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Eminent Polish Actor
Receives 2020
Modjeska Prize

By on May 9, 2021

LOS ANGELES, CA – The Board of Director of the Helena Modjeska Art and Culture Club in Los Angeles, a 50-year old Polish cultural organization in California, is delighted to present its annual Helena Modjeska Prize for the year 2020 to distinguished Polish actor Andrzej Seweryn. This presentation took place on January 2, 2021 in a virtual format, using Zoom. It included an extensive interview with the distinguished guest, conducted by a noted Club member, well-known Polish actress Katarzyna Smiechowicz. Club President, Dr. Maja Trochimczyk and Board Member Anna Sadowska presented the Prize from Dr. Trochimczyk’s California garden.   

Among the most successful Polish actors, Seweryn starred in over 50 films in Poland, France and Germany. The current General Director of Teatr Polski in Warsaw, he is among an elite group of only three foreigners accepted to Comédie-Française. His critically acclaimed film and theater roles gained him multiple honors and awards, such as   He visited the Modjeska Club several times, most recently in 2017, when Andy Dowen was the president, and Ewa Barsam hosted the event in her elegant residence.  In 2003, he received the Cavalier Cross of the Order of Merit from the Polish government in a ceremony held in Santa Monica. Club President at that time, Ms. Jolanta Zych, also received this distinction from the hands of the Consul General of the Republic of Poland. At that time Mr. Seweryn was visiting California and lived permanently in France.

During the event, Mr. Seweryn discussed his career highlights and challenges, artistic interests, and insights about the professional training and skills of actors.  He commented,” I am honored to be able to talk to you, and that I have the honor of receiving this extremely important award today. I know something about the fate of an actor, an actress who works not in his or her own language, not in his or her country. Naturally, it is difficult to compare my life to that of Modrzejewska, I would never dare to do something like that, but I know what it means to work in a different environment. I do not know how many times Ms Helena Modrzejewska had to repeat the text before entering the stage, but I assure you that it could have been many times; for me – a few thousand.”  Remarkably, Andrzej Seweryn achieved a feat practically impossible for a foreign-born actor in France: he was admitted to the Comédie-Française) and received  Légion d’honneur for his contribution to French culture in 2005.

The Modjeska Prize presentation included also a diploma and a huge bouquet of roses, with flags of Poland and the U.S. presented on camera to the eminent actor.  Maja Trochimczyk, Club’s President, stated: “It is a great honor for us, here in California, to have such an incredible friend in Poland, and to have been visited so many times here in Los Angeles to witness his talent in person.  We also know and admire his films and TV roles. Few of our members have ever had a chance of attending his performances in Poland. We are in awe of the breath of Mr. Seweryn’s knowledge: not only the expertise in acting techniques, but also the whole scope of world literature, from Shakespeare, to Moliere, to Mickiewicz, and Witkacy… Mr. Seweryn’s has achieved so much in one lifetime, we’d have to split into several lives to match it.”   

In 2010, in order to commemorate its patron, Helena Modrzejewska (Modjeska) and honor the achievements of outstanding artists of Polish stage, the Club established an annual award for lasting contributions to Polish culture in the field of acting: “The Modjeska Prize.” The Modjeska Prize is designed as a “life-time achievement” award and includes a crystal statuette and a diploma. In October 2010, the distinguished Polish actor Jan Nowicki received the first prize. In 2011, the prize was awarded ex aequo to actors Anna Dymna and Marian Dziędziel. In 2012, Barbara Krafftówna was the laureate. In 2018, the Club honored with the Helena Mojeska Prize its long-time Honorary Member, eminent actress Jadwiga Barańska. In 2019, the award was given to two actresses from the Polish Theater in Toronto – Agata Pilitowska and Maria Nowotarska. In 2020, Andrzej Seweryn was the recipient of this important award.

In Photo: Anna Sadowska and Dr. Maja Trochimczyk

One of the most successful Polish theatre actors, Seweryn starred in over 50 films, mostly in Poland, France and Germany. He is also one of only three non-French actors to be hired by the Paris-based Comédie-Française. He is currently serving as director general of the Polski Theatre in Warsaw. Seweryn was was born on 25 April 1946 in Heilbronn, Germany. His parents, Zdzisław and Zofia, were captured and forced into slave labor in Germany during World War II. After the birth of Andrzej, they returned to Poland. In 1968 he graduated from the National Academy of Dramatic Art in Warsaw and worked at Teatr Ateneum where he continued to act until 1980. Already in the 1970s he gained much fame following his appearance in numerous films directed by Andrzej Wajda, notably Without Anesthesia, The Promised Land and the Man of Iron. For his role in Wajda’s 1980 Dyrygent Seweryn received the Silver Bear for Best Actor at the 30th Berlin International Film Festival. In 1980 Seweryn also made his stage debut in France following the staging of Wajda’s interpretation of plays by Stanisław Witkiewicz at the Théâtre Nanterre-Amandiers.

