Lovely, Human, True, Heartfelt (excerpt)

Lovely, Human, True, Heartfelt (excerpt)

BY Alina Szapocznikow

The previously unpublished correspondence between one of the great women artists of the twentieth century, Alina Szapocznikow, and an eminent critic and museum director, her fiancé, then husband and friend, Ryszard Stanisławski

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[23 December 1948]

Łódź, ThursdayRysiu, my darling.
I arrived this morning. I just sent the packages, which they promised me would still get there by tomorrow. I have such a muddle of impressions that I really cannot manage to come to any sort of definitive conclusion.
The sight of you in the “departing” window, then the journey, in the company of a Polish priest from Corsica and a Russian civilian emigré now returning home (a citizen of the USSR). Then Prague, and I am cold, sad, hungry, and then the Polish consulate and now leaving on a Polish train. Later a conversation with the conductor, who is “against”, and the civilian, who is “pro”. I was proud of the train, of the elegance of the conductor’s manner, of the Polish customs officials and their Polish
peaked caps.
The trip to Łódź in a 2nd-class compartment with three gentlemen, of whom one (electr. eng.) talked about neckties, vodka, about his life as a “man of the world”, while the two others conversed in muffled voices about the improvement of the day nursery at their factory and about the better medical care for the women who work there that they needed to organise.
Łódź — I am proud of its riches, people are disheartened.
Greetings from my mom.
And suddenly I am so tired. I will write a letter to your father, as well. Forgive me, Ryś, this awful light blue paper, but it’s all I’ve got.
And I miss you so much, Rysiu, would we could share every little sensation. I turn around and say, “Look at that, Ryszard.” And in the semidarkness of the compartment I caressed my shoulder in order to ferret out the shape that you discovered there. It was your hands that discovered me, and beneath them my body takes on a reason for being.
I was crossing a white plain, outside there was a dry, sharp wind, the gals’ breath billowed out from beneath the scarves they were wrapped up in, the fellows were clapping their arms against their sides, and even the horses breathed out white steam. And above the white snow the sun rose completely pink or the sky did, and it looked just exactly like the cheap kitsch they sell.

Lovely, human, true, heartfelt: the letters of
Alina Szapocznikow and Ryszard Stanisławski,
, ed. Agata Jakubowska, Katarzyna
Szotkowska-Beylin, translated by Jennifer Croft
Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw, 2012
It’s completely light out by 7 a. m. here. We are closer to the sunrise.
Rysieńku, at least write to me, because I need you so much. And I’m accruing so many kisses inside that I don’t know if you’ll be able to bear it?!?
Ryś, kiss me, just because you want to.
Is it cold there, too. How are you handling it?
Are you not cold at night? Please take care of yourself.
Mietek’s sister wrote that she will be in Łódź for the holidays, so she is going to come over.
I am sending the card.
How is Mietek?
Describe your holidays to me.
Be well and take care. I’ll write you a more ordered letter. [...]
Describe everything. Did you get the metro home?
What about Chaleriere? the meter? the sun?

Your Alina

My mom sends her regards.

[note in the margin:]
Here I feel like I would like to give everyone a big hug just for being so Polish (do you know what I mean now?)

[25 December 1948]

Łódź, Saturday evening, Christmas DayYou can’t imagine, Ryś, how much I wanted last night, on Christmas Eve, the evening you were so afraid of in Paris, for you to be here with me, and how sad and pining I was that we were not spending it together. People going for their “Christmas Eve fish”, the mood on the street one of excitement. I was going to the restaurant down Piotrkowska with my mom when we heard a burst
of joyful exclamations (all in Polish), and all around us people kissed one another, hugged each other, and wished each other well. Everything Polish is like that, in Poland and on the whole in a state of well-being. An overview of them “looks” impressive: people really are almost all of them nicely, even elegantly and richly, dressed. The ragged children and the unfortunate scraggly uniforms of men demobilised have all disappeared somewhere. The shops are full and… people are buying. Even the ones (and maybe especially the ones) that complain the most. And they complain as per usual
and diversely. Like the old doctors saying that they know how it’s going to look, all the same…
And the workers that… “You know, doctor, so many children, all the things to get, and how am I going to buy the little buggers their shoes on these wages.”

And students, admittedly the future, work, free higher education, but… if they send somebody abroad, it’s only the ones on the inside, etc., etc., we’ve heard it all before. Though even Mietek (the student dandy, “the beaut”) “must admit”. It’s actually more like he doesn’t admit, though, when he tells me all about that “exam pork”, about American jazz at the Club, about organisations
based on something other than what those “idiot” collaborators base theirs on. Because in fact they have everything here. Rysiu, really, all the good books are getting published here, whether they’re by Albert Camus or Vera Panova.

Although people really are afraid to talk about the currency, about the war, about anti-government movements, but… they all yammer on somehow nonetheless.

And really in Polish Ryś and life is lived in Polish here. I breathe like a fish in water and… cry. Is this ho-hum feminine mawkishness? But of course, I am a woman (Are you aware?) And Władek bathes Andrzej and combs his hair, gives him his necktie, and the little one is proud he’s like his dad.
While Adam sits with Krysia “at theirs” under the Christmas tree (for that matter that couple is 100% activist in the leftist youth organizations). With them it’s all Polish, all the way, they go to Zakopane, they gather, and they build, Polishly. I can’t quite figure out how to describe it to you.

They opened up a film school here sort of like how it is in Paris. The best Italian and French directors came here, because in fact they’re communists, and in their countries they don’t have anything to do, while Poland provides them with terrific living conditions. And they brought in their wonderful Western craft along with them.

Once more Poland is a bridge between East and West.

Rysiu, there is a need, a need for good people here, people of your profession don’t exist here. But those people must know that you have to work within a state and for a state where there is a great constructive and revolutionary social transformation taking place. Rysiu I’m sorry I’m writing chaotically and so messily, but the force of sensations mixes me up a bit, and besides it is
late now, and I am very sleepy.

But I had to speak with you a little bit, because suddenly I was so strongly reminded of our moonlit night in the atelier. That is no doubt sufficient, and I will say no more on it. I think you know we have to get through this bad time, I think you know the way we’ll live. Our home in Poland, and us, us together always as close as that night, when we were bluish-white and drowned in the moonlight
and in the pleasure of us. Us Ryś – us both in us.

I’m sending you Wiech because on the other side you have little notes on the visual arts in Poland. There’s also an exhibit of Dunikowski in Warsaw, and I’m thinking of going in a week.

I already wrote to your father. If Mietek sends you money, then I would ask you to please not buy anything for me, but instead 450 gr = 9 pelotes of black wool, normal weight, for my mom for a sweater, and send it to me, please. But first and foremost look after yourself.

I’m just so ashamed to live here in such a state of wellbeing when I think of you.

Rysiu, write to me about everything. Remember, hang in there bravely, in any case I believe in your convictions (that they are sincere).

I haven’t dared for the time being to tell my mom about anything, […] because it would be too great a blow for her, when after all she knows that I love you and that we live together (she puts all her romantic faith in you, which I perpetuate and am afraid to destroy). […]. Rysiu, at this point I sometimes really know that you will be my life’s companion. Ryś, there is enough room here for
the caresses of all our nights and days. I send you them