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Home arrow Autobiography arrow 1965-1970
1965-1970 Print

1965 In the spring I switched to the class of another painter, and my health improved. After we had run out of money, father took the job of director of PWN (Scientific State Publishers).

1966 Odile invited me for the summer. I described life in her village and my hitchhiking in search of Gothic cathedrals in Letters From a Journey. In the fall we had to choose a new class. Soon I infuriated my new professor, an abstractionist. I was his only female student and the only one who dared to paint small figurative gouaches. At Christmas I met Helmut Kirchner, a student of physics at the University of Cambridge. He was only a year and a half older than I, but had already hitchhiked to Afghanistan and back. We began to correspond.

1967 In March Letters From a Journey, my first major piece in Polish, were published in the Warsaw magazine “Ty i Ja”. Our dean let me organize an independent student show. In May work by two fellow students and myself was displayed on the staircase of our department. The daily „Express Wieczorny” gave us a good review. My brother passed the university entrance exams for physics as one of the best. In the summer Helmut and I hitchhiked to Sicily. In the fall I was forced to leave the department of painting for the department of graphics. I found myself in a poster class and realized that I would never be able to do posters. But I became interested in lithography and developed my own technique.

An anti-Semitic campaign started with an attack on my father’s publishing house. He ended up in the hospital with a heart attack, was told of his serious condition, but refused to go to a sanatorium. In December he flew to Budapest to attend a book fair.

9 December 1967 Father died of a heart attack in his hotel. That day I was working in the ceramics studio and could not be found. So Peter was taken to Budapest to fetch the body. He returned in a state of shock. He became convinced that father had not died and was waiting for him together with our dog.

A sculpture professor let me make a stele for father’s grave. After the clay relief had been cast in bronze, the cemetery notified me that its art commission wouldn’t allow the erection of a project „which does not do justice to the character of the deceased and was executed by a non-member of the Artists Union”. Mother and I wrote to the Minister of Culture. He granted the widow “special permission to decorate Comrade Kuryluk’s tomb with his daughter’s handicraft”.  

1 Father kisses the hand of his dead mother Lucy, January 1967 Photo: Family Archive | 2 Father with Zaza, December 1967 | 3 Woman with a Bird, bronze, 1967, detail of Father’s stele at the Powazki Cemetery in Warsaw | 4 Women in Mourning, Lithograph, 1967 | 5 Couple with a TV, Lithograph, 1968

1968 Many old friends broke with us. But we acquired a few new ones. Exceptional friendship was extended to me by Mieczyslaw Porebski, our art history professor. He encouraged me to embark on an M. A. thesis on Viennese art and literature around 1900, and pressed for my return to the department of painting.

8 March 1968 Police attacked university students, Peter included. He rushed home bruised and overexcited. All night he was running from his room to mine, crying: “We are alone with a crazy mother in a barbaric country. What will happen to us? ” His suffering was growing. Voices and visions prevented him from sleeping, eating, studying. He did nothing except read science fiction books. He wanted to “emigrate to the moon”.

Mother played the piano or shouted SS, Gestapo from under her desk where she was hiding. The lack of money mobilized us. Mother started giving German and French lessons. Dr. Fritz Cocron, the director of the Austrian Reading Room, acted nobly. He knew about mother’s illness, but kept inviting her. He made us gifts of foreign food and employed mother first as a teacher of his children then as a librarian, offering her the only proper job in her entire postwar life. My typing skills came in handy. The translator Edda Werfel employed me at the office of the German edition of „Poland”: a propaganda monthly published in many languages. Together with Anna Porebska I translated Kunstgeschichte als Geistesgeschichte by Max Dvorak into Polish, together with my brother The Art of America by F. J. Dockstader.

A Warsaw Publishing House asked mother to put together a memoir on father’s life. She signed the contract to be the book’s editor and asked his friends to contribute. One of them mentioned that during the Nazi occupation father „helped Jews” and described the story of a young woman whom he had picked up from a park bench, and who „now lives in Warsaw”.

The colors of my pictures turned darker. I painted grotesque portraits and landscapes: cities in ruin, heaps of garbage, masses of antlike creatures and giants; bodies in surgery rooms, body parts in torture cells, dead couples, and the globe falling apart. Jean Adhémar bought my lithographs and etchings for the Print Collection of the Bibliotheque Nationale in Paris.

1969 No independent activities took place at the Academy. But I participated in a group show at the Medical Students’ Club and had my first personal show at the Academy of Music. I visited Helmut and took my work to England. Several prints were acquired by the Kettle’s Yard Museum in Cambridge. A London gallery offered me a show. Peter gave up physics. The conflict between mother and him made our life miserable. I convinced him to switch to German. He passed the entrance exams at the University of Wroclaw.

1970 In May my exhibit of paintings and prints opened at the Woodstock Gallery in London. Nobody knew about it in Warsaw, where I received an M. F. A. in painting and an M. A. in art history. In July I left for Cambridge. One day Peter called me there. Upon his return from Wroclaw he had found mother in a state of madness, and had her interned at the Tworki Psychiatric Hospital. In the fall I brought her to England. The phone rang again: Peter had been brought to the same hospital.


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