Janina Kłopocka – The creator of the “Rodło” emblem
The life of the outstanding artist, Janina Kłopocka, the creator of the graphic emblem of the Union of Poles in Germany, the so-called „Rodło“ sign, is a typical example of the knotty fate of Poles in the 20th century. Her life was an extremely strenuous and ambitious struggle to take up a profession offering her opportunities for creative design. On the one hand she struggled to overcome cultural boundaries, was strongly committed to her fatherland and her people in which she suffered many painful experiences and periods of extreme peril. But Kłopocka’s life also contained moments of disappointment with the political situation in Poland and the restrictions to Polish sovereignty after 1945. Despite serving time in a Stalinist prison she never forsook her country, but was determined to find a way back into her artistic work. Her legacy has somewhat fallen into oblivion but it deserves to be recalled and publicised.
Janina Kłopocka was born on 18. August 1904 in Koźmin, a small town in Greater Poland, half way between Berlin and Warsaw. Small towns were to be a constant point of reference throughout her life. She lived in such places for many years and her thoughts continually returned there. Her parents were a baker by the name of Jan Kłopocki (1879-1914) and his wife Marianna, whose maiden name was Niedźwiedzińska (1875-1961). Janina had two younger siblings, a sister named Łucja and a brother, Marian. The family lived a very modest life and when her father failed to find a better-paid job he moved to Berlin in 1907. His family joined him in the following year after he had found regular employment.
Janina was still very young but she soon grew accustomed to her new surroundings, and made her first acquaintances and friends. In 1911 she began school at a Catholic school for girls – the Bischof Dr. Assmansche Katholische Höhere Mädchenschule, that changed its name to Scherings’ches Lyzeum in 1912 – where she remained until 1921. In 1914 a major upheaval shattered the relatively secure lives of the Kłopocki family: the First World War broke out and Jan Kłopocki was summoned to join the ranks of the German army because he was considered a Hohenzollern subject. Shortly after he was killed and from then on Janina’s mother had to earn the family’s living.
“I was born in Greater Poland” said Janina Kłopocka in an interview, “and spent my youth in Berlin. My father fell in the First World War and I attribute my success to the stubbornness of my poor, wonderful mother and... myself.”
There were very few Polish girls in the German grammar school attended by Janina. One of her best friends was Elżbieta, the daughter of the Polish politician, Wojciech Korfanty, from Upper Silesia. During her time at the grammar school Janina became interested in art and produced her first watercolour drawings as well as a portrait of her sister. One of her favourite artists was the painter, Albrecht Dürer. On a visit to the Lissowski family in Upper Silesian Michałowice she also portrayed “living pictures” from Polish history. Her mother placed great value on her children receiving a “national” education. Hence she tried to compensate for the influences of the German school and German surroundings. In 1914 she registered Janina and her sister Łucja with the Berlin “nest” of the Polish “Sokół” (the Polish gymnastics club, the Falcons). In 1922 the Union of Poles in Germany was set up and Janina joined it one year later.