As the message of Malgosia’s death reached me on Monday, June 23, I was returning home to Germany from San Diego, planning to go see Malgosia in a few days in Warsaw. I had just received Dharma Transmission from my teacher, Nicolee Jikyo Mc Mahon Roshi, in California on June 20, and I had been very sad not to be able to be with Malgosia in the hospital and also sad that she could not be present at my transmission. But she had written to me, “Too bad it is so far and yet so close. I love you.“ and no more words were needed.
Malgosia was one of the most important people in my life. She was not only my older sister on the Dharma path, she was also like a beloved real sister to me and a dear, dear friend. Almost always when I called her, she would say, “I just thought of you,” and vice versa.
I met Malgosia and her husband, Andrzej Krajewski, in the early 1990s in Warsaw. Since 1982, I have lived in Germany, I had to leave my native Poland when martial law was imposed, and so now when I visi Warsaw, I always spend time with Malgosia and Andrzej. Every year my daughter and I have spent our summer vacation with them by the Polish sea. And after the sudden death of my husband 10 years ago, Malgosia and Andrzej came immediately to Germany and supported me tremendously in those tough days and after.
Malgosia and I also shared our artistic path as actresses. We had studied at the same school, the State Theatre Academy PWST in Warsaw, although Malgosia was there before me, as she was 13 years older. She became a very famous film actress in Poland, and then stopped acting at the peak of her career in the early 1980s. I remember our meeting with our mutual teacher, Professor Rena Tomaszewska, who said to us, “It is great you both are doing your Zen business, but don’t forget acting.” And Malgosia did not. When she returned to acting in the late ’90s, she was “free from acting,“ not playing, but rather being whatever she played. She was authentic and humble. And people loved her for this.
For me, Malgosia was a walking heart! With a wonderful sense of humour, her laughter was very infectious. She was seeing and listening with her heart! I experienced many times how she was listening to people, to her family, to her students, to her friends. She was always interested in what others had to say, she was very compassionate and very often forgetting herself. I remember many times when complet strangers on the street would speak to her as if she were a member of their family.
It was very important for me to watch how she combined Zen practice and family life, teaching and acting. She was my older sister on the way, opening new roads for many of us as a powerful Zen teacher, woman, wife, mother, grandmother, social activist and — not to forget — clown. In her zendo in Poland, she opened the space for children. She brought along her daughter, Orinka, and then many other parents and children followed. Catherine Genno Pages Roshi in France opened the same possibility for people with children. That’s how I could walk this road with my daughter, Noemi, since she was a small child.
To you my dearest sister Malgosia, I miss you very much! I still hear your voice and your wonderful laughter. I can see you in my heart, beautiful and radiant. Thank you for all these precious years we could share. I celebrate your very rich life and pray for your safe passage to the other shore.