Małopolska is a woman. About the famous ladies of Małopolska

A portrait of a woman with big blue eyes and red hair.
Małopolska is a woman, and women also create its history and give it a flavour. Brave, beautiful, talented, with character. Each different, original, fighting for their place in history, and in salons, for the possibility to pursue their passions, as well as for memory. They left behind paintings, sketches, poetry, houses and stories. It is worth setting out in their footsteps, and not only on Women's Day.

Antonina Domańska. The Lady of the Yellow Slipper

She had a sense of humour, connections in the art world and a writing talent. The aunt of poet Lucjan Rydel (she was the Counsellor from Stanisław Wyspiański's "The Wedding"), she specialised in historical novels and poems for young people. Her "King Sigismund's Pages" and "The History of the Yellow Slipper" were excellent reads, full of amusing stories, which at that time delighted children. Domańska posed as a noble matron, but she had much curiosity about the world and a desire to describe it (which she also did in her diaries, fragments of which appeared in "Echo Krakowa"). Kraków's artists gathered around her, though not only artists. Henryk Sienkiewicz lived in her house, the first brick villa in Rudawa. Interestingly, he later moved there with his wife, and it was there that he wrote some of his novellas and a few chapters of his novel "Whirls". Every morning, Sienkiewicz was brought milk by Staś Tarkowski, a local boy. As you remember, this is the name and surname of the character in "In Desert and Wilderness."


  • Rudawa, a villa at the junction of Domańska and Sienkiewicza Streets
  • Rudawa, a cemetery, Staś Tarkowski’s grave

Maria Kasprowiczowa. Simply the Muse

She loved life and herself, and infatuated generals and artists. A wealthy Russian, General Viktor Bunin's daughter, dreaming of romance, she became Jan Kasprowicz's third wife. For the Russian upper classes, a marriage between a general's daughter and a peasant's son was considered a misalliance; from the Polish perspective, a relationship with a "Muscovite" was interpreted as betrayal. On their honeymoon the Kasprowiczs went to Poronin and later moved into a house in Harenda on the Gubałówka slopes. Maria continued to write "Diaries", and was not afraid to discuss intimate topics. She also designed fabrics and continued to make men fall in love with her. However, after her husband's death she became a faithful guide to his work. She built a mausoleum for him and tried to create a Kasprowicz museum in the villa.


Faustina Kowalska. A sister known worldwide

She was not educated; she was not particularly distinguished, except for her freckles and blonde-red hair. Also, she always wanted to serve God. Did she know that the name she received in the Congregation of Our Lady of Mercy means 'happy'? Probably not. She was ill, worked in the kitchen and at the wicket, and was sometimes persecuted. Nevertheless, this ordinary nun was given the mission of proclaiming God's mercy, about which she wrote in her "Diary". Sister Faustina lived for five years in the convent in Łagiewniki, where her relics rest. There is also the world-famous Divine Mercy Sanctuary, to which pilgrims from all over the world flock.


  • Kraków, the Divine Mercy Sanctuary in Łagiewniki
  • Kraków, the Cebulski Publishing House at Szewska Street, where the first pictures of The Merciful Jesus based on Sister Faustina's revelations were published
  • Kraków, St. Mary’s Church, where  Sister Faustina prayed
  • Kraków, the Chapel of the Sacred Heart of Jesus at John Paul II Hospital on Prądnik, where she prayed during her hospital stays

Olga Małkowska née Drohonowska. An emancipist and farmer’s wife

Together with her husband Andrzej, she created the Polish scouting movement. She had dark eyes and hair, a fatherly character and a belief that women should rule the world. She was a poet and sculptor who loved swimming, horse riding and skating. Born in Krzeszowice, she lived in Lviv, where she took part in the first scouting courses and later became the first girl scout leader. In 1913, she left Lviv and went to Zakopane to cure her lung disease. She led women's scouting there, and after the outbreak of World War I, she organised a scout post, an orphan asylum and canteens. Together with her husband, Andrzej Małkowski, they gathered weapons in the Nosal massif and the Kościeliska Valley since they wanted to create the Republic of Podhale. Due to this activity, they had to flee from Poland. In 1921, a few years after her husband's death, Olga returned to the Tatra Mountains and continued her social and educational activities. Among other things, she managed to open the Dworek Cisowy in Sromowce Wyżne, which became an experimental school for the sick and those at risk of exclusion, and also an instructor school for girl scouts.


