- May 22, 2013
Joanna Moro: I am a Polish girl from Vilnius. I’m proud that I come from Lithuania.
Six months ago nobody knew about her, now 6 milions people watch her on tv every Friday. „They don’t watch me, they watch Anna German. They get emotional because of her story”, Joanna Moro said. The same story changed her life and brought her popularity. She has a hard time dealing with it now. Joanna’s modesty and her good Lithuanian upbringing don’t fit with the world of celebrities. The actress talks to Beata Biały about taming Poland, lessons where she learnt how to sing like Anna German and about why she is still not able to spend money.
Two months ago, nobody heard about her. Today, everybody asks who is this 28 year old who they love as a great Anna German. Joanna Moro was born and raised in Vilnius. But at home she didn’t speak Lithuanian – her parents are Polish. She had to learn Lithuanian at school.
For a long time she wanted to be a florist. As a young girl, she run on the meadows around her summer house in Wołokumpie, picked up flowers and made bouquets. After her matura exams, she decided she wanted to be an actress. She hasitated between studying in Moscow or in Warsaw. She got into the Theatre Academy on a first try. She came to Poland and felt like she was different. She wanted to be liked and accepted by everyone. Today, she is pretty confident and says with pride: „I’m from Vilnius”.
She has been living in Warsaw for ten years. Her home, family, two kids are here. She got the role of a lifetime here. Now she is working on an album with Anna German’s songs.
Twój STYL: You are more popular then the celebrities from Dancing with Stars. Can you go to grocery store or for a walk with your children?
Joanna Moro: I thought I could, but yesterday I got a call from a biweekly paper: „We have your photos with your husband and kids from the walk in the old town”. I wasn’t even aware the pitures were being taken. „Probably they were being taken covertly”, they explained. I got scared because I understood that my sudden popularity will affect my family. „I don’t give a permission to publish it”, I said. I don’t plan on being a celebrity. I am a bit intimidated with this popularity too. I get embarrassed when someone asks for my autograph. I don’t feel like I deserve it. I still need to learn a lot. Because what did I do in life to give autographs?
First, you won the hearts of 22 millions of Russians and now every Friday you bring 6 millions of Poles in front of the tv.
That’s because of Anna German. I resemble her.
A little-known actress got the part that stars were fighting for. How did you manage that?
I found out about the casting by accident. A friend, also an actress, visited me a day before. „So you know nothing about it?”, she was surprised, „They are looking for a Russian speaking actress”. At that time, my mom was visiting us from Vilnius. „Mom, some German”, I said. „German?”, she asked delighted. „Look her up on the internet!”. I’ve read on Wikipedia that she was a Polish songstress. I called the production office, but the list of the actresses they were considering was already full. Suddenly, I started to care. „I resemble Anna German. I have a Russian soul, I speak Russian and I’m a tall blonde.” I said. I added me at the end of the list.
Is it true that you have never heard about German before?
Before the screen test, I started looking for more information on the internet, I wanted to know something about Anna. I stumbled upon her hit „Człowieczy los” (The human fate) and I fell in love with it. I remembered my grandpa who had a very difficult life. He was paralyzed for ten years, but he smiled every day. Then I found out from my grandma that it was my grandpa’s favourite song. But I don’t think I sang it well during the casting.
So why did they choose you?
Maybe they saw the truth in me? I played a scene where my character is in a hospital and she learns that she will never walk again, her finace assures her that he won’t leave her. At first, I played with ‘spirit’, because I was there in addition. And suddenly, Szymon Sędrowski came in. I fell in love with him instantly, truly. I knew he was the only one who could play Anna German’s husband. I cried my eyes out when he was kissing my legs and assuring me: „Ania, you will be walking, I love you and will never leave you.”
An Ukrainian producent has a similar vulnerability, sensibility and now I think that was what captivated her about me. Back then, I didn’t feel even a shade of approval. „They will reject me, for sure.” I thought. But they called me up again. There was a director Waldemar Krzystek in the room. I’ve met him when I was auditioning for ‘Mała Moskwa’. I guess I didn’t do well, because Krzystek gave the role to a Russian, Swietłana Chodczenkowa. „I think we know each other.” he said when he saw me. „This is the actress who took a bike, was late and didn’t learn her lines.” he joked.
Were you afaird of portraying German? It’s difficult to live up to a legend, I think.
