Józef Mackiewicz was distinguished not only by his rich political life, but also his private life. However, the deepest feeling, after the two biggest unsuccessful relationships, he had for Barbara Toporska. They met in the editorial office of the “Word” newspaper – one could say that they were united by their passion for writing. Although there are some doubts as to whether they managed to enter into a formal relationship, it cannot be denied that they were united by a special feeling.
The first wife of Mackiewicz was Antonina Kopańska – a teacher with whom he got married in 1924. Their daughter Helena was born, but the relationship broke up after a few years. Later, he briefly was in a relationship with Wanda Żyłowska, with whom he had a daughter Idalia. Despite the difficulties in the relationship with their mothers – Mackiewicz never forgot about his daughters – he financially supported them, sent parcels (moreover, it was Barbara who was responsible for sending parcels and letters as well as Christmas cards). He met Barbara around 1935, when he was struggling with a slight existential crisis. The games he had been playing in pubs so far stopped amusing him in any way, he wrote: “Always the same company and hackneyed conversations. (…) It smells sour from the kitchen. Stuffy, smoky, drunk and boring”. It was then that Barbara appeared in the team of the “Word”, who breathed new life into him. This opinion was shared by Karol Zbyszewski, who in the text “Józef Mackiewicz on a daily basis” recalled: “The youth of war, the monotony of the angle of the Vilnius region, dislocated Józio. He drank indolently, he was lazy and bearded. Fortunately, Barbara Toporska came from Poznań. She became his second wife and remade him, saved him. Józio settled down, started to travel, fly all over Poland and write reports. Good, better, the best.”
The relationship of Józef and Barbara can be considered as a full partnership. The writer’s provocative and controversial activity was somewhat dangerous, but Barbara supported him in all of this. Is it the case of the house in Czarny Bór, which was bought with her money; or was it when moving from Rome to London, where the source of income was the physical work of his wife, while Józef sought to establish himself as a journalist. They also experienced the greatest period of poverty together during their stay in Munich: “Having stayed in Munich for a few good years, they condemned themselves to a life mainly on writer’s salary, while such a life in the West for an immigrant writer was almost a suicide.”
Barbara always stood firmly with her husband, defending him from all slander. In the introduction to his book, “Facts, Nature and People,” she wrote about him: “Józef Mackiewicz was almost an institutional defender of the wronged and injured. It had nothing to do with socialism, nothing to do with “social justice.” It was about political justice. Even shortly before her death, already seriously ill, she wrote a letter in the 5th issue of “Kultura”, in which she defended the truth about their lives.
The couple were to be buried together in the Rossa cemetery, on one condition, included in Barbara’s will: “Under any circumstances, I forbid transporting the urn with my husband’s ashes to the PRL or the Soviet Vilnius. It is to remain in the crypt of Andrzej Bobola’s Polish church until his hometown is freed from the communist regime.” Both of them landed in London and stayed there.
1. Grzegorz Eberhardt “Pisarz dla dorosłych. Opowieść o Józefie Mackiewiczu”
2. Karol Zbyszewski “Józef Mackiewicz na co dzień”
Translated by Joanna Zawalska