'War, Women and Song'

The Case of Hanka Ordonówna

in Aspasia
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This article analyses the performances of the Polish cabaret singer-cum-movie star, Hanka Ordonówna/Ordonka, during the Second World War, and subsequent representations of her through physical monuments and biographical treatments in print and on film. It locates Ordonka in the context of female performers entertaining the troops, the lone woman on the front socially approved for her tasteful display of a morale-boosting sexuality before an audience of largely male combatants. ‘War, Women and Song’ argues for Ordonka’s exceptional case due to her popular pre-war celebrity and her own war time experience, when she shared or witnessed her compatriots’ tragic fate of occupation, deportation, mass death and, in many cases, permanent exile. In her war work, Ordonka doubly incarnated for her audiences a lost pre-war culture of urbane sophistication and eroticised charm and a war time victim turned conventional national heroine when she spearheaded a rescue mission of five hundred Polish children orphaned by Soviet atrocities. Ordonka came to represent to her nation both an irresistible lover and an exemplary surrogate parent with the qualities of a self- sacrificing matka polka (Polish mother).

Aspasia

The International Yearbook of Central, Eastern, and Southeastern European Women's and Gender History