  • Sromowce Wyżne, the Cisowy Manor House
  • Olga Małkowska's Hermitage on Lake Czorsztyńskie
  • Zakopane, A new cemetery, Olga and Andrzej Małkowski’s grave

Miriam Akavia. A Kraków child

She remained silent for 30 years about the ghetto, the Holocaust, the Death March, and fear. Then she began to write so as not to forget about Kraków, her family, her pre-war friends, the war, pain and death. She never wrote a happy and cheerful book. Before the war, she lived in a beautiful tenement house at 47 Łobzowska Street, attended a Polish school named after Teofil Lenartowicz, and laid the Piłsudski Mound. She learned tolerance and openness from her parents. Miraculously, she survived the Kraków ghetto, then the Płaszów, Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen concentration camps. After the war she settled in Israel. She thought she would never come back to Kraków, but she could not expel it from her life. Hence, she returned to build bridges and fight the stereotypes dividing Poles and Jews. She became the honorary president of the Israel-Poland Society.


  • Kraków, Miriam's house at 47 Łobzowska Street
  • Kraków, Teofil Lenartowicz Primary School No. 72
  • Kraków, the Piłsudski Mound
  • Kraków, the Bohaterów Getta Square
  • Kraków, Kazimierz
  • Auschwitz-Birkenau

Lina Bögli. A conqueror of the world

In July 1892, she stood on the platform of Kraków railway station, saying to herself: "Yes, seriously, I will try to go around the world!". A lonely woman with a few banknotes saved from her boarding school salary, when women did not yet have an independent social standing, when the aeroplane had not yet been invented, and the car was just a box on wheels compared to a coach. "I am leaving my dear old Kraków and this in the hope that I will welcome it again in ten years," Lina Bögli wrote. She was not just a dreamer; she was a woman that made those dreams come true. A pioneer of solo expeditions and a traveller who fascinated women. Lina Bögli circumnavigated the world in ten years with no money but with great faith that the impossible did not exist.

The poor Swiss farmers' daughter soon became an orphan and had to earn her living and education. She became a governess first in Naples and then at the Sczanieckis' manor house in Kwiatonowice, near Gorlice. This brave woman, unhappily in love with a Polish officer, began her expedition. From Brindisi, she sailed to Australia and further via Tasmania, New Zealand, Samoa, Hawaii, California, the East Coast of the United States, and Canada. She returned to Kraków after ten years, precisely on the same day she left. She settled again in Kwiatonowice and wrote a book about her journey, which became a bestseller (its Polish edition was published in 1908 under the title "Avanti. Letters from a journey around the world').

In Switzerland you can visit the Liny Bögli Centre in Herzogenbuchsee


  • Kwiatonowice (the Gorlice District), the Sczaniecki Manor House

Maria Pawlikowska-Jasnorzewska. Sappho from Małopolska

In the famous Kossak family she was called Lilka. She was a girl who liked to paint nymphs and sylphs, play with colours, and dream. Nonetheless, painting was the passion she followed from the very beginning. Only that Maria did not want to paint horses but elephants - at least that was her irritated reply when asked if she was following in the footsteps of her father and grandfather. Raised in the Villa Kossakówka in Kraków, where the most important artists met, she could not imagine any other path but art. Her paintings were full of symbolic content and plants. Maria's failed relationships proved to be a source of inspiration for her poetry, for which she is known today. Her volumes earned her the name the Polish Sappho. Pawlikowska created her own style, appreciated by Żeromski, Przyboś and subsequent generations of female readers.


Magdalena Samozwaniec. A woman from hell

Mischievous, cheerful, quite good looking, she was regarded as the less capable daughter. Kornel Makuszyński jokingly called her a rascal in a skirt. She could not keep her mouth shut, she could make fun of anyone, but people adored her. She was born into the Kossak family; her grandfather was Juliusz, her father was Wojciech Kossak, and her sister was Maria (later known as Pawlikowska-Jasnorzewska). She was fluent in several languages, played poorly on instruments, and did not like to exercise, but she showed up in the company of Hemar or Tuwim. Her novel "On the lips of sin. A novel from the life of high social circles" became a bestseller. She was able to laugh at the vices of the aristocracy and landed gentry she knew, at their snobbery and cynicism. Her environment and even her family cursed her. She was called a messenger from hell, which made no impression on her. She continued to revel in Kraków's cafes, ordering coffee and a shot of vodka.


