Elżbieta Czyżewska and Jerzy Skolimowski loved and hated each other. The truth about their relationship came to light years later
“He appeared in them as the main actor, and three different female roles were performed by Czyżewska on a friendly basis and free of charge, changing wigs and make-up. When Skolimowski finished school, it turned out that all his short films made up a full film” – wrote Zygmunt Kałużyński about “Rysopis ” in the book “The New Wave Floods the Cinema”.
All their friends knew that the aspiring director and the actress, who had already achieved a lot of achievements, fell in love with each other. However, no one expected that they would spend the rest of their lives together, because – as he claimed Andrzej Łapicki – they created an “explosive mixture”.
“They suited each other, but they argued constantly. Elka was not easy, and neither was he,” Łapicki recalled in a conversation with the author of Czyżewska’s biography, Iza Komendołowicz.
Skolimowski was Elżbieta Czyżewska’s first great love. She called him her husband until the end of her life, although they never actually decided to get married.
“We were not married. It was actually a very casual relationship. But it was explosive,” said the director in an interview for “Gazeta Wyborcza” a few years after the actress’ death.
The fact is that in the early 1960s they were considered the most beautiful couple in the Polish People’s Republic show business. It was an open secret that Elżbieta had occasional side trips, but George forgave her infidelity because he loved her more than anything.
“Skolimowski was the person more involved in this relationship. He attached great importance to Elżbieta’s appearance, he believed that she always had to look good. Those around her even claimed that he was the one who ‘created’ Czyżewska, and she probably played her best roles when she was in a relationship with him” – we read in the chapter of Sławomir Koper’s “Zachłanne na Życie” dedicated to the actress.
People who were friends with Czyżewska and Skolimowski when they lived together in the director’s tiny studio apartment at Górczewska Street in Warsaw recall that Elżbieta and Jerzy alternately loved and hated each other. The so-called the community knew that there were cosmic quarrels behind the closed doors of their apartment. The biggest one broke out when the actress started an affair with Andrzej Łapicki to take revenge on her partner because – in the words of one of her friends from those years – “he was not willing to legalize the relationship.”
Skolimowski’s reluctance to get married was apparently the reason for the breakdown of their relationship. One day, Elizabeth simply packed up and moved out. Neither Jerzy nor the actor’s wife could forgive her for becoming Łapicki’s lover. Zofia Chrząszczewska-Łapicka was one of the people who reported Czyżewska to the communist Security Service. A note by Łapicka is still kept in the IPN archives, which states that Elżbieta was an “ordinary whore”.
“This proletarian will do whatever she wants, she will not hesitate to use any method. She lived with Ford, she lived with Kutz, now she is sleeping with my Andrzej. It is very good in an environment to sleep with fashionable men. She is even more dangerous than Beata Tyszkiewicz” – Zofia Chrząszczewska-Łapicka told the SB agent.
Jerzy Skolimowski couldn’t get over the fact that Elżbieta was teasing him with Łapicki, and even more so the fact that she was taking her affair with her lover really seriously.
Everyone – except the director – knew that Czyżewska and Łapicki met for their tête-à-tête in the actress lent by Kazimierz Kutz apartments near the Student Satirists’ Theater, on the stage of which Elżbieta performed every evening.
“And Skolim was flying around Warsaw with a knife, looking for Elka. Finally, he caught her at Agnieszka Osiecka’s and from her I got this message: when pale Skolim stood on the threshold with a knife in his hand, murder hung in the air. He ordered her to return home immediately. When she heroically refused, significant words came out of his mouth: “Ela, you are making the biggest mistake in your life, you don’t abandon a genius” – we read in Kutz’s book “Spanking and Cutting”. My film alphabet and more.
Elżbieta Czyżewska did not return to the director, even though her affair with Łapicki ended soon after it began.
When in 1965 the actress married the New York Times correspondent – an American journalist of Jewish origin, David Halberstamem – the Security Service thoroughly examined her love life and took a closer look at all the men with whom the actress had anything to do with.
In the IPN archives there is still a file called “Bulwa” (this was the nickname given to Czyżewska by the security service) with descriptions of the actress’ love adventures. From it you can find out who the STS star had an affair with after breaking up with Skolimowski and before marrying Halberstam (the list of her lovers reportedly included Zygmunt Kałużyński, Igor Śmiałowski and Edward Dziewoński).
Shortly after Elżbieta’s husband was expelled from Poland for publishing an article in the New York Times defaming Gomułka, the actress also emigrated from the country. Her marriage to David lasted 12 years. After the divorce in 1977, the actress did not let any man into her life.
Meanwhile, Jerzy Skolimowski – humiliated by Czyżewska – found comfort in the arms of the young actress Joanna Szczerbic, who, as he well knew, had been in love with him since she first saw him in the corridor of the film school. They married in 1965, and two years later they went to France together. They were married for a quarter of a century and had sons, Michał and Józef.
The director’s second wife was producer and screenwriter Ewa Piaskowska, 35 years his junior. They are still together today.