January 4th marks ten years since Dorota Terakowska passed away. She was an outstanding writer, whose books have been loved by a few generations of young readers.
She was born in Krakow on 30 August 1938. She attended the Musical Secondary School and the Joteyko Secondary School from which she was expelled for lack of discipline. She passed her final high school exam at the High School for Adults in 1955. She defended her MA in sociology in 1965. In the years 1965-1968 she was a researcher at the Institute of Culture and Sociology at Pod Baranami Palace. In the years 1969-1981 she was an editor and journalist at Gazeta Krakowska (she resumed her job in 1991). For many years she was also a contributor to Przekrój (1976-1989) and Zeszyty Prasoznawcze (1983-1989). She was a co-founder and collaborator of Czas Krakowski (1990), as well as Deputy President of the Przekrój Journalists Cooperative (1995-1999). She was a member of the Polish Journalists Association (1971-1981), the Polish Writers Association (which she joined in 1989) and the Union of Polish Stage Authors and Composers (which she joined in 1982).
Dorota Terakowska’s friends and readers who had the opportunity to come closer to her at numerous author’s meetings remember her as a very outgoing and spontaneous person. She was simply Dorota – this is how she wanted to be addressed to whoever she met on her way. She replied to every reader’s letter. She was passionate and eager to pursue her many interests. She was able to draw inspiration from every situation. She adored new challenges. The best evidence for this is the fact that she started her writing career relatively late, after forty, and successfully developed throughout her fifties.
After publishing Guma do żucia (Chewing Gum) (1986), she devoted herself almost entirely to literature. She was an author of books for children and youngsters which are also enjoyed by adults.
She received three awards from the Polish Chapter of IBBY – the International Board on Books for Youngsters – for her novels: Córka czarownic (The Daughter of Witches) (1992), Samotność bogów (Loneliness of Gods) (1998) and Tam gdzie spadają Anioły (Where Angels Fall) (1999), as well as an award for the best-selling book for children in 1995 for Lustro Pana Grymsa (Mirror of Mr Gryms) and for the Best Book Spring ´98 for Samotność bogów. In 1998 she was nominated for a Polityka Passport. Her books Ono (It) and Władca Lewawu (The Ruler of Lewaw) are now set texts at schools.
She was still brimming with creative ideas when she suddenly became terminally ill and passed away on the 4th of January 2004.
Dorota Terakowska was married to the renowned documentary-maker Maciej Szumowski, and the mother of the filmmaker Małgorzata Szumowska and the journalist Katarzyna T. Nowak, whose book Moja mama czarownica. Opowieść o Dorocie Terakowskiej (My Witch Mother. A Story of Dorota Terakowska) saw print in 2005, published by Wydawnictwo Literackie. Dorota Terakowska was also a model for the leading character of Małgorzata Szumowska’s famous film 33 sceny z życia. (33 Scenes from Life).
Dorota was, first of all, a Person. Very well defined, decisive, clear-cut. She was young – in her case counting age in terms of calendar years did not have any sense; I knew her for many years, but she didn’t age, she was simply heading forward. What I liked best about her was that she was always open to novelty, exhibiting her curiosity of the world with nonchalance. She also had a rare feature among writers – she fulfilled herself in face-to-face contacts with her readers. I know that anecdotes and stories about her still circulate among many provincial libraries. They are full of warmth and appreciation, she is still present in them as if she were to re-appear with her new book.
Olga Tokarczuk about Dorota Terakowska
Although 10 years have passed since the writer’s death, her books still enjoy great popularity. Without exaggeration she may be called a phenomenon of the Polish publishing market. Terakowska’s novels are regularly re-issued by Wydawnictwo Literackie and immediately disappear from bookshelves. This confirms the class of her writing and shows it has stood the test of time. Dorota Terakowska was never a fashion victim, neither in her life nor in her books. She wrote about important things, with empathy and understanding.
Photo: from the author’s archive