Simona Cossack.  They were considered eccentric, and there were legends about “wild cattle.”

Biologist, professor of forest sciences, science generalist. Extraordinary personality. Jerzy Kossak’s daughter, Wojciech’s granddaughter and Julius’s great-granddaughter, fled from Kossakówka in Kraków to the Białowieża Forest, which became her home. There she also met her great love. Adrian Panek is filming a film about her extraordinary life. Simona was played by Sandra Dzimalska.

A year ago, the wonderful documentary “Simona” by director Natalia Korenka-Gruz was released in cinemas, which tells the story of Simona Cossack, an outstanding scientific celebrity, professor of biology, who was born “from these Cossacks.”

The documentary is appreciated by critics and viewers alike. He received many awards – he won, among others: in the Polish Film Competition at the Millennium Docs Against Gravity Festival, at the “Dwa Brzegi” Festival and in Chicago. At the same time, he also brought back the memory of an unjustly forgotten great figure.

Filming of the feature film dedicated to Simone, directed by Adrian Panek, titled “Simona Kossak”, has just finished. We will see Sandra Dzimalska in the lead role, and Jakub Gerzal will play the role of her life partner.

Boris Schick and Sandra Dzimalska in the film “Simona Cossack”Karolina Grabowska

I’m looking for my place on earth

Simona Cossack’s life is a script ready for a movie, and it’s strange that no one has read her autobiography before. The story of an outsider from a famous artistic family who goes to an unknown place to live her own life, follow her great passion, and meet the love of her life there. Do you need anything more?

The creators describe their film as “an inspiring story about independence and determination in finding their own place on Earth. A story about the eternal need to come together and find their flock.”

– There is something typical about the heroine who rebels, flees her family, her origins, and her place, and goes into the unknown to forget who she is or who she was told to be. As a result, he finds himself. He combines his biography with that of his family, and maintains his independence – says the film’s director and screenwriter Adrian Panek.

The director emphasizes that the film is also a story about the Białowieża Forest itself, its history and the people connected to it. There, in an empty forest lodge in the middle of nowhere, a young woman born in Krakow and raised in the famous Kosakuka finds her place on earth.

Simona finds herself in what has completely defined her. There is a kind of fusion, which is a story about life itself, about love that transcends our personal existence and makes us realize that we are part of something bigger – adds the director.

In the film we will also see, among others: Agata Kuleza, Boris Schick, Olga Boldz and Marta Stalmirska. The premiere is scheduled to take place in 2024.

Sandra Dzimalska and Jakob Gersalt in the film “Simona Cossack”Jaroslaw Sosinski/Next Film

Daughter worse?

A biologist by education and forester by passion, Simona Kosak has been the oddball in her family since childhood. Instead of drawing or writing poems, like the famous actors of her family, she brought animals to Kossakówka from an early age.

However, she is the daughter of Jerzy Cossack, granddaughter of Wojciech and great-great-granddaughter of Julius – three great battle painters. She was also the niece of the poet Maria Pawlikowska-Jasnorzewska and the writer Magdalena Samozoniec. Her aunt was Zofia Kossack Shōka, an author of historical novels.

Like her beautiful older sister Gloria, also a painter and poet, Simona had to grow up to be a lady. At the same time, her room always smelled like animal excrement. She brought sick hedgehogs and birds to Kossakówka and cared for them enthusiastically. The talented Gloria looked down on her sister, often making her the subject of jokes and ridicule. Despite this, Simona decided to prove to her family that she was worth something too. She successfully passed the entrance exam to the Faculty of Biology and Earth Sciences at Jagiellonian University.

She turns out to be an extraordinary student. In her research work, the future professor of forest sciences dealt with, among other things, the behavioral ecology of mammals. She later called herself a zoopsychologist, meaning animal psychologist.

She was supposed to take an assistantship at the Jagiellonian University, but after being humiliated by her sister – who was seduced by her friend and left just for fun – she packed her bags and left for distant Białowieza. There, the Mammal Research Institute was looking for an employee. She lived in an empty forest lodge called “Dziedzinka”. With holes in the ground, and no electricity, but nothing to discourage her. Over time, it turned out that a photographer and artist from Warsaw, Lech Wilczek, was applying for this forester’s lodge. He also received approval.

At first, they didn’t like each other, but as time passed, the two fell in love. Not just for animals. They became the most extraordinary couple of their time. They lived together for 36 years until Simona’s death. Thanks to Lech, she created a large number of unusual images of animals – also a document of their life together in the forest lodge. There were legends about its “wild livestock” and photos confirm their reality.

Simona with the pig ŻabkaPhoto by Lech Wilczek/frame from the film “Simona”

The sow frog and the Karasek crow

The collection of “stock” began with a sick owl with a broken wing. Over time, it became known in the village that there was a couple living in the Białowieża Forest, who bred “unsuccessful” animals and began to bring them. The most famous of these was the Koracik crow, which friends of the couple described as a “bad” little bird that could only tolerate two owners. Playing with Simona’s long braids, which she had worn for years, was his favorite activity.

The record holder was a wild boar that Simona had raised from birth, called Żabka, which – when the animal reached very large proportions – looked funny. The frog “earned” its place by eating pests and loosening the ground. The pictures showing the pig and her huge dog sleeping on the sofa and her mistress sleeping on the rug must be surprising. There were also deer, hedgehogs and local foxes roaming the apartment and yard.

Simona was constantly searching. I noticed that man is an animal that does not want to see any similarity with other creatures and puts himself on a pedestal. So I did everything to bridge the gap between humans and animals. In radio talks, which brought her great popularity, she constantly emphasized that we must learn to live with them also on their terms, not just ours.

Simona Cusack died in 2007 after a long battle with cancer. Lech Wilczek was with her until the end. She was far ahead of the era in which she lived. She was one of the first people in the world to speak out and write that animals, just like humans, also have a right to happiness and security,

Main image source: Jaroslaw Sosinski/Next Film

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