Krzywicka Irena

Irena Krzywicka - Personal data
Date of birth: 28th May 1899
Place of birth:
Date of death: 2nd July 1994
Place of death:
Related towns: Warsaw

Krzywicka Irena (28.05.1899, Jenisejsk - 12.07.1994, Bures-sur-Yvette,) - writer, publicist, translator.

Irena Krzywicka was born as Irena Goldberg on 28 May 1899 in Jenisejsk as the daughter of Stanisław Goldberg, a doctor, and Felicia (née Barbanel). The unusual place of birth for Polish Jews was due to her father being sentenced to five years in exile for belonging to socialist circles and

according to Agata Tuszyńska, Irena's mother came from a polonised Jewish family whose ancestors had been expelled from Spain in the 15th century. Felicia wanted to study, she read banned literature, supported socialism, and became active in the underground. In secret from her parents, she enrolled in a dental course[1.1]. Krzywicka's parents met in one of the socialist circles and were also arrested for possessing illegal papers. They married in prison in 1985. In the Siberian exile, Felicia gave birth to a boy who died, and Irena was born later. In 1905, Irena's father died of tuberculosis, and in 1909 her mother remarried the Bund activist Jekutiel Portnoj.

Krzywicka had a particularly close relationship with her mother, with whom she lived until Felicia's death in 1956. The writer stressed that Felicia Goldberg had guarded her against the Jewish complex: "You are Jewish, and so what? You are no different from anyone else," she said. In her opinion, anti-Semitism was worthy only of contempt or pity[1.2].

In 1917, Krzywicka passed her matura exam at the A. Werecka Higher Real Female School in Warsaw and, as she herself recalled: "In the Werecka School the numerical ratio was arranged more or less like the numerical ratio of the Warsaw population, about forty percent were Jewish. However, the isolation between the two groups was almost complete. They didn't sit at the desks next to each other, they didn't visit each other's homes, they hardly spoke to each other. (...) A Jewish girl who befriended a Polish girl was as much frowned upon by other Jewish girls as a Polish girl was by other Polish girls. During my time at the school, I saw almost dramatic battles for the right to make friends, for the right to sit at the same desk, to overcome the blunt resistance of parents[1.3].

After passing her matura exam, she was admitted to the Faculty of Philosophy at the University of Warsaw. She graduated studies in 1922. A certificate from 1923 issued by the pastor of the Evangelical-Augsburg parish about the marriage of Irena Goldberg to Leon Jerzy Krzywicki has been preserved in the student's file. The marriage was open; Krzywicka is known to have had extramarital affairs. Two sons, Piotr (1927-1943) and Andrzej (1937-2014) - later a professor of physics - were born to Krzywicki.

Krzywicka's had a reputation of a scandalist and demoraliser. Indeed, as Jakub Osiński notes, "her literary and journalistic output, as well as her wide-ranging social activities, could (and of course did) arouse innumerable controversies during the interwar period[1.4]. It seems that much of this consists in Krzywicka’s auto-creation, as she entitled her most widely read, often reissued work, Wyznania Gorszycielki (trans. note. - Confessions of a Scandaliser). A similar treatment was used by her biographer Agata Tuszyńska in her book Długie życie gorszycielki (trans. note. The Long Life of a Scandaliser).

Her extensive literary and journalistic output is of lesser interest. She made her debut as a novelist in 1930 with the novel Pierwsza krew, but her work was not always appreciated, as can be seen from Marian Hemar's mocking epigram: "She was a sinner, but not completely. She has sinned with everything except her talent[1.5].

During the interwar period, she devoted her work primarily to women's issues and, according to Agata Zawiszewska, it was then that Krzywicka expressed herself most fully on the condition of the modern woman[1.6]. In the 1930s, she published, among other things, the court reports Sąd Idzie (1935), and a series of essays Co Odpowiadać Dorosłym na Drażliwe Tematy (1936).

During the interwar period, on the other hand, it was not her literary work that made her regarded as a scandalis, but her social and journalistic activities. Especially since her collaboration with Tadeusz Boy Żeleński, with whom she was also linked by a romantic affair. Krzywicka actively promoted her progressive views on the availability of contraception or legalising abortion and sex education. With Boy, who shared Krzywicka's views, she opened the Poradnia Świadomego Macierzyństwa, where specialists provided information to women on, among other things, birth control. For her progressive views expressed, among others, in "Życie Świadome" - a supplement to "Wiadomości Literackie", she was repeatedly criticised by both conservative and liberal circles.

