, such a family gives great strength. On the other hand, I remember well that there was always noise at home and it was often difficult for me to find a quiet place for myself. I have an older sister with whom I lived together in Krakow for some time and who graduated from the Academy of Music. And four younger brothers. The youngest, twins, were born when I was 15. Our parents always told us how important family ties were. But I also heard from them that it is important in life to be fulfilled.

Weren’t they worried that you left the world so early?

– You couldn’t stop me (laughter). When they heard that I wanted to become an actress, they were probably a little worried, especially my mother. But I just followed my dreams. I became independent quite early, before my studies, I started appearing in the TV series “Julka”, I was able to support myself.

Did the acting meet your expectations?

– I’m working all the time, so I can’t complain. I played in the TV series “Century Winnych” for four years and it helped me a lot, I met a lot of cool people, many of whom I still keep in touch with. Acting is a fascinating adventure for me. I appreciate that I can do a job I love. Although I’m still learning how to deal with being constantly assessed. And if you hear “no” at the audition, it doesn’t mean that you are a bad actress, it just means that you don’t fit the role.

Interviewed by Iza Komendołowicz