September 18, 1899|
Odessa, Russian Empire (now Ukraine)
May 21, 1980 (aged 80)|
New York City, New York, U.S.
Zygmunt Turkow (divorced)|
Meir Melman (his death)
Ruth Kaminska (1919–2005)|
Ida Kamińska (September 18, 1899 – May 21, 1980) was a Polish-Jewish actress and director. Known mainly for her work in the theatre, she was the daughter of Ester Rachel Kamińska who was known as the Mother of the Jewish Stage. The Jewish Theatre in Warsaw, Poland is named in their honor. In her long career Kamińska produced more than 70 plays, and performed in more than 150 productions. She also wrote two plays of her own and translated many works in Yiddish. World War II disrupted her career, and she later immigrated to the United States where she continued to act. In 1967, she directed herself in the lead role of Mother Courage and Her Children on Broadway. In 1973, she released her autobiography, titled My Life, My Theater.
She starred in the 1965 film The Shop on Main Street, which won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Film. For her performance, she received special mention at the Cannes Film Festival, as well as nominations for the Golden Globe Award and the Academy Award for Best Actress. As of 2018[update], Kamińska is the only Polish actress nominated for the Academy Award.
Early life and career
She was born in Odessa, Russian Empire (now Ukraine), the daughter of Yiddish stage actress Ester Rachel Kamińska (1870–1925) and actor, director and stage producer Abraham Kaminsky (pl) (1867–1918). Her sister was Regina Kamińska (pl), who was also an actress. Her brother was Joseph Kaminski (pl), a composer. Her mother was described as the "Jewish Eleanor Duse".
Ida Kamińska began her stage career at the age of six. One of her earliest roles was in Jakob Gordin's play Mirele Efros, as the grandson of the title character, who was played by her mother. She was acting in both tragedies and comedies, as well as directing plays in her father's troupe by the time she was 18.
In 1918 she married the Yiddish actor and director Zygmunt Turkow (1896-1970), who was a member of her parents' troupe. She and Turkow had a daughter, Ruth Kamińska-Turkow, who was born in 1919. Following a three-year tour of the Kamiński theater in the Soviet Union, the young couple settled in Warsaw, and together established the Warsaw Jewish Art Theater, in 1922, with Ida Kamińska as the principal actress. They divorced in 1932, and in the same year Ida organized her own company in Warsaw, the Drama Theater of Ida Kamińska, which she continued to direct until 1939. In July 1936 Kamińska married the Yiddish actor Marian (Meir) Melman (1900-1978).
In October 1939, in the early part of the Second World War, Kamińska and family members, including her husband, Melman, and daughter, Ruth, fled to Lwów (Lviv, Ukraine), which was under Soviet occupation. There she was able to direct a Yiddish theater funded by the Soviet authorities. She and her family took shelter with friends there, and were under caution[clarification needed] due to their performances being deemed as anti-Hitler. Kamińska and her family subsequently migrated to various localities in the Soviet Union, ending up in the Kirghiz SSR, present-day Kyrgyzstan. Her and Melman's son, Victor, was born in Frunze (Bishkek), in Soviet Central Asia, in fall 1941. In 1944 they arrived in Moscow, where Kamińska again acted in Yiddish productions.
After the war, Kamińska and her family returned to Warsaw. The Polish Jewish population had been decimated by the events of the Holocaust. Nevertheless, Kamińska and Melman made the decision to try to reestablish the Jewish theater. A Yiddish theater reopened in Warsaw in November 1946. In 1949 the Polish government granted a subsidy for the establishment of the Jewish State Theater of Poland, with Kamińska serving as its artistic director. In its early period the theater toured between the cities of Łódź (1949-1953) and Wrocław (1953-1955). In 1955 it was established permanently in Warsaw, as the State Jewish Theater, which was later named after Ida and her mother Ester (the Ester Rachel Kamińska and Ida Kamińska State Jewish Theater). Ida Kamińska continued to direct the theater until 1968.
In 1965, she starred as Mrs. Lautmann in the Czechoslovak movie The Shop on Main Street (Obchod na korze, directed by Ján Kadár and Elmar Klos), for which she was honored at the 39th Academy Awards with a nomination for Academy Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role.
In protest against government antisemitic campaign during March 1968 events she left Poland forever in July 1968, first to Israel, and ended up living in New York.
Death and legacy
In 2014, the Jewish Theatre in Warsaw held a special exhibition in her honor. The exhibit featured costumes worn by Kamińska, as well as photographs and memorabilia from her esteemed career.
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