Maria Pakulnis: a woman with a history

  • She grew up in a poor family and could not count on her parents’ support; the shy, aloof teenager did not even dream of an actress’s career
  • Thanks to the stage performances, she slowly began to overcome her childhood traumas, although over time she was labeled as an artist “difficult to cooperate”.
  • Her beautiful but turbulent marriage ended in the death of her husband, who suffers from cancer
  • Pakulnis rarely appears on screen – admitting that he values ​​peace and privacy, but is open to interesting suggestions
  • On September 23, the movie “Johnny”, in which the actress appeared in the role of Hanna, is released. “The tear-squeezing Maria Pakulnis reigns supreme in the role of a resigned actress” – wrote Dawid Dudko in a review
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An empty house, hunger and ubiquitous poverty – this is how Pakulnis remembered her childhood. My father, sent to Siberia a few years earlier, lived in constant fear and reacted to his trauma with alcohol. The mother, a terrified woman in poor health and depressed, was unable to look after the children. The future star from an early age was reliant only on herself and had to mature quickly.

My childhood is stuck inside me like a torment. I didn’t settle accounts with him. I had a lonely and adult life since I was a child

– confessed in “Gala”. Zahukana, introverted, avoided the company of her peers, choosing lonely walks, escape to the land of imagination and books. Only with time did she start to come out of her shell and join the team of skaters; in the relay she even won the runner-up in Poland. The camps where she trained were an opportunity for her to break away from the gray reality for a while, open up and start establishing closer relationships.

Maria Pakulnis in her apartment in 1987 – Marek Broniarek / PAP

Back then, no one would have imagined that Pakulnis would appear in front of the cameras many years later – she herself did not even dare to dream of an acting career. She kept aloof, did not play in school plays, paralyzed her with fear of public appearances on stage. She knew she had to earn her own living, and her parents would never pay for her college stay, which is why decided to become a nurse and chose a five-year medical high school. Then she wanted to work in the profession, help her parents and siblings.

She was persuaded to study at the PWST by a Polish teacher who noticed Pakulnis’ great talent and stated that it would be a sin to waste such a great gift. In this way, a young girl – previously practically never leaving her hometown of Giżycko – went to the capital. And there immediately won the hearts of the examination committee. Then, as she recalled, she was born again. The problem of money returned, but it soon turned out that she had been awarded both a scholarship and a place in a dormitory, so Pakulnis packed her suitcase and, relying on her fate, set off for Warsaw.

Gdynia, 1988. Maria Pakulnis during the XIII Polish Film FestivalGdynia, 1988. Maria Pakulnis during the XIII Polish Film Festival – Stefan Kraszewski / PAP

Under the supervision of experienced staff, supported by professors and colleagues, Pakulnis finally spread its wings; on the stage and in front of the cameras, she could reach for her emotions and work through them, the pain she carried within herself gave her acting depth. She took her first steps in the theater, and from there she found her way to a film set. For her performance in “Lake Constance” (1985) she received Golden Lions at the Feature Film Festival; the award strengthened her position in the industry and opened the door to a further career. However, it was quickly pigeonholed.

Already in school, I played tricks, never lovers. It seems to me that when I was born I was already old, I had an old spirit. I didn’t have such frivolity. I don’t know, I was just born this way

– she said in an interview for Dzień Dobry TVN.

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Among her most memorable roles, the character of Nadezhda Tumskaya from “Extradition” definitely stands out, a determined and dangerous woman – and viewers often perceived her through the prism of this series. Besides, not only them; Rumors began circulating in the filmmaking community that Pakulnis has a difficult character and is not easy to work with, which resulted in a decline in interesting job offers. The actress did not hide her regret because she had a problem with getting rid of this harmful label. “This is absolute nonsense, but this opinion caused professional problems“- she recalled in” Gala “.

