Lady Hania. - Niepospolici
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Lady Hania.

Hanka Ordonówna (real name: Maria Anna Tyszkiewicz, maiden name Pietruszynska) was born on August 4, 1902 in Warsaw and died on September 8, 1950 in Beirut (Lebanon).

She was the daughter of Władysław Pietruszyński – a railway worker – and Helena Bieńkowska. Her parents looked after her artistic education recognising her talents in the early years of her childhood. Hanka was a student of the ballet school at the Grand Theatre in Warsaw. Her debut took place on the stage of the Sphinx variety show theatre when she was only 16 years of age. She soon became a member of the variety theatre called “The Merry Hive” [Wesoly Ul] in Lublin. There she gained popularity performing army-themed songs (in the first months of independence). After the theatre went bankrupt, she moved back to Warsaw where in 1919 she got a job at the Mirage cabaret. She then performed at the Stanczyk Theatre (1923). It was here that she came up with her stage name – Ordonka, which was later changed to Ordonówna. According to contemporary sources her stage name was invented by Tadeusz Boy-Żelenski in one of his reviews. Starting from March 1923 she worked as a singer at the Qui Pro Quo cabaret – the main variety show theatre in Warsaw. She performed there until 1931. In 1924 she gave a series of guest shows in Germany and France. Money earned she invested in the vocal training in Italy, Vienna and Paris. From 1931 she was the star of the show at Banda [Gang], Wielka Rewia [The Grand Revue], and Cyrulik Warszawski [The Barber of Warsaw] theatres. Her professional relationship with well-known cabaret announcer Fryderyk Jarossy (a Hungarian), with whom she later had an affair. It was under his influence that she created her stage persona which led to her popularity,  but real fame came when she performed the song entitled Love Will Forgive You All [Milość ci wszystko wybaczy] in the film “Spy in a Mask” [Szpieg w masce] in 1933. After the film was premiered the song became Ordonka’s No 1 hit. She gave numerous concerts in Poland and toured abroad. She was enthusiastically welcomed in Athens, Beirut, Damascus, Jerusalem, Tel-Aviv, Cairo, Riga, and the USA. She designed the clothes she wore on stage. She played together with Igo Sym, who was later executed by the Polish Underground for collaborating with the German occupier.

In 1931 Ordonka married Earl Sir Michal Tyszkiewicz who happened to be the author of many of the songs she performed. Despite her new social status, she did not leave the stage. She still performed in cabaret shows and performed a horse-riding trick at a circus variety show. The strenuous work caused her to suffer from lung disease. After recovery she gave concerts in the USA from where she returned to Poland in 1939. Throughout her 20 year career she recorded 10 LP records, acted in 5 films, and gave over 1000 concerts and shows. A number of her songs became hits, such as:

Love Shall Forgive You All (Henryk Wars, Julian Tuwim)

On the First Sign [Na pierwszy znak] (Henryk Wars, Julian Tuwim).

Blue Express [Niebieski Express] (Leon Boruński, Hanka Ordonówna)

Like Cigarette Smoke [Jak dym z papierosa] (J. Bos, Hanka Ordonówna)

Yes or No [Czy tak, czy nie] (W. Hudson, Jerzy Jurandot)

Shame [Trudno] (T. Müller, E. Schlechter)

If you Love Me [Jesli kochasz mnie] (T. Müller, E. Schlechter)

Luck Smiles Only Once [Szczęście raz się uśmiecha] (Henryk Wars, Emanuel Schlechter)

A Song about a Lost Heart [Piosenka o zgubionym sercu] (Henryk Wars, A.M. Świnarski)

A Street in Barcelona [Uliczka w Barcelonie] (Alberto Laporte/Otelo Gasparini, Michał Tyszkiewicz)

Hanka Ordonówna became the icon of the Polish variety stage and the most recognized singer within the Second Republic of Poland. Her records were still being released after the war. She was an inspiration to new generations of singers who would perform their own takes on Ordonka’s old songs.

A 1982 film directed by Janusz Rzeszewski, entitled Love Shall Forgive You All, told the story of Hanka. A character based on her also appears in a comedy by the same director entitled “The 1920s…. the 1930s” (1983).

Shortly after the outbreak of war Hanka Ordonówna was arrested by the Germans thanks to a Gestapo agent – Igo Sym. She was released thanks to her husband’s influence (he was related to German aristocrats) and she left Warsaw for Vilnius which was located in the then independent Lithuania. After the country was taken by the Soviets Ordonka was sent to Uzbekistan where again she came down with tuberculosis. Following “amnesty” she was released from the camp and worked as carer for Polish orphans – “the Siberian Children”. She died in Beirut, after the war has come to its end. She described the last stage of her life in an autobiographical novel entitled Homeless Children [Tulacze dzieci] published under nom de plume of Weronika Hort.

The picture of Hanka Ordonka was coloured for you by Mikołaj Kaczmarek.