He was so popular in Polish films he got an American film contract. Then…

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With his dog “Sambo.” The dog was killed during the Warsaw Uprising.

First News, a Polish news site, observed a disturbing anniversary today. It’s haunted me all day, and now I’m going to say a little about it.

It’s the 76th anniversary of the death of one of Poland’s leading actors, comedians, directors, producers, and entrepreneurs during the interwar period. Witty, gallant and seductive, Eugeniusz Bodo  shot to fame following his debut in the 1925 silent film Rivals. But he found his true vocation with the “talkies.” He starred in some of the most popular Polish film of the 1930s, including His Excellency, The Shop AssistantCzy Lucyna to dziewczyna? and Pieśniarz Warszawy. His songs became instant hits.

His fame spread. So much so that, in 1939, Bodo signed a good contract with by an American film company and planned to emigrate.

Before he could leave, however, Poland was invaded by Germany, which invaded Russia two years later. His father, Teodor Junod, had been Swiss, and so his son was traveled abroad on a Swiss passport.

Portraiture by NKVD.

Then, after returning from one of his USSR tours, he submitted his Swiss documents for emigration to the U.S. He was arrested by Stalin’s notorious NKVD (the maiden name of the KGB) on trumped-up charges of espionage. After a series of brutal interrogations in Moscow, he was sent to a forced labor camp.

He starved to death in 1943, at a Soviet gulag camp in Kotlas, Arkhangelsk, and was buried in a mass grave. He was 43. The Soviets blamed the Germans for his death, and didn’t admit to the crime until 1991.

We tend to think stardom and money and a foreign passport offer protection from the horrors of history. They don’t. They couldn’t even save his dog.

Below, when things were looking rosy in 1937. The song, “Umówiłem się z nią na dziewiątą” – “I made an appointment with her at 9” – in the film “Piętro wyżej.”


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4 Responses to “He was so popular in Polish films he got an American film contract. Then…”

  1. John Guzlowski Says:

    Thank you for the post. I didn’t know about this actor. Sad story. I’m going to try to track down one of his films.

  2. Sue Hunter Says:

    There’s a popular series on Polish television called, “Bodo”, all about his life. You can buy the DVD’s with English subtitles but be careful that they can be played in your viewing area.

  3. Yvonne Kowalczewski Says:

    John, there’s a good series about Bodo (in Polish) that was produced by Polish TV, simply called “Bodo.” You might be able to find it online. In Europe, you can watch it on VOD.pl

  4. Yvonne Kowalczewski Says:

    Ironically and sadly, he would have been freed by the Soviets under the Sikorski-Mayski agreement if he’d had a Polish passport.

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