Cracow & its Magician

Programming / To stage – Tales

Do you know Cracow? The most beautiful and most battered city in Poland?
It is the city of the Magician.
He flies over the city, in his splendid clothes, mounted on a huge and multicoloured rooster.
He is so much older and so much more beautiful than Faust – why were it Goethe’s sad words that killed my magician?

Cracow is my grandmother’s city.
It is my only link with Poland – I won’t go, I promise.
And if I go to Cracow, I will no longer be a girl but a woman, because I will have my real name, a woman’s name, ending with an a. And maybe I will still hear my grandmother call me Balbalka.

Cracow, Poland, my grandmother, is for me the place of fables. A magical place that must not exist for me. One must not break the magic of fables, everyone knows that.

When I was a very little girl, I used to fly alone from Oran airport and visit my Polish grandparents in Paris. The fable began there. I was the only very little girl who travelled alone. So I was always invited into the cockpit. And it was my Ali Baba’s cave, all those lights, all those buttons, those strange voices that came from nowhere, and then Paris and those shimmering rivers – yes, I changed worlds and was ready to enter somewhere in the Kingdom of Poland.
It was surely a fable for Parisians to see my grandmother and me in Paris. She, with her cold-blue eyes and her face passed through the hands of the Germans, her cigarette-smoking and her extraordinary belief that she was “like everyone else” – she could never lose her accent, she never knew that you don’t say “mon brave” to a cab driver, she never knew that a single glance of hers brought those she saw underground, – there strange humans in front of her.
She sincerely thought she looked like a French farmer during the war, she had gone into hiding in the Polish maquis of Savoy. She, who was always upright and could not run away. She had gone to school by sleigh, led by her mujik. And me, lost in my mother’s black coat, with my French full of Arabic words, who refused to give her my hand – you will never do that to me. We went all the way through Paris fighting with each other. I was terrorized by this city, but to admit it? never.

We walked for days on end, the granddaughter and the great lady who had become a grandmother, both of them strangers from every point of view: she talked about Cracow, she talked about the snow and the cold that I didn’t know, she talked about faith, she talked about never putting reason before the heart.

She gave me the love of fairy tales.

She gave me a donkey’s head made of straw – an amber necklace, because they are the tears of the queen of the Baltic Sea, and queens’ tears must be honoured – and an illustrated book: The Magician of Cracow.

It is this book, this book so extraordinary, so beautifully illustrated, that I would like to see one day on a stage, for the love of my grandmother and this country that I promised to keep away from me.

It is, as you have understood, the almost eternal story of one who thinks he can play with the devil –

And the poor magician finds himself alone on his crescent moon, with a spider for company.

And frankly, between this story and that of Faust, I ask myself no questions: I choose the joy – cruel but joyful – of the magician of Cracow. I choose his colors, his incredible journey hanging on to his rooster and his little – but still – final despair, but? he hadn’t planned it all?

I am absolutely in bad faith – this story, for years now, there is my blood flowing inside. And then, it takes a few voices to remind the world of Poland’s colourful beauty.

I know, it’s such a personal article that I’ll have to take it off. But I would love to see this story, just as I had seen the stories of Arabian Nights, with such a beautiful and strange setting, and shadow puppets and puppets that you can’t even imagine how beautiful they are.

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Featured Image : The Magician of Cracow – wonderfully told and illustrated by Krystyna Turska

10 Thoughts

      1. It’s a beautiful city; maybe wait for summer, and a change of government, but if you’re able, visit it one day! πŸ™‚ I realize your grandmother would’ve been opposed to this, but I think Poland changed enough from the WWII and post-war times to give her a chance πŸ™‚ Just a visit, mind you – after all, I emigrated for a reason πŸ˜‰

        Liked by 1 person

        1. You see, it’s a real temptation for me, I would love to see Cracow for real. It’s a real temptation for me, I would love to see Krakow for real. I have to deal with my promise. I’ve already travelled 867 kilometers to get my “straw donkey head” back, which my children find horrible – while I love it. Maybe she would forgive me for breaking the promise – she never wanted to come back, it was too painful for her, the whole family disappeared in ’39.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. I think she would’ve understood, had she lived to see Poland independent and without a threat of war. But I also understand it’s not easy, breaking such promises even if your heart calls you… I’m sure you’ll make the right decision when the time comes! πŸ˜€

            Liked by 1 person

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