Q: Was Pola Negri's father Slovak?
Pola Negri, a Hollywood star of the silent movie era, was born and baptized Apolonia Chalupec in the Church of the Assumption of the Most Holy Virgin Mary in Lipno (near Toruń – several other localities have the same name) in Poland, which was under Russian control then. Contrary to other dates in a variety of sources, the Lipno Office of Vital Records shows she was born on 3 January 1897. She died in San Antonio, Texas, on 1 August 1987.
Pola Negri's birth record gives her mother's name as Eleonora née Kelczewska, her father's name as Jerzy Chalupec. (See the sidebars on the presence or absence of the -i-, the use of l or ł in her parents' last names, and the cause of the variation.)
Both families were Roman Catholic. Pola was baptized Apolonia after her paternal grandmother, who was also her godmother. Contrary to how publications often give her name, neither her birth record nor her autobiography contain the name "Barbara," and Apolonia was spelled with one -l-, not with two.
According to Pola Negri's autobiography as well as her cousin (Jerzy's brother's son, now deceased), her father and his siblings were born in Slovakia, then part of the Kingdom of Hungary, a province of the Habsburg Empire. The Polonized first name of Pola's father Jerzy corresponds to the Slovak Jur or Juraj (George).
Pola's Slovak grandfather Adam Chalupec married Apolonia née Plevko or Plewko, who was also Slovak according to Pola, but Polish according to her cousin. Juraj-Jerzy (1871-1920) was the oldest of their three children. They lived in Nesluša in north-western Slovakia, where some mebers of the family returned in the 20th century.
After the Chalupecs' youngest child Pavol-Paweł (1890-1956) was born, the family moved to the former eastern part of Poland, under Russian control then, where Adam Chalupec died. His widow Apolonia and children moved west and eventually settled in Lipno.
Juraj-Jerzy Chalupec was 21 when he married Pola's future mother Eleonora née Kelczewska (1861-1954), who was 31. The wedding was in Warsaw, and Jerzy took Eleonora to live in Lipno, where the Chalupecs had settled earlier. Pola was born there in 1897, her birth record gives Jerzy's profession as tinsmith.
Juraj Chalupec, Jerzy Chałupiec
Pola Negri said in her autobiography that her father was Slovak "with probably more than a touch of the bohemian gypsy in his blood," which may have appeared intriguing and exhilarant in the film world. Her evidence for her father's possible Gypsy (Romani) ancestry was his, as she said, olive skin and deep brown eyes.
Pola said that when she was still a child in Lipno, her father was often absent, because, as her mother would say, he was a philanderer. He was later arrested and deported to Siberia by the Russian authorities. Pola said he was a long-standing resistance fighter, because, according to her, he had also worked against the (then Hungarian or Austrian) authorities in Slovakia. According to her, Juraj-Jerzy was arrested in Warsaw for his clandestine activities against Russian rule, which she saw as the true explanation of his previous frequent absence. Another account says he was arrested at least twice for forging documents. They may have included IDs needed to defy the Russians.
Pola later saw her father in prison and then never again. Her grandmother Apolonia and uncle Paweł moved to Slovakia, while Eleonora and Pola left for Warsaw.
Some information in Pola Negri's autobiography does not square well with her cousin's account, according to which Juraj-Jerzy left Slovakia with his parents and settled with his widowed mother and siblings in Lipno before he married Eleonora in Warsaw, where, according to Pola's own and her cousin's account, Eleonora had lived with her relatives prior to the wedding. Juraj-Jerzy must have therefore brought Eleonora to his home in Lipno, which would have been his mothers', or his mother's and his joint proprety, or their rented house under those circumstances. Pola assumed in her memoir that the house in Lipno was Eleonora's, her mother's, estate, and that Juraj-Jerzy brought his own mother and youngest brother Pavol-Paweł from Slovakia to live with them in Lipno after the wedding.
Pola's narrative agrees with another account of her father's death as an officer in the Polish army fighting Russia in 1920.