A nightmare. There is no other way to describe your childhood and youth - actually a phase of life that is the most carefree for most people. Even after that, his life rushes to such dramatic lows as if a saboteur had marked out Roman Polanski's path.
This is particularly striking because, as a brilliant director, he is equipped with an exuberant imagination and is now reviewing a life that could have come from his film workshop. On August 18, Polanski will be 90 years old. He has a turbulent life to show for himself. The tragedies the Oscar winner endured would have been enough to break more than one person, including himself.
He was born in Paris in 1933 as Raymond Thierry Liebling. The father Mojżesz Liebling (1903-1984) is a Polish realtor from Kraków, the ancestors of the mother Bula Katz-Przedborska (1900-1943) come from Russia. In Paris, the Jewish family can keep its head above water, but that changes when the father loses his job and he goes back to Poland in 1937.
Back in Kraków, the favorites call themselves Polanski - and they go from bad to worse. In 1939, Hitler's troops invaded Poland, a merciless persecution of the Jews began, and the Polanskis had to move to the ghetto. There, as a child, Roman witnessed random murders. Once he had to watch a German officer shoot an old woman.
The father was deported to the Mauthausen concentration camp, and the mother Bula was pregnant when she was deported to Auschwitz in 1943 and murdered in the gas chamber. Ten-year-old Roman is able to escape from the ghetto, initially finding shelter with two Polish families who are friends of his. With them the child learns the Catholic customs, church rites and prayers.
Eventually he flees to the village of Wysoka, where he lives as a Catholic Pole under the name of Roman Wilk with a poor, devout and anti-Semitic peasant family. When a Catholic priest comes to visit, he interrogates the boy and tests his knowledge of the catechism, whereupon the priest states: "You are not one of us!" He urges the child to confess his Jewish faith, which would have meant his death sentence. Roman flees back to Kraków and later says: "That day I became an atheist, there was no more faith for me."
After the Red Army invaded on January 19, 1944, the boy struggled through on his own until he found his father, who miraculously survived the Mauthausen concentration camp and returned to Kraków as a broken man, but the ordeal continued: 1949 16-year-old Roman is raped.
With this mortgage of traumatic experiences, the young man starts his professional life. He becomes a child actor and, after graduating from high school, studies at the Lodz film school. And he met the actress Barbara Lass, later the third wife of Karlheinz Böhm and mother of the German TV star Katharina Böhm, whom he married in 1959 (divorced in 1962).
Great talent quickly makes a career. His first feature film "The Knife in the Water" was a great success and nominated for an Oscar. In 1963 Polanski left communist Poland and lived in Paris and London. His films "Disgust", "When Katelbach Comes...", "Tanz der Vampire" and "Rosemaries Baby" become cult, the big stars want to work with Polanski.
Then, in 1969, the next tragedy: while he was filming in London, followers of cult leader Charles Manson attacked his house in Hollywood and brutally killed his heavily pregnant wife Sharon Tate and four friends - for the completely paralyzed Polanski, "the worst experience of my life."
The director cannot work for two years, then he shoots "Macbeth" (1971), "What?" (1973) and his great triumph "Chinatown" (1974). A comeback, but followed by another fall. In 1977 he was charged with "rape using narcotics". Polanski is said to have had sex with the just 13-year-old girl Samantha Jane Gailey (after her marriage Geimer) during a fashion shoot for "Vogue".
In order to protect the girl from a public hearing, her lawyer proposes an agreement in criminal proceedings. After approval by the prosecutor's office, the charges are reduced to "extramarital sex with a minor" and Polanski is sent to state prison for 90 days as part of a forensic psychiatric evaluation. After 42 days, he was released with a recommendation to impose a suspended sentence.
When it became apparent that the judge responsible would not comply with the agreement, Polanski fled to London and has since lived mostly in Paris. He strictly avoids travel to the United States and to countries where he faces extradition. He hasn't set foot on American soil since 1977, not even when he won the Oscar for Best Director in 2003 for his great film The Pianist.
In 2009, Polanski was arrested at Zurich Airport as he tried to enter Switzerland. He spent nine months in electronically monitored house arrest on bail of 4.5 million Swiss francs. The Swiss authorities then reject the US extradition request and Polanski returns to France. Extradition proceedings to Poland, where the director is temporarily staying, are similar.
Since fleeing the United States, he has lived in Paris again. He has French (and Polish) nationality and has been married to French actress Emmanuelle Seigner (57) since 1989. The couple have two adult children (Morgane, 30, and Elvis, 25), both of whom are actors.