Before the shoot, I’ve met up with her husband Zbyszek Tucholski. I was afraid of his reaction. It’s been a long time since Anna died, but for him she is still alive. Mr. Zbyszek hasn’t agreed for the film for a long time. I mean, he hasn’t agreed for the film crew to use in it the song ‘Człowieczy los, it’s Anna German’s composition and he is the only one who has a right to it. We’ve met in a cafe in Żoliborz. I was greeted by a handome, elegant man. I think that despite his age, he is still attractive to women.
I was impressed with our conversation – he is very intelligent. He tried to talk about everything, but next to him I realized who little I know, I’m not ready to talk about so many subjects. „God, what a parochial goose I am”, I thought. And then, I panicked: „How will I portray Anna, smart dignified? She had to be like that if she lived with such a man.” I was scared: „I won’t manage to do it.” But Mr. Zbyszek made all this anxiety go away. That same day, he invited me to his house.
Your heroine had a characteristic voice. Was is hard to learn?
Preparing for the role, I took voice lessons with a teacher who teaches using a German method. It consists in opening your throat in a special way. First lesson was a shock. She was explaining, I didn’t understan anything. Because how can you understand: palate up, uvula down, head down, bottom in the middle. During my third lesson, I rebelled: „I don’t know what’s going on, you tell me ridiculous things”. „If you are going to talk this way, you can leave and not come back. I have a lot of students and I don’t have time for rude girls.” she was outraged. She chewed me out like I was a teenager! During the next lessons, I started to hit the first sounds. It’s been weeks before I was ready to be on the filmset.
Your older son, Mikołaj was twenty months old when you were leaving home. Didn’t you have any doubts whether it is a good moment?
I have just stopped breatfeeding him. It was hard, but I felt like I had to portray German because the offer would not wait for me. At first, I brought Mikołaj to Vilnius, to his grandparents. It was July and my parents have a house in Wołokumpie where I used to spend all my summers. I knew he will be fine there. Then, my husband took a leave of absence and brought him to Warsaw. In December, my friend was helping him because our nanny quit unexpectedly.
You called home and Mikołaj was sick. What did you do?
Fortunately, Mirek took care of everything. I think he wasn’t telling me about many things just so I wouldn’t worry about them.
Have you ever had enough? Didn’t you want to go back home?
Not because of the homesickness. I learnt to deal with it. I remember the night we did a scene of the first kiss of Anna and Zbyszek. In the rain. Do you know how you make it rain on the filmset? They pour ice cold water. It pours on your face and you need to prentend it is a warm summer rain. We shoot the scene in Lvov in October. I took off and put on again a wet dress several times because we repeated this kiss many times. I got back to the hotel at 7 in the morning. I called Mirek: „I won’t be able to finish. I don’t care about this film.” „Rest up, sleep and then we’ll talk.” he calmed me down. Some unusual things happened on the filmset too. I told you that Zbyszek Tucholski didn’t want to give his persmission to use the song ‘Człowieczy los’ in the film. And suddenly, I come to the casting, sing ‘Człowieczy los’ and after a moment a lawyer of Anna’s husband calls that they give the permission. Another time, we were sitting in a Russian tv studio and recording a progrmme about German. I went on stage and suddenly a butterfly sat down on my arm. „God, did you know that the same situation happened to Anna German 35 years ago? She was recording a song in the sudio in Russia and a white butterfly sat down on her back in the winter.” a certain composer said. Today I think that this role was my destiny. So many similar things happened in our lives. For example, one day during the shoot I go hurt in the leg and I was limping for a long time. Today, I still have a big bruise over my knee, even though it was six months ago. And Anna also had a bad leg. But the most important – we were both born in Poland.
Do you feel Polish or Lithuanian?
When I lived in Lithuania, I always said I’m Polish. At first, I used to say that here as well. I was exotic. But later, I stopped flaunting my Lithuanian side. I was afraid that I will only be getting roles of girls from the east border. I took care to get rid of the lilt, the melody in the voice that I still have sometimes. Today, when I’ve been living in Warsaw for ten years and I feel more confident, I say: „I’m from Vilnius.” Because I’m Polish from Vilnius. I feel proud of the fact that I come from Lithuania. There are so many important memories…
What do you miss the most today?