In Krzywicka's life the war was a period of hiding under the name Piotrowska, but above all the loss of those closest to her - her elder son died due to a heart defect, Boy fell victim to the German massacre of Lviv professors in 1941, and her husband died at the hands of the Soviets probably in Kharkiv.

After the war, Krzywicka did not regain her former position because, as Aga Araszkiewicz points out, she was a figure ambiguous in terms of worldview. On the one hand, she had socialist roots, which might have appealed to the new authorities, while on the other hand, a distance appeared due to her links with the milieu of "Wiadomości Literackie" and later with the London-based "Wiadomości"[1.7]. She tried and probably found her way quite well in the new situation and, as Agata Tuszyńska writes: "Even a year and a half after Stalin's death, she declared that if it had not been for People's Poland she would have 'teetered in the gutter and then died on the corner'"[1.8].

She briefly served as a cultural attaché at the Polish embassy in Paris, and after returning to Poland in 1947, she continued her literary activities, published several novels, as well as a memoir about her father-in-law: Żywot Uczonego. O Ludwiku Krzywickim (1951).

In 1962, the younger son received the Ford Scholarship. He was accompanied in his departure from the country by Krzywicka, who settled permanently in France and did not return to Poland. After her death in Bures-sur-Yvette, her body was brought to Warsaw and buried in the Evangelical-Augsburg Cemetery.

 

Maria Antosik-Piela

 

References:

  • Araszkiewicz A., Życie świadome. O nowoczesnej prozie intelektualnej Ireny Krzywickiej, Szczecin 2010.
  • Chowaniec U., W poszukiwaniu Kobiety. O wczesnych powieściach Ireny Krzywickiej, Kraków 2006.
  • Krzywicka I., Kredą na tablicy. Wspomnienia z lat szkolnych, Warsaw 1958, p. 285.
  • Krzywicka I., Control of modernity. Wybór międzywojennej publicystyki społecznej i literackiej z lat 1924-1939, ed. Agata Zawiszewska, Warsaw 2008.
  • Osiński J., Gorszycielka II Rzeczypospolitej? Irena Krzywicka - współczesna recepcja, in: Kobiece Dwudziestolecie 1918-1939, ed. R. Sioma, Toruń 2018, pp. 211-226.
  • Irena Goldberg's student file, Archives of the University of Warsaw, ref. RP 1893.
  • Tuszyńska A., Długie życie gorszycielki, Kraków 2009.

 

The biography was created as part of the project "Polskie Żydówki dla Niepodległej" (Polish Jewish Women for the Independent), implemented with a grant from the Totalizator Sportowy Foundation.

 

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Footnotes
  • [1.1] Tuszyńska A., Krzywicka. Długie życie gorszycielki, Kraków 2009, p. 39.
  • [1.2] Tuszyńska A., Krzywicka. Długie życie gorszycielki, Kraków 2009, p. 42.
  • [1.3] Krzywicka I., Kredą na tablicy. Wspomnienia z lat szkolnych, Warsaw 1958, p. 285.
  • [1.4] Osiński J., Gorszycielka II Rzeczypospolitej? Irena Krzywicka - współczesna recepcja, in: Kobiece Dwudziestolecie 1918-1939, ed. R. Sioma, Toruń 2018, p. 211.
  • [1.5] Hemar M., Kiedy znów zakwitną białe bzy, selection and afterword by T. Szymański, Kraków 1991, p. 334.
  • [1.6] Zawiszewska A., Wstęp, in: Irena Krzywicka, Kontrola współczesności. Wybór międzywojennej publicystyki społecznej i literackiej z lat 1924-1939, ed. A, Zawiszewska, Warsaw 2008, p. 13.
  • [1.7] Araszkiewicz A., Życie świadome. O nowoczesnej prozie intelektualnej Ireny Krzywickiej, Szczecin 2010, p. 15.
  • [1.8] Tuszyńska A., Długie życie..., p. 197.
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