Maria Pakulnis in a frame from the film "Bewilderment" (1980 r.)Maria Pakulnis in a frame from the movie “Oszołomienie” (1980) – INPLUS / East News

Recognition from viewers and criticism helped her survive the worst moments, although she confessed that her childhood experiences dragged on for many years and she had great difficulty rebuilding her confidence and believe in your own talent. “For me, acting is a form of therapy and an attempt to find my identity, to answer the question of who I am,” she said in an interview for Onet. Thanks to her work, she regained her will to live and she stopped worrying about everything. Her brother didn’t have that much strength – lost, oversensitive, unable to cope with problems, died of a heart attack at the age of 33.

She experienced the second tragedy in 2008, when her beloved husband Krzysztof Zaleski passed away. Pakulnis did not hide that she really wanted to have a family, to run a normal, loving home, so different from the one in which she had grown up herself. She met Marek Grzesiński, a director seven years her senior, while still at the theater school. She did not hide her surprise that the man noticed just her, a complex and unattractive girl from a small town. As reported in the newspapers, the feeling between them exploded when Grzesiński started directing Pakulnis’s diploma performance. Finally, however, the actress had to admit that this relationship was a mistake – Grzesiński did not think about stabilization and put his job first. Her broken heart was put together by Krzysztof Zaleski, a colleague from the industry. His marriage with actress Krystyna Wachelko-Zaleska was coming to an end, although he himself did not want to divorce for his daughter. Until he met Pakulnis.

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At first, they both resisted the emerging feeling, but the long hours spent talking about art, shared interests and mutual fascination made they no longer wanted to lie to themselves. Zaleski asked his wife for a divorce and later married Pakulnis – and soon their beloved son was born.

This love was not easy. The spouses quarreled more and more often, Zaleski even moved out of the house and got into a relationship with another woman. With time, however, they recognized that they could not live without each other and began to repair their relationship. They succeeded, but fate was not kind to them. Soon Zaleski was diagnosed with brain cancer and, despite the quick intervention of doctors, the actor died. After his death, Pakulnis confessed that he was the most important man in her private and professional life. “I can call him my master,” she later said in an interview for Polish Radio.

Piece "Parole".  In the photo: director Krzysztof Zaleski and Maria PakulnisThe play “Word of Honor”. In the photo: director Krzysztof Zaleski and Maria Pakulnis – Ireneusz Sobieszczuk / PAP

Heel she never fought for roles in subsequent films, had no clout, did not appear at industry parties. She considered herself a theater actress; she appreciated more work on stage with outstanding artists, experiencing the emotions that went along with it, and contact with the audience. This meant that for many years she appeared mainly in television productions, and usually in episodic roles on the big screen. You could see her in the series “Osiecka”, where she played Maria, the poet’s mother.

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She values ​​peace above all else. After her husband’s death, she started to exercise, meditate, bought two Siberian cats – Fyodor and Vera – and spends her free time contemplating the beauty of nature and gardening. AND although she loves this silence and loneliness, in an interview with “Viva!” admitted that she would gladly come back in front of the camera:

I have experienced so many things, I have done so many beautiful things, also professionally, that I do not have to pass an exam for anyone anymore, because I am still alive, holding up well and … waiting for suggestions.

Pakulnis’s dreams came true – she returned to the big screen as Hanna in “Johnny” by Daniel Jaroszek.

“Johnny” is a story based on true events that touches and inspires. Told from the perspective of Jan Kaczkowski’s charge, Patryk Galewski – a boy who did not have an easy start in life. “Despite the mistakes that a novice director makes, it is a cinema that has all the makings of a box-office hit” – wrote Dawid Dudko in Onet.

Very well played – apart from Ogrodnik and Trojan, reigns tear-squeezing Maria Pakulnis in the role of Hanna’s resigned actress.

Patrick breaks into a cottage in a small town. The court’s verdict orders him to work in the hospice in Puck, where he meets the extraordinary Fr. Jan Kaczkowski. The clergyman engages young boys from the vocational school, seemingly tough rebels, in helping the terminally ill. In his work, he focuses on closeness, tenderness and the fight for relationships with other people. It teaches empathy. And he does it with a wholesale amount of humor, which is gaining immense popularity. Soon after, Jan becomes a patient of his hospice himself. Patryk is put in a situation that will change his whole life.