‘If there is a will, there is always a way my friend’ Ryszard Kukliński
I bet most of you might not have heard about Ryszard Kukliński or Iceman – as his wife, Barbara, was describing him there was a ‘good Richie’ and ‘bad Richie’. Family provider. Great Father and Husband. Hard-worker (I bet he was, as having double life cannot be easy!). But then… he was disappearing for days. Why? Well, the other side of his life was filled with violence and abuse. Job title – contract killer.
Why I am quoting the contract killer, the member of mafia, person that was sentenced for 5 murders (and god knows how many were not proven to him)? Because I have always been fascinated with the gangsters theme. Probably because my Mum has been always digging around this topic and I simply caught the bug. That’s not only it though. I was always curious how come one can be so good, religious, full of empathy, family person and, on the contrary, kill in cold blood. The way gangsters are presented usually gives us mixed feelings. We hate them for things they have done, but we admire for their personalities and sometimes even I wish I actually got to know them and could ask them some questions, like – how can you mix your religious side with the criminal part of your life? How does it feel to be always on verge on death? How have you become being who you are now? Do you want your children follow your footsteps?
Not many people are aware of that passion. I remember at one of the courses, when I revealed it, no one there could have believed it. A blond girl, 150 cm tall with pink nails that is in love with crime and violence (not being violent and approving that though!). It caused lots of laughter and disbelief. I really needed to go into more details and prove my knowledge. After that, I heard almost every day that I have my connections with mafia, so better be careful – well, why would I deny that? 😉
What are my favorite stories? Not to be original here – Al Capone. My dream is to go to Alcatraz and New York and follow his ghost in the city. I am sure I will make it next year as I have already planned my whole trip. Exchequer Restaurant & Pub, Fox’s Restaurant & Pub or Renaissance Blackstone. Why do we like him so much? Because of his ‘broken’ childhood or maybe because he was able to make decisions that are risky, dangerous. They are full of mystery, always calm, never scared. It is easy to ‘admire’ such people in a way. Well.. at least until we realize the other part of their lives. What I love about those stories is how easy it was for them to convince others to follow them. Blindly perform commands and kill just because somebody else told me so. How come was it that easy to make others to kill? Let’s face it, not all of the people chosen to be part of mafia – some of them were just made to do so, but still.. reading those stories, sometimes you just wonder… how come?
Another story that is just eyes opening shows how much politics and economic situation have been helping mafia to grow in different times and countries. Late ’80s and ’90s are just the best times for Polish gangsters. The fall of communism and citizen’s militia or SB, there were so many changes that it just gave a huge scope to act for the new ‘entrepreneurs’. I bet many of you would have been surprised how well polish mafia was organized and… how brutal it was. I have read all books written by crown witness – Jarosław Sokołowski ‘Masa’. He was one of the most meaningful ones in the Pruszkowsky gang. He shared a huge knowledge on all of the bosses of those times, gave a lot of light on many criminal or murder cases, but do I believe that was all? No. In the end as the crown witness he still can’t say most of the things that were linked to him in the past – has he done it or not? We will never know. Books are some kind of interviews, but with lots of different digressions and stories in between. Some of the descriptions are difficult to be read. Sometimes you just don’t understand how come this could have happened and what kind of a person you have to be to do those things. You probably don’t seem to have the feeling I have as warm feelings towards polish mafia as for American one. Why? It’s pretty simple…
There are some common traits of all American Mafioso – always surrounded by beautiful women, always very elegant wearing the suits from the famous designers, intelligent, good sense of humor and charm. Actually I wouldn’t say it’s only about our friends from the U.S., but also the Krays Brothers are the perfect example of this tinsel. Parties, being part of ‘celebrities’ world – when you sum all of this up, you can’t be surprised anymore why we just admire some part of this world so much. They just seem so sophisticated, unusual and from just different world at the first glance. They are just so colorful.
Take the scene from ‘The Goodfellas’ movie when Joe Pesci as Tommy kills another man. He just said something about his past career and Tommy punched him – many times actually – to death. The reason of this death – disrespect. This brings another reason why we are sometimes in favor of those characters; they always give you the reason and they will always present it in the convincing way. I don’t believe that Polish gangsters were any close of having the charisma of Capone, Krays, Castellano or Gotti. What I do enjoy about them though is the real world back then in Poland – something I am not familiar myself, as I was too small to understand or even not in this world yet, the mafia language (as for the linguist, it is fascinating what kind of epithets and metaphors they could come up with!) and the women’s world in this very specific habitat. I believe that many of them had more power than men and were leading this world from the background.
I hope I encouraged you to step into the mafia world a bit more!…
Not to keep this post too long – normally the moment I start talking about mafia, I just get stuck in the topic forever, so you’d better don’t encourage me – below you can find the very short list of my favorite books and movies on the gangsters world (all based on true story).
- Świadek Koronny (The Crown Witness) – Jarosław Sypniewski, Jacek Filipiak, Michał Gazda 2007
- The Goodfellas – Martin Scorsese 1990
- Dog Day Afternoon – Sidney Lumet 1975
- Books by Jarosław Sokołowski ‘Masa’
- Mafia Princess by Marisa Merico
- Shadow of my Father John Junior Gotti