Cudzoziemka (The Stranger) is a Polish psychological novel by Maria Kuncewiczowa, published as a book in 1936. Earlier, the novel used to appear in episodes in press (Kurier Poranny). Cudzoziemka is considered a classic of the interwar period of Polish literature. The novel was published in 1944 in an English translation by B. W. A. Massey.


The protagonist, Róża Żabczyńska, was born in the half of 19th century in Taganrog, Russia, to a Polish family. As a girl, she is deeply affected by her ethnical differentness. However, her alienation grows even bigger when she moves to Warsaw in order to take up violin lessons. She finds out that she is a stranger wherever she comes. The young girl experiences a dramatical love disappointment and then – as it later proves – an artistic failure.

She decides to marry a man she does not love. Her family life is a losing streak. She descends into madness even harder a couple of years later, when her beloved son, Kazimierz, dies at an early age.

The womanly sensivity of Róża, confronted with her life disappointments, turns her into a cruel wife and a mean mother, humiliating all the people around her. The purpose of Cudzoziemka is to show the psychological truth about sorrow, and especially about woman’s sorrow. On the other hand, the novel illustrates the art of narrative.


The novel is divided into two plots. One of them consists of contemporary events, limited to one ordinary day, filled with reflection and thoughts of the protagonist. They are an introduction to and an excuse for the second plot – the retrospective and digressive one. In conclusion, the book tells the story of one, particular day, and – in the meantime – also tells the whole story of life of Róża Żabczyńska.

The film

The film version of Cudzoziemka (with the same title) was directed by Ryszard Ber in 1986. Maria Kuncewiczowa herself wrote the screenplay. Ewa Wiśniewska acted the main character, Róża Żabczyńska. The film was awarded twice during the 11. Polish Feature Films Festival in Gdańsk (11. Festiwal Polskich Filmów Fabularnych w Gdańsku).


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