Andrzej Wajda – a film and theatre director, screenwriter and film stage designer. He was born on the 6th of March 1926 in Suwałki. His father was an officer of the Polish Army. He grew up in Suwałki and then in Radom, where he stayed during the war, attending underground educational classes and studying in a private school of painting. Simultaneously he worked for the railways as a warehouseman, porter, cooper, locksmith, and finally as a draughtsman in the railway office. After the war he studied painting at the Academy of Fine Arts in Cracow (1946-50) and then directing at the National Higher School of Film in Łódź (he graduated in 1960).
In 1956 Wajda made a film titled Sewer (Polish: Kanał), which proved to be a turning point in his career and is now generally considered a pioneering work that gave rise to the so-called Polish school of cinematography. In 1958 Wajda directed Ashes and Diamonds (Polish: Popiół i diament), a film that definitively established his position as an outstanding director, which was later proved by his subsequent works.
In 1972-83 he was the manager of the “X” Film Team and in 1978-83 – the president of the Polish Filmmakers Association, which later awarded him with the title of an honorary chairman. In 1977 he became an honorary member of the Association of Polish Artists and Designers and in 1989 – a member of the Committee of Cinematography. He is also a member of the French Academy of Fine Arts and the chapter of the European Film Academy, as well as an honorary member of BAFTA.
As a theatre director, Wajda has been for many years strongly involved in the artistic activity of the Cracow Old Theatre (in the period 1962-98). From 1989 to 1990 he was the director of the Warsaw Popular Theatre (Teatr Powszechny). He was also the originator and founder of the “Manggha” Centre of Japanese Art and Technology in Cracow, opened in 1994.
In the period 1981-89 he was a member of the consultative committee of “Solidarity” and cooperated with Lech Wałęsa. In 1988 he became the head of the Board for Culture and Media of the Citizen’s Committee, also associated with Lech Wałęsa.
From 1989 to 1991 Andrzej Wajda was a Senator of the Republic of Poland and from 1992 to 1994 – a member of the President’s Council for Culture.
In 2002 he established the Andrzej Wajda Master School of Film Directing in Warsaw.
He is a winner of over one hundred film prizes, including the most important ones: Palme d’Or at the International Film Festival in Cannes for “Man of Iron” (1981), Felix (1990), Golden Bear at the International Film Festival in Berlin (1996) and Golden Lion at the International Film Festival in Venice (1998), as well as the Oscar (2000) for lifetime achievement.
He was awarded honoris causa PhD titles by numerous higher education institutions, including the Bologna and Washington Universities, the National Higher School of Film, Television and Theatre in Łódź, the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw, the Warsaw University and the All-Russian State University of Cinematography in Moscow, as well as many Polish and foreign distinctions.