  • Kraków, 4 Kossaka Square, Villa Kossakówka

Wisława Szymborska. The Noble Prize winner from a Kraków housing estate

She liked the word tights, discretion, buying kitschy souvenirs, and taking photos next to boards with strange place names, e.g. Pikutkowo, Donosy, or Hultajka. She disliked publicity, interviews and fame. She called the day she won the Nobel Prize for literature the Stockholm tragedy. She smoked like a dragon and held famous raffles in her house where very useless prizes could be won. Everybody knew that she wrote, but almost nobody knew that she did charity work. Szymborska lived in a house with 600 drawers and a place where she could make her meticulous collages. She did her shopping in Nowowiejski Square, although she did not know how to cook. Therefore, when she wanted to have dinner with essential people vying for a meeting, she would go to the most Cracovian of Cracovian restaurants - Jan Baran.


  • Kraków, 22 Krupnicza Street, the legendary Writers' House, where she lived with her husband Adam Włodek
  • Kraków, 46 Piastowska Street, her last address in Kraków
  • Kraków, the Pod Baranem Restaurant, where she ate and ordered strogonov for her famous dinners
  • Kraków, Nowowiejski Square, where she did her shopping
  • Zakopane, the Astoria Creative Work House, where she learned about the Nobel Prize

Helena Modrzejewska. The best actress in the world

Her life is almost a Hollywood story about how a poor girl, who did not even know her father's name, became famous on both continents and as an excellent star went down in theatre history. She was so convincing that she brought tears to the stages of American theatres while reciting the multiplication table or the Polish alphabet in Polish. She was called the best Shakespearean actress globally, although they could not even say her name. She had charm and the ability to move hearts. Modrzejewska, or Modjeska as she simplified her artistic pseudonym, was already a legend during her lifetime, and her roles took America by storm. “An absolute frenzy swept over everyone," wrote Henryk Sienkiewicz after her appearance on stage at the California Theatre.


  • Kraków, 22 Grodzka Street, where she was born as Helena Jadwiga Misel
  • Kraków, 7 Świętego Jana Street, a girls’ school run by the Presentation Sisters
  • Kraków, the National Old Theatre, where she performed
  • Kraków, the Juliusz Slowacki Theatre, where she performed
  • Kraków, Villa Modrzejówka, 14 c Mazowiecka Street, where she lived
  • Kraków, the Rakowicki Cemetery lane 54, the north row

Helena Rubinstein. Chaja who conquered the cosmetics world

She was born in Capricorn on 25 December as Chaja Rubinstein, probably in 1872, because the question of age and origin was one of her favourite lies for the rest of her life. "I always thought that a woman should be ambivalent about her age," she nonchalantly confessed in her autobiography, written towards the end of her life. She liked stairs, high heels and curvaceousness. She was stingy and profligate and good-natured, but witch-like. Biographers still cannot establish the basic facts of the life of one of the richest women in the world, who owned the most expensive shops and beauty salons on several continents. "There are no ugly women, only lazy women," she said as she set out to conquer Europe. She conquered both Europe and the whole world. The city forgot about Chaja Rubinstein from Kazimierz in Kraków, just as she wanted to forget about the poverty and sadness of her childhood. Today, a memorial plaque on the family house, and the name of the hotel in the tenement at number 12 are reminders.


Ata / Ama Zakrzewska. Red-haired beauty from Kraków

Who was the famous red-haired woman from Teodor Axentowicz's paintings? Tadeusz Boy-Żeleński wrote about her and her sister: "Pretty Nata, pretty Ama, but the most beautiful mum", while Kraków added: "Poor Ama, poor Nata, but the poorest dad." The beautiful Zakrzewski sisters were the muses for Young Poland painters and poets. Boy-Żeleński went on to write: "Ama and Nata Z., the poetess of Kraków, at first beautifully dressed children, whose beauty made the whole city proud, then young maidens, disturbing with their virginal-challenging-cum-warming beauty. The older one, Ama, was repeated dozens of times by Axentowicz in his ‘heads’; he squeezed her like a lemon. Their later marriages were very characteristic: Mama married them abroad, one to an Italian prince, the other to a Russian prince. Mum is said to have lived on the Riviera until now. They were in love with her en masse in that era when there were so few women that there were ten sighers for each one, and what sighers they were!"

Ata is the Red-Haired, Spring, Femme Fatale, Girl with a jug in Axentowicz's paintings. How did she survive her time? We do not know much about her, and maybe that is a good thing because by looking at her portraits, everyone can add to her fate on their own.



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