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Brigitte Helbig-Mischewski, Ewa Kraskowska

One day in Pozna?, or how Maria Komornicka became Piotr "the Changeling” W?ast


Our presentation will be devoted to one of the most controversial and mysterious Polish women authors who in many ways embodies the key idea of our conference - transgression. Maria Komornicka (1876-1949) gained literary fame as a poet in her early youth. Together with two more experienced (male) colleagues (C. Jellenta and W. Na?kowski) she published an artistic manifesto entitled Forpoczty (Front line troops; 1895), thus establishing her position in the intellectual and esthetic Polish avant-garde of the time.

During her short time as a student at Cambridge she met young English women and developed a sceptical attitude towards what she saw as their superficial emancipation. Back home she soon became notorious for her unconventional behaviour and a stormy relationship with her husband Jan Lema?ski. In June 1907, while travelling with her mother to a seaside spa, she stopped for one night in Pozna?, where in a hotel room she burned her female clothes and started to call herself by the male name of Piotr Odmieniec W?ast. From then on her life was a long, sad journey through various asylums and family estates, finally ending in 1949 in a rest home.

SvD, November 2012

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