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Benjamin J. Falk
Helena Modjeska, Polish actress
Private collection of T. Max Hochstetler
(12 October, 1840 - 8 April, 1909)
Modjeska was acclaimed "the greatest Polish actress" by the press and audiences at the Warsaw Government Theaters (1869-1876). Her stage
name "Modjeska" was adapted from the surname of her first husband Polish actor, Gustaw Zimajer; referencing the "couple Zejewscy." After a second marriage to nobleman, Karol Chlapowski at Krakow in 1868, she gained reputation among the social elite of Poland which magnified her career on stage. A skilled actor, she appeared in plays by: Slowacki, Schiller, Dumas, Ibsen, Shakespeare, and others. She immigrated with her husband to the United States in 1876, residing in Anaheim, California. Continuing her stage career she appeared in the leading dramatic theaters (New York, Philadelphia, Boston, Washington, Chicago, Washington, and San Francisco). Modjeska toured London in 1880, 1881, and 1885. Her continued success (206 tours) provided her own theatrical troupe and a private railroad car for her comforts traveling America. She became a US citizen in 1883, but continued to return to her native Poland for performances. She was publicly honor at the Metropolitan Opera House in 1905 at the arrangement of her friend, Ignacy Paderewski. She ended her acting career in 1907. Modjeska died in California, and was buried according to her wishes at
Rakowicki Cemetery in Krakow, Poland.
Arthur Inkersley "Modeska's Life in California." Overland Monthly LVII (2), pages 178-185. February 1911.
Doreen Carvajal "So Whose Words Are They? Susan Sontag Creates a Stir." May 27, 2002. New York Times Book Review.
[provided by Max Hochstetler, June 2, 2008]