- January 4, 2013
Wincuk with smiley face goes through life
Wincuk’s (or Dominik Kuziniewicz’s) concerts do not need any advertising. For the two upcoming concerts in the Polish Community Centre in Vilnius, which will take place on the 20th of January, the tickets sold like hot cakes. Lucky are the ones who can get a ticket for the evening gig at 6 p.m., because all the tickets for the 3 p.m. gig have already been sold out.
It is always like that when Wincuk steps on stage in an old fox-disguise, wearing his hat at an angle. And he addresses the audience with a smiley face, “Hello my sweethearts!” He has been doing this for thirty years. This year we observe an anniversary of our Vilnius raconteur’s artistic activity, which will be celebrated on the 20th of January, and by all means on stage. The scene is his life. He has spent 42 years performing on stage and, as he says, if God blesses him,he will celebrate his golden anniversary in eight years’ time.
Today, he is happy that his theatre character Wincuk, who was born 30 years ago, celebrates his 30th anniversary. Dominik Kuziniewicz began his “acting career” in the school no. 11 located on Krupnicza Street, where short plays such as “Hansel and Gretel” or “Red Riding Hood” were performed. Then, his Maths teacher, Mrs. Łucja Noniewicz, who played in Railwaymen Club’s Theatre, encouraged Kuziniewicz to join the group. He did and stayed there for 17 years.
“My first role was Trufaldino in ‘Servant of Two Masters,’” says Dominik. “It started here, in a theatre. I was spotted, as I say, by my “godfather”, a famous Vilnius poet Romulad Mieczkowski, who now lives in Poland. At that time he was working for radio and he offered that I read stories. During the first year, I was reading texts written by the late Stanisław Bielikowicz, and when I had read them all, I was forced to write my own, slightly playful, texts,” says Kuziniewicz.
How many of them did he write?
“I haven’t counted so far,” he says and adds, “You know, we will do it now.” A few minutes later he begins to count. One performance per week since 1984. 50 gigs per year, so about 10,000 tales were collected. But there were many more tales, because Dominik Kuziniewicz had been working for Polish broadcast in the Lithuanian National Radio for 28 years and also, 6 years for Radio from Willia. We got confused in our calculations but we came to a conclusion that Wincuk could go down in the book of records, as there were no there was no other storyteller neither in Poland nor in America or in the pre-war Vilnius who would be active for so long. Let’s go back in time, when Kuziniewicz worked in the Polish Theatre, run by Irena Rymowicz. At that time, he played Jan Zagłoba in “Zagłoba the matchmaker” based on Sienkiewicz’s works. There, Kuziniewicz met his second Polish “godfather” Władysław Strutyński.
“Thanks to my ‘godfathers’ I was reborn as a storyteller. They encouraged me to continue the tradition of Vilnius folk bard, Stanisław Bielikowicz, who performed under a stage name Wincuk Dyrwan – he came from Święcian and lived in Lidzbark Warmiński. It’s easy to say ‘continue’. But new texts were needed. I didn’t take them from a true good life,” says Kuziniewicz with a smile on his face. “Our dialect dies out. It is replaced by a language mixture, there are more and more Russian expressions, and only a few know the real Vilnius dialect. Fortunately, I’m not alone. Ania Adamowicz helps me.”
We began talking about Vilnius dialect, which Dominik knows very well. He has his personal opinion about it. “Of course, some things are stylised, there isn’t 100% authenticity, but they are not taken out of my head either, though some people say that I speak in order to give pleasure. I got to know the dialect from my parents, especially from my mother who came from Širvintos district municipality; precisely from Musniki which is located near the former Polish – Lithuanian border. So I learnt all the words and phrases from my mother who interlarded her ‘Vilnius’ Polish with them. And what about my “talking” – my grandfather Wincent, whom I don’t remember very well and after whom I took my stage name, was this sort of village storyteller,” says Kuziniewicz. When Wincuk steps on stage, his performance is always cheerful and amusing, however, life does not pamper the audience’s favourite. He knows what misery and worries are. He prefers not to talk about them but for almost 20 years he has been taking care of his ill wife Maria who cannot walk; and because of diabetes, he has lost his leg and uses an artificial limb.
In March, even though he was on a wheelchair, he gave a performance during the annual Kaziuk fair in Lidzbark Warmiński which he considers his second home town. His faithful stage partner auntie Franukowa – Anna Adamowicz – with a charm of a kind village woman took care of him during their performance in such a way that not all the viewers noticed that his leg had been amputated. Later, people who adore him came to his aid, and came up with the idea to organise a concert – ‘Wincuk’s big come back.” Performers from many artistic groups, who travelled with Wincuk throughout Lithuania, Poland, England and the USA, decided to hold a concert in order to help him. The Polish Community Centre took the responsibility for the organisation of the concert; a lot of artists volunteered to take part in the show.
Nevertheless, the motherland was the most helpful, and when we talk about Poland, Dominik puts Lidzbark Warmiński in the first place. There, he experienced so much warmth, kindliness and support, especially from Jacek Protas, the marshal of Warmian-Masurian Voivodeship, Artur Wajs, the mayor of the town, and from Jolanta Adamczyk, the director of Community Centre. Dominik says that even his mother wouldn’t be able to do so much as those people did for him. ”I have relatives in Gdansk, but I do not have as many ‘relatives’ in any other city as I do in the Warmian-Masurian area. Every time I come there, people greet me as if I were a family member.” Dominik has many friends, not only in this town or in Poland. He loves people. He can’t live without them. This is why, he desires to be on stage as often as he can to show his gratitude to these people.
He says in jest, “For those who like me, I want to show that I’m alive, and for those who don’t like me (There’s no man on earth loved by everyone!), I want to convince them that I’m not done yet…” Many music bands, fans of his artistic work, and old and new friends are going to come to the 30th anniversary concert (whose schedule is kept in secret). We reveal the names of two foreign music bands which Vilnius audience will have a chance to see during the concert. The first is “Slawianskij Styl” from Minsk and Kapela Warszawska from Targówek. We will write about them after the concert has taken place. Dominik and auntie Franukowa are going to host the concert.
Tłumaczenie Patrycja Olszówka w ramach praktyk w Europejskiej Fundacji Praw Człowieka, www.efhr.eu. Translated by Patrycja Olszówka the framework of a traineeship programme of the European Foundation of Human Rights, www.efhr.eu.