The tastes of childhood. Grandma used to bake a cinnamon rolls. Soft, sweet-smelling, delicious. I remember a park that my mom and I used to go to. We took the presentable street of Vilnius, Gediminas Avenue. It starts on the Katedralny Square up until the Neris river. And Vilnia river flows into the Neris river. Ducks used to swim in this river and I was always feeding them. It is an important place for me. Even Adam Mickiewicz wrote about it: „Wilija, thou parent of streams in our land,/ Heaven-blue is thy visage and golden thy sand.” I was brought up with a poetic, romantic spirit. My home was full of books, poetry.
My dad studies Polish philology, but he is an artist. I remember we used to sit together to the piano and play on four hands. I was being raised with patriotic songs ‘O mój rozmarynie’, ‘Czerowne maki’. My mom also is artistically gifted. She didn’t finish a music collage, and that’s why she sent there me and my three years younger sister. Kamila was in the grand piano class and I was offered accordion classes. Back then an accordion was synonymous with something embarassing. However I thought: „Grandpa has an accordion, so why not.” Thanks to it, I won the Polish Miss of Lithuania contest, bacuase I’m not a beauty. But during the contest, the candidates, except their bauty and figure, had to show what they can do. I came on the stage in trouser, my hair was up, and… I played. Later I was offer a job as a model. I found out it wasn’t for me quite quickly, though.
Why did you leave Vilnius?
I liked Poland. My grandpa had two brothers here. We used to visit them. One lived in Olsztyn and the other in Łochów near Warsaw. That’s why my memories of Poland are very rural – little house, shops, market nearby, lots of kind people. But when I came to Warsaw, I felt like a little mouse in a great metropolis. I got into Theatre Academy, I lived in a small, rented appartment with two friends. Additionally, I was alone. Once, my roommates went home for the weekend and I forgot to bring my key. I didn’t have anywhere to go, my cell phone died, I spent the night in the staircase.
What did you do for a living?
I was in a perfect situation, I was receiving a scholarship from the Polish government. First, I had to obviously pass special exams, for instance a history exam. Then, even though I wasn’t the best student at school in Vilnius, I studied so hard that I was awarded a scholarship for good grades. I played parts in different episodes so I always could earn a little. I can tell that I was quite rich back then. (laughter)
Do you think you were brought up differently than your friends born in Warsaw?
I am too open. Often people see me as naive – and maybe I am. (laughter) I also never choose an easy way. It was hard, I had to fight for everthing. As Polish, I wanted to show every step of the way, that I’m not worse, and even that I am better – smarter, hard-working, better educated.
Did you think about going back to Lithuania?
I liked it here. Besides I started a family here. And look, the fate is a bizarre thing. My husband comes from Vilnius as well but we met in Poland. One day I went with a friend to TR Warszawa to see Macbeth. And I met a teacher from my school in Vilnius. She was there with an attractive boy. It turned out it was her son. It was Mirek. He grabed my attention because he wasn’t impressed when he found out that I’m an actress. After the spectacle, he drove me home. „If you ever need help, my son is here.” his mom said while saying good bye. Mirek called me next day.
Apparently he is an engineer, like German’s husband.
Yes… An actress and an engineer – we are a weird couple. (laughter) Mirek points out that he is not an usual engineer but a computer scientist. I joke that he is my hard drive. He has both feet on the ground. Back in the day, I used to be attracted to artists, but I have never been in a relationship. Mirek was really a first man I wanted to build something with. He is a bit older, caring, but he is not like a father to me, he is my husband.
Who is at the helm in your home?
He is, obviously. He is very well organized. He organizes my life. I would get crazy with two kids – Mikołaj is three years old and Jeremi only four months old. Mirek will feed the baby, give them their vitamins. He can get them their meds when it is needed, and he will do it in the best way. I say ‘I can’t do it’ and my husband will take care of it. Now when he sees how trired I am, he will let me sleep longer. He says: „Don’t get up, I will take Mikołaj to kindergarten.”
At the age of 27, you got a role of the lifetime. When someone conquered Mount Everest, what’s next?
I don’t know. I will wait for what the fate will bring me.
Based on: www.twojstyl.pl
Tłumaczenie by Justyna Kaczmarek w ramach praktyk w Europejskiej Fundacji Praw Człowieka, www.efhr.eu. Translated by Justyna Kaczmarek within the framework of a traineeship programme of the European Foundation of Human Rights, www.efhr.eu.