Writer and performer of 4* Edfringe show, 'My Mother's Shoes' - also the author of the novels ‘Are My Roots Showing?’ and ‘The Diary of an Obedient Wife’

Writer & Performer

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About Karola

Comedy Writer and Performer

This year I took my latest show, ‘My Mother’s Shoes’ to the Edinburgh Fringe. It is my most personal show to date, and is all about me and my late mum. It was an amazing month. I’m still processing what I’ve learned, however I can say it’s humbling to see people be moved. It was great to be back on stage, too.

I have also written two comic novels and I have done stand up, which I plan to do more of in the next few months. I’m from Doncaster in South Yorkshire originally and had Polish parents. As I grew up I remember my dad not liking it when I laughed out loud in public. It wasn’t because he didn’t want me to laugh per se, it was because he didn’t want us to stand out as immigrants in 70s Yorkshire. My parents’ whole raison d’être was to blend in and not be seen.

Dad did once say to me, you’re a comedian you are, which meant a lot. That said, ‘My Mother’s Shoes’ is a show that has largely made people cry – it’s the flip side of the comedy coin. I am due to perform it at next year’s migration festival in Sheffield (June). If you’re interesting in booking it, please get in touch via Twitter @karolagajda or Facebook.com/writingkarola.

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Available in paperback and Kindle from Amazon.

If you like my books, I’d love to hear from you and if you have time, why not write a review on Amazon or GoodReads (‘Are my Roots Showing?’ or ‘The Diary of an Obedient Wife’).

‘Are My Roots Showing?’ is also on Kobo and Barnes and Noble.


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Press

Yvette Huddleston, Yorkshire Post

April 2016

 

 

 

Brin Best, Polish Weekly article

September 2017

 

 

 

I had the pleasure of being interviewed by author Brin Best for the Tydzien Polski. Brin isn’t Polish but has a real love of Polish people. He and Marian Helena Zukowska have written a wonderful book called Poles in the UK: A Story of Friendship and Cooperation (2016). It explains the positive contribution Poles have made to the UK over the last one thousand years.

Read the full article on the Polish Weekly website.

Some years ago I wrote and performed a solo show called My Polish Roots and Other Vegetables at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. I spoke about my Polish Yorkshire upbringing and cooked barszcz on stage. Yes, my hands were dyed crimson pink by the end of the month!” says Karola Gajda, comedian, writer and author of Are My Roots Showing? in an interview with Brin Best.

Tell us about your Polish heritage and how this has affected, and continues to affect, your life.

I was born in South Yorkshire to Polish parents who came to England after World War II. My parents didn’t come over as a couple, they met in Yorkshire. Too young to fight, Dad worked on a German farm during the war while Mum was taken by Stalin to Siberia for six years, when she was three.

When Mum was about 20 and working in Poland as a primary school teacher, the Red Cross International Tracing Service contacted her to say that her father – separated from them when they were deported – hadn’t died but was alive and in Yorkshire. He had marched with Anders Army and fought at Monte Cassino. She went to visit him, only intending to stay for a while, however she then fell gravely ill and met my father while in hospital.

Little wonder then that for me, my sense of Polish heritage will always be linked to World War II. I’m very aware that I’m only Polish and British because of how war blew people’s lives apart – and also because of Poland’s relationship with Great Britain.

On a lighter note, I also think being dual nationality simply makes life more interesting. You’re connected to more than one culture and more than one history, you probably have a second language at your fingertips too, and knowledge of a second cuisine!

Your higher education included a period living in France, studying performing arts. How would you describe this experience?

The chance to study, work and live abroad is always a wonderful opportunity and I remember my time in France as if it were yesterday. I studied at Jacques Lecoq’s School of Theatre, Mime and Movement in Paris for two years and it was wonderful to meet people who shared the same interest in theatre as myself. The school had an emphasis on improvisation and ensemble work, and it was a very creative time.

Interestingly, while in Paris, I ended up translating Krzysztof Kieslowski’s Three Colours Blue, White and Red from Polish to English and was an extra in one of the films in the trilogy! The day I was on set, I remember watching Kieslowski pondering over whether the sunlight was quite right, and standing next to Juliette Binoche outside Le Palais de Justice for quite some time!

You have carried out a wide range of roles over the years. What did these teach you?

I’ve done all kinds of things in my life: I’ve been a radio journalist, worked in theatre, schools and universities, and I’ve even been a volunteer hospital chaplain. What I think I’ve learned is that if you do your best, people really notice and respect that – after all, there’s not much more you can do than your best. I think my personal strength is being able to talk and connect with most people – and I know that everyone, no matter what their background,

You performed a play you wrote at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival some years ago. What was this experience like?

I wrote and performed a solo show called My Polish Roots and Other Vegetables which was on at the Gilded Balloon. I cooked barszcz (beetroot soup) on stage (yes, my hands were dyed crimson pink by the end of the month!) and I also spoke about my Polish Yorkshire upbringing. It was exciting, nerve-wracking and special as I met so many wonderful people including the Poles of Edinburgh. Doing the Edinburgh Fringe takes quite a bit of endurance and you have to be well prepared, organised and believe in your work – it’s a bit like doing a marathon really. There is so much on, you have to work hard to stand out and you never quite know when someone from the press is in the audience – unless you ask the box office beforehand, of course.

Your novel Are My Roots Showing? was published in 2016. What were you trying to achieve with this book?

Because of my passion for comedy, I wanted to create laughter. However, I also wanted to write something that would be a permanent record of my parents’ experiences from the war, so alongside the comedy there’s also tragedy. Not many people know about Siberia and while they might not pick up a book about Polish history, they might well pick up a popular novel where a darker story lurks. I also wanted to write a novel that incorporated how Poland has changed over the years, and convey the less-covered perspective of a Brit emigrating to live and work in Poland, not vice versa.

Read the full article on the Polish Weekly website.

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My Polish Roots & Other Vegetables

Theatre Show
I did stand up for a while in London in the late 90s. I then decided I wanted to explore a wider range of emotional content and stage a show about my Polish working class upbringing in Doncaster. I applied for Arts Council funding and miraculously got it! It was such a fulfilling time, writing a piece of theatre, telling my parents’ stories from World War II, while weaving in comedy all at the same time. I did the show at the Tristan Bates Theatre in the Actors’ Centre in London in 2005, then I took it to Edinburgh in 2006 where it was hand-picked for a run at the then Arts Theatre near Leicester Square in late 2006. That run was awesome, such fun in such a wonderful historic space. I’d gone to Poland to carry out some research and met some amazing Polish people in the audience who’d had similar experiences to my mum – being deported to Siberia. I cooked beetroot soup on stage which I gave out at the end. The Dziennik Polski came to review (the Polish National daily) and they said the show was ‘how theatre is meant to be’ – such a lovely personal review by Agnieszka Okonska. There was also a literary agent in the audience one night and they invited me to write a novel… which is how and why ‘Are My Roots Showing?’ was born. The show had quite a few bits of video in it including some animations, one of which you can see here.

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