The imposition of the martial law in Poland in 1981 found Seweryn in France. A sympathiser of the outlawed Solidarity, he decided to stay abroad and settle in France. With time he also applied for French citizenship. During his stay in France he collaborated with some of the most renowned theatre directors. Among them were Claude Régy (La Trilogie du revoir and Grand et Petit by Botho Strauss), Patrice Chéreau (Peer Gynt by Ibsen), Peter Brook (The Mahabharata), Bernard Sobel (Nathan the Wise by Gotthold Ephraim Lessing, The Good Person of Szechwan by Bertold Brecht, Tartuffe by Molière), Deborah Warner (A Doll’s House by Henrik Ibsen), Antoine Vitez (L’Échange by Paul Claudel), Jacques Rosner (The Cherry Orchard by Anton Chekhov and Breakfast with Wittgenstein based on a novel by Thomas Bernhard), and Jacques Lassalle (Jedermann by Hugo von Hofmannsthal and The Misanthrope by Molière). Since 1993 he has performed in Comédie Française in Paris (receiving full membership in 1995, as the third non-French in the history of that theatre) and taught at the Paris Conservatoire. In 1996 he received Witkacy Prize – Critics’ Circle Award. For his contribution to French culture in 2005 was awarded with Légion d’honneur, in addition to Ordre des Arts et des Lettres and Ordre national du Mérite.

Andrzej Seweryn appeared in over fifty motion pictures, most them Polish, French and German productions. He has portrayed the French Revolutionary leader Maximilien Robespierre, in the film and mini-series La Révolution française (1989) a.k.a. (The French Revolution). His 2006 film Who Never Lived was entered into the 28th Moscow ; International Film Festival. In 2016, he won the Best Actor Award at the Locarno International Film Festival for the film The Last Family. His awards include: Silver Bear at the  Berlinale International Film Festival (1980); 1994 – Grand Prize at the International Film Festival in Cairo; Knight’s Cross of the Order of Polonia Restituta awarded by the President of the Republic of Poland (1997); Order National du Merite for contributions to French culture (1999);  Légion d’honneur for his contribution to French culture (2005); Golden Medal Gloria Artis – Merits for Culture  (2006); The Icon of the Polish Cinema / Ikona Polskiego Kina (2016) and many honors and recognitions.

KATARZYNA A. SMIECHOWICZ sometimes acting as Kasia A. Leconte is a Polish actress who has been working in Poland and the USA. Katarzyna started her artistic career as a teenager studying acting with many excellent teachers. Initially, she was involved in ballet and theater; over time film and television have become the closest to her heart. Her passion for ballet and poetry turned to acting when a respected Polish actor, Wirgiliusz Gryn, discovered her acting talent and convinced her to pursue acting as a profession.  Residing in Los Angeles since 2000, she studied acting at the Beverly Hills Playhouse and at the Margie Haber Studio. Throughout her career, she has appeared in over 30 feature films and television series having worked with such directors as Steven Spielberg, Krzysztof Krauze, Jacek Bromski, Tomasz Konecki, Andrzej Saramonowicz, and Olaf Lubaszenko.  Beyond film and television, she has portrayed many great parts on stage, including Katharina in Shakespeare’s “The Taming of the Shrew”, and Roza in Juliusz Slowacki’s “Lilla Weneda.” Kasia’s U.S. theater debut was in the leading role of Carrie in “Cafe Hollywood.” In addition to acting in many critically acclaimed roles, Smiechowicz has written scripts and worked as a voice-over actor. She is the President of the Film and Television Studio Kasia Films, through which she aims to create international productions. She is also known for her charity work for the sick and those in need. Katarzyna constantly supports and promotes Polish culture in the USA. With a home on both continents, but a husband in the U.S., she spends most of the time in Los Angeles, but works both in Europe and the States. Her husband Dominik J. Leconte is an executive at Sony Pictures. On July 3rd 2010 Kasia and Dominik welcomed their identical twin boys, Antoni and Fabian at the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. The multi-talented 10-year-old sons are gaining recognition as child actors and models.

Established in 1971, Helena Modjeska Art and Culture Club is an a-political organization, dedicated to the promotion of the Polish cultural heritage, as well as Polish arts and sciences in California.  As a public benefit California nonprofit corporation, the Club sponsors important cultural events in Los Angeles and its environs. The Club is named after Helena Modrzejewska (Helena Modjeska), a famous Polish actress who emigrated to California in 1870s and toured the US in many plays by Shakespeare and others. 

During the past fifty years of its existence it has made a significant contribution to the enrichment of the ethnic mosaic of Southern California. Financed by membership dues and individual donations, the Club invites eminent guests from Poland and organizes meetings with artists, actors, film directors, scholars, journalists, musicians and government officials. It presents concerts, film screenings, performances and exhibitions. The Club organized hundreds of cultural events, among them public meetings and interviews with distinguished representatives of Polish arts and sciences (including Nobel Prize winner, poet Czesław Miłosz and Oscar winners, directors Andrzej Wajda and Janusz Kaminski); lectures by eminent scholars, politicians, and athletes (e.g., Prof. Leszek Balcerowicz; and Irena Szewińska, Olympic medal winner); film screenings; classical music and jazz concerts; as well as presentations of theatrical plays, and cabaret shows. Thousands of Southern California residents, including Americans and Polish-Americans, had an opportunity to participate in the Club’s events.

For its activity in promoting Polish culture, the Club and its volunteer presidents have received numerous state awards from Poland, including the Medal from the Minister of Culture of the Republic of Poland „For Meritorious Contribution to Polish Culture” for the club and over 20 of its past presidents and board members; as well as the 2009 Special Award from the Union of Polish Stage Artists. The Modjeska Club’s founder actor, director and writer Leonidas Dudarew-Ossetyński received posthumously the Cavalier Cross of the Order of Merit of the Republic of Poland in 2012.  An album about the history of the club is in preparation.

More information about the Modjeska Prize for Andrzej Seweryn

Link to the YouTube Video of the event:

Submitted by Maja Trochimczyk, Ph.D. President
Helena Modjeska Art and Culture Club