• Panufnik’s Escape (2)

Scarlett Panufnik vanished from public attention once she and Andrzej Panufnik divorced in 1958.  Andrzej Panufnik was her fourth husband – they fell for one another in 1950 during her honeymoon with her third husband – and she was by all accounts vivacious, seductive and socially ambitious.  Of Irish stock, she found herself in Poland after the Second World War and cut quite a figure in Warsaw during the years prior to her departure for London in March 1954.

panufnik_andrzej_rodzinne_8

Scarlett and Andrzej Panufnik, London, 1956. Another shot from the same session provides the frontispiece for ‘Out of the City of Fear’.

Panufnik did manage to join her in July 1954 and two years later she wrote an account of her time in Poland in the autobiographical Out of the City of Fear (1956).  The book has a breathlessness bordering on the sensational, and it has its shortcomings and lacunae (one of which is failing to mention her second and third marriages).  It soon disappeared from view – times had moved on.  But its portrayal of life in post-war Poland does have socio-historical value, and much of it reads more convincingly than it has often been given credit for.  This is especially true of the final four chapters.  These constitute her diary of the four months that she spent alone in London while waiting on tenterhooks for her husband to find a way to leave Poland and seek asylum in the UK.  Her part in preparing for his escape and keeping everything under wraps was invaluable.

Panufnik acknowledged her role in his 1987 autobiography, Composing Myself, and it is through this prism that she has since been viewed.  Two recent articles in Polish have broadened the perspective, even if some of their conclusions are debatable.  Danuta Gwizdalanka’s ‘Ucieczka z państwa grozy‘ (Escape from the State of Terror), Ruch Muzyczny (23 August 2014), covers some of the same ground as my two articles on Panufnik’s escape but goes on to examine its aftermath.  Magdalena Grochowska’s Przynęta i obroża Andrzeja Panufnika (Andrzej Panufnik.  Bait and Collar), Gazeta Wyborcza (25 October 2014), takes an even more critical and well-referenced look at Panufnik in the post-war period.

The final chapter of Out of the City of Fear covers the five days from 10-14 July 1954 once Scarlett Panufnik received a phone call from her husband to say that he had reached Zürich.  If all went to plan, he would be in London in a few days’ time.  I have based my article linked to this post, Panufnik’s Escape (2): Scarlett’s Memoir, on the relevant excerpts from Chapter 17 and set their chronology between that of the Polish Legation (1954) and Andrzej Panufnik’s account in his autobiography.  The three versions make for interesting reading, even if they do raise more questions than they answer.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: