Migratory childhood

09 December 2015

Noble Prize winner Isaac Basevish Singer, herald of human passions and turmoils of fate, claimed that there is no better bringing up then a poor childhood. Krzysztof Kieślowski without any doubt had just that.

He grew up in modest apartments and group sanatorium rooms; in towns where the devil says goodnight, among provincial alleys and cobblestone streets, where horse-drawn carriages where more common then off-road jeeps. Many things he couldn't afford, about many more he couldn't even dream, but claimed he didn't feel poor. Not just because back then he was not surrounded by the rich.

Krzysztof Kieślowski was born on the 27th of June 1941 in occupied Warsaw. -I don't know where we lived, what we did during the war – confided the director. In his mind eye he can just see images of the journey: luggage, trains, behind him furniture...
In the mid 1942 the growing occupational terror urged the Kieślowski's to leave Warsaw. They moved to the Carpathian town of Delatyn (today – Ukraine) by the river Prut. They remained there for less then a year. In the winter of 1943 they moved to Podole. They settled in a small town of Skałat (now a part Belarusian territories), inhabited by Poles, Ukrainians and Rusyns.

In February 1944, when the west bound, Germany supporting Red Army (1st Ukrainian Front) reached the eastern boarders of pre-war Poland, the Kieślowskis said goodbye to Skałat. Their destination was Strzemieszyce – a large settlement, pre-war a part of the Polish Zagłębie, bordering with German Lower Silesia, they mostly traveled by train. It was home to the parents of Roman Kieślowski, and the young couple rented a room in an apartment house on Kościelna street.

In March 1944 in Strzemieszyce Krzysztof Kieślowskis sister – Ewa – was born. The father of the future director became one of the first officials of the newly appointed temporary Municipal Board. Not for long. Soon the Kieślowscy packed their belongings and set off on another journey. They left the train on a busy train station in Głubczyce, where they found housing. They lived close to the city center, in an old post-German villa surrounded by a garden.

Mid 1946 Roman Kieślowski took a management position in the first municipal construction company. Later he was sent to supervise an investment in Koźl, located 40 kilometers from Głubszyce. Krzysztof Kieślowski attended kindergarten on Kręta street; in September 1948 he started primary school. Truth be told, at first school came to him. Since he was often sick with the flu, and suffered from chronic cough, for a year a teacher came to his house.

18 may 1950 he took first Communion, as noted in the Głubczycka parish of Najświętszego Serca Jezusa documentation.
Not long after he was admitted to a children preventorium in Wisła, being in at high risk of tuberculosis. This time apart from his family was the first of many.

Krzysztofs parents lived at the time in Leszczyny near Rybnik. They tried to settle down there, but in mid 1951 they moved to Sokołowsko, where Roman Kieślowski was treated for tuberculosis. They left this sanatorium town after less then a year, only to move back soon after, leave again and in the end settle there for longer.
Their first apartment was in a building on Słoneczna 3. Krzysztof attended the local primary school. On his 4th grade graduation diploma grades ranged from very good to good, with one sufficient – singing class.

The future directors father was let go from his job due to relapse of tuberculosis. This time around treatment lasted twelve months, and took place in multiple facilities – including one in Siewierz. The family didn't own a home, the only income being the fathers rent, since Barbara Kieślowska also lost her job. For over a year they lived apart, everyone somewhere else. Krzysztofs mother circulated between her husband, children and mother-in-law. She traveled between Sokołowsko, Skrzymieszyce, Rabka, Bukowina Tatrzańska, Wisła and Warsaw, where she had a brother and cousin. They remained connected by postcards and letters, that they wrote on a regular basis.

Krzysztof Kieślowski started the 1952/53 school year once again in Sokołowsko. A picture from 1952 shows his speeding on his bicycle, his feet off the pedals, one foot on the upper frame, the other high up in the air. Another photo shows his father, when 42 years of age, attempting the same stunt with lesser results. Yet another photo captured the image of Roman sitting on the handlebars, attempting a 3 person ride on the same bike - with his son and daughter. This was one of the hallmarks of happy childhood moments in Sokołowsko.

By November 1952 Krzysztof Kieślowski moved to his grandmothers house, and by winter was admitted to the „Zagłębie“ preventatorium in Bukowina Tatrzańska. By fall 1953 he was treated in the renowned spa for children in Rabka.
That same year the Kieślowscy returned to Sokołowsko. Roman Kieślowsi was hired and given corporate housing, while his wife found employment in the sanatorium catering department. The family resided in a two floor tenement house on Główna 22.

Krzysztof attended sixth grade primary school – with breaks for treatment in the preventatorium – in Mierosz, located 6 kilometers from Sokołowsko. He finished school in 1955, with only very good grades on his diploma.

He felt all grown up. He looked up to his friend Skowron, who was a stoker in one of the forty sanatorium boiler rooms. Kieślowski wanted to follow in his footsteps. He thought he knew enough, and didn't plan to continue his education. With great effort his parents convinced him that before he joined the workforce he should learn a trade. His father enrolled him in a fireman school in Wrocław. Krzysztof endured only a few months: I understood that I couldn't do several things related to the regulations, with trumpets, with whistles.

Leaving fireman school was the first clear sign of his individualism. For several months he remained at a loose end, with no specified interests. In September 1956 he enrolled in the nearest evening high school – in Wałbrzych.
He attended the school for nearly a year. He commuted from Zagórze, where his parents rented a cheap room for him.

In the summer of 1957 he dropped out, without finishing first grade. Years later he explained: A certain professor, that everybody feared, summoned me to his office and after looking through my bad chemistry grades said: - would have been better for you to be a fireman! I promised myself that I would never allow myself to be in such a humiliating situation ever again. Never again...
As a result, two years after graduating primary school, he was still without high school education; two schools didn't suit him; he was at a loose end. None the less an opportunity arises to change his situation. This opportunity was called …Warsaw and its theater school - Państwowe Liceum Technik Teatralnych. Kieślowski was accepted without passing exams as the Kieslowskis relative was a vice-director of PLTT – Kazimierz Pręczkowski.

In October 1957, 16 year old Krzysztof Kieślowski left Sokołowsko. For ever.

Stanisław Zawiśliński

More info about biography of Krzysztof Kieślowski :
S.Zawiśliński : "Kieślowski- ważne,żeby iść" (pub.Skorpion ,2005; II edition, 2011)/only in polish/



Financed with subsidy of The Ministry of Culture and National Heritage of Poland