This day had to come, but we were always convinced that it would be in a few years' time, not now. There were so many things to be done, so many movies, exhibitions, initiatives and meetings. In 2016 alone: the opening, after so many years, of the Hutten-Czapski Museum in Kraków, a jubilee symposium at the Jagiellonian University, the Scoring for Wajda concert, the vernissages of Manga drawings, an impressive gala at the festival in Gdynia accompanying Afterimage... new publications, records and projects that he supervised. And hundreds of drawings to which he returned after many years and which he spent numerous hours of work on every day. In the autumn we were to have a talk on the idea of a grand exhibition organised by the National Museum in Kraków and the National Centre for Film Culture in Łódź. This was to be the magnum opus of a grand artist, one of the most important masters of the 20th century and ambassadors of Polish art across the world.
Everyone will remember Andrzej Wajda in their own way. The motif of death, present in his works, was especially appealing to me. Not melancholic evanescence, but sudden death that sends you to your knees, captured in a spasm, just like in Wróblewski's paintings, usually marking the life of the young. Andrzej Wajda saw himself as a depositor of memory for those who did not survive wars, uprisings and persecution. He stood for the living, was passionate about youth, and was always seeking contact with the times he lived in, or even exceeding them. Yet looking across modern times he remained in half-shadow, accompanying those who died in the rubbish heaps, sewers and sordid death rows. With his talent and diligence, as a film and theatre director, the head of a film studio and a teacher engaged in political and social affairs, a defender of the principles of democracy, he compensated for many of those who did not have the chance to create.
He directed with a pure feeling for the form. He ignited the greatest talents for acting, film operation, stage setting and composition, like a magician combining the ingredients of a magical substance in ideal proportions. He created modern works with vast artistic impact, plastic dynamics, great rhythm of editing and very unappreciated narrative virtuosity because Andrzej Wajda was not only Polishness, romanticism, history and myth, but also a Hollywood genius of staging with fantastic intuition in adding an epic character to particular images.
We are filled with grief for this day. We begin to realise that not only has the greatest film director died but also one of true geniuses of the 20th century. In recent years so many have passed away: Miłosz, Lem, Różewicz and Konwicki. Wajda was still with us, persistently underlining what is most important in these hasty and disturbing times. Recently, during conversations, he would stop, fold his arms and lower his head. Krystyna Zachwatowicz, who stood by him, always livened him up with an anecdote, new plans or the opinion of an Internet user, enchanted by seeing "Piłat i inni" on YouTube, which she had just read on her smartphone. "It's all OK," he used to say "but do hurry. I don't have a lot of time left." Now, we will have to arrange everything without him.
The National Centre for Film Culture