Józef Mackiewicz’s biography is extremely diverse. Much is said about the controversial views of the publicist, about his political beliefs and journalistic activities, but the subject of… his love is rarely discussed. This one in the historian’s life was beautiful and rich, one of a kind.
Barbara Toporska-Mackiewicz, born on August 23, 1913 in Warsaw, was a Polish writer and publicist. She became acquainted with Józef Mackiewicz while working in the editorial office of the “Słowo” magazine, where she was employed in 1934.
It was a lifelong love. The couple settled in Czarny Bór near Vilnius, where they bought a house with a garden. The life of two loving people was not strewn with rose petals. War, anti-communist sentiments and scarcity – this was the life of Barbara Toporska and Józef Mackiewicz.
“They were inseparable for almost half a century. It was a relationship of people who were extremely close, open to each other, who understood each other perfectly, but in this relationship Barbara took on the role of a person who took care of her husband and writer, who was older than her,” said Prof. Włodzimierz Bolecki in an interview on Polish Radio.
They not only formed a family, but were also the most faithful companions. Together they rowed against the current, ran away from the war and fought the communist authorities with their creativity.
At some point in their lives, they made a living selling things, while Barbara Toporska earned her home by raising her eyes in stockings. Toporska never gave up her creative work, but she could not use it to provide a decent living for her home. Living in Rome in 1945, she not only worked in the editorial office of Orzeł Biały, but also made extra money by secretary and crocheting. Later, in London, she worked as a freelancer for the section of the Polish radio “Voice of America”, while in Munich she helped create the section of the radio “Voice of America from Europe”. Although many of her articles and poems were often published in magazines in exile, it was not her work that was in the first place in her life.
“This difference between the experience of the East and the West defined the identity of Józef Mackiewicz’s writing, but there would be no writing, I think we are becoming more and more aware of it, if it wasn’t for Barbara” – emphasized in an interview with Dwójka prof. W. Bolecki. “She basically sacrificed her art – not literally that she gave it up – but it was always second to her. Józef was always in the first place,” said the guest of Dwójka.
Barbara Toporska underwent cancer surgery in 1962. Throughout the period of emigration, the woman fought the disease, underwent several surgeries, and was treated several times in sanatoriums. However, there was nothing worse than the death of her husband. Shortly after Józef Mackiewicz died, his wife also passed away. The marriage was childless.
Józef Mackiewicz and Barbara Toporska passed away in the same year 1985. Both were buried in London. The publicist’s memorial plaque states that his ashes may only be transferred to Ross Cemetery. On the other hand, on Barbara Toporska’s tombstone is written that she can rest only next to her husband.