A special celebration of the life and artistic achievements of Marian and Caja Hemar
After helping research the lives of Marian and Caja Hemar, Surrey Heritage were involved in promoting a concert to celebrate this talented couple who made Surrey their home. On 16 October 2016, at Christ Church, Coldharbour, the Polish Ave Verum choir, guests and celebrity artists gathered to celebrate Hemar’s life, and the placing of a casket of soil from Łyczakowski Cemetery, Lwów, on the Hemar’s grave. The cemetery is significant because a section of it is where the ‘Young Eagles’ are buried, the Polish youth – mainly teenagers – that defended Lwów after the Russians and Ukrainians tried to annexe that part of Poland shortly after the First World War. Hemar was one of those ‘Young Eagles’. Hemar wrote a beautiful poem where a mother and her daughter are visiting the cemetery and she explains about the youth and points out the graves, where her daughter’s uncle, aunt and brother are buried – all below the age of 15. The Ave Verum choir, comprises around 25 music enthusiasts of Polish descent from all walks of life. Formed in 1999, by Jurek Pockert, this amateur choir shares a love of Polish culture and the joy that music brings to all.
After months of planning by Tom Bolonski and his partner Iwona Wołosz, along with church and Polish authorities, the event went ahead as planned and had the most wonderful atmosphere. Ave Verum beautifully performed a range of sacred, popular and cultural songs, including Hemar’s own humorous cabaret works, ‘Rumba Fiesta’ and ‘Upić się warto’, which brought the house down and tears of laughter! The music was interspersed with poignant readings from actors Virginia McKenna (resident of Coldharbour), Irena Delmar Czarnecka (chairwoman of The Polish Artists’ Association in Great Britain, who worked with and was great friends with the Hemars), and Countess Rula Łubieńska (aka Rula Lenska, whose first work in theatre was with Irena Delmar Czarnecka). The readings featured Hemar’s own writings: ‘My Homeland’, ‘Wish’, which declares his longing to buried with Polish soil, and ‘Big Secret’, a heart-felt poem that he wrote for Caja. Emotional at times, there was an enchanting atmosphere of love for the Hemars, nostalgia and friendship throughout the event, from former friends, neighbours and fans of Hemar’s craft. In her address to the audience, Irena Delmar Czarnecka recalled how Hemar would rush home after theatre rehearsals to Coldharbour saying, which he viewed as his true home, declaring ‘It’s good everywhere but it’s best at home’.
Reverend Tony Berry blessed the casket of Polish soil, which was later placed on the Hemar’s grave, the upkeep and renovation of which had been funded by the estate of Miss Włada Majewska, a great friend of the Hemars, for whom Marian had written over 60 songs, including ‘Dialog with the Moon’ (‘Rozmowa z Księżycem’). At the concert the audience had listened to a recording of Hemar introducing this song by greeting a contemporary audience and describing how the song, about Majewska’s longing to return to Lwów, was created. Hemar introduced Majewska and she sang the song in her specific Lwów accent. Majewska was bequeathed copyright to Hemar’s works and the two had a remarkable partnership enduring for most of their adult professional life. Mr M. Misayat, the Trustee of Miss Majewska’s estate, made a sizeable contribution to the concert on behalf of that legacy.
The event finale was a impromptu, rousing rendition of the Carpathian Brigade anthem, written by Hemar, sung by the choir, along with Virginia McKenna, Irena Delmar Czarnecka, and Rula Lenska. Hemar had served in the Carpathian Brigade in the Middle East after fleeing Nazi persecution and wrote their anthem, which is still used today. Miss Lenska’s father, Count Łubieński, was an adjutant to General Sikorski and the song reminded her of her childhood.
Many of the audience were of Polish descent, including several involved with the Tweedsmuir Military Camp project (see https://www.exploringsurreyspast.org.uk/themes/subjects/diversity/polish/exiles/), the Polish Heritage Society, Koło Lwowian (the Lwów promotion society), and the Kresy-Siberia Foundation. Memories were swapped, old and new acquaintances were made, some with surprising coincidences and connections, and the whole event was a truly warm and wonderful experience.
Di Stiff, Collections Development Archivist
All photographs courtesy of Di Stiff or Phil Cooper, Surrey Heritage
A DVD of the event, produced by Tom Bolonski, is held in the Surrey History Centre collections, along with printed items relating the event and the research into the Hemars.
There is a permanent display and information leaflet about the Hemars in Christ Church, Coldharbour, with contributions from Tom Bolonski and Surrey Heritage. A pdf ( ) copy of an information leaflet produced by Surrey Heritage on the Hemars can be downloaded here.
Online reviews of the concert can be found at:
Nowy Czas (New Time) London http://www.nowyczas.co.uk/news.php?id=1955
Tom Bolonski’s event gallery can be found at https://goo.gl/photos/hKcviwA1HY3yc9Jx6