Let's imagine this scene: a young boy comes to Łódź on his new WSK motorbike and parks it here, at Komuna Paryska Square. In the background, we can see Tuwim street, where trams still ran at that time, and the now iconic FSO cars were there: Warszawa and Syrena. Leszek, this is the boy's name, comes to Łódź to meet Ania, his recently met girlfriend. There is one of the scenes from the TV series "Daleko od szosy". In order to present himself properly, Leszek changes into a suit and an overcoat and leaves his bag with less formal clothes in the collection office in the car park.

And the square itself? It is called Komuna Paryska Square. This part of town used to belong to the Assembly of Weavers of the city of Łódź. For a long time it remained undeveloped, so various town games and slides were organised here. Originally, it was to be the site of the first brick church in Łódź - which eventually stood opposite it - and in the 1860s the city's first university, the Polytechnic Institute, was planned to be located here. However, this did not materialise. In the interwar years, the idea of laying out a square in this location, which was then a green enclave in the city centre, was revived.

The series ‘Daleko od szosy’ was one of the most anticipated television events of 1976. Everyone was talking about it. Piotr Piotrowski, in his book ‘Kultowe seriale’ (‘Cultic TV series’), recalls that after the first episode aired, even the kids in the backyard would sing "Daj mi nogę, daj mi nogę, ja Ci nogi, ja ci nogi dać nie mogę" (‘Give me a leg, give me a leg, I can't give you a leg’), which was the favourite hit of the fruit farmer where the teenage Leszek worked. In the social weekly "Odgłosy" one could read: "We were all waiting, knowing that 'Daleko od szosy' would be close to reality, that we would finally see a slice of real life in a TVP film production after a long break". Nomen omen, Leszek Górecki's story was inspired by real events. As luck would have it, the series' scriptwriter, Henryk Czarnecki, an acclaimed writer, author of radio plays, theatre performances and television shows, was also a Polish teacher at the Motor School Complex in Łódź. One of his students was Lechosław Uciński, the prototype for the TV series character Leszek. Lechosław wrote an essay on "My way to school", which Czarnecki included in his book ‘Professor on the road’. The book was the basis for a less than an hour-long film directed by Zbigniew Chmielewski. However, Lechosław's story seemed interesting to him and he saw in it the potential for a separate script. When Czarnecki was asked how to make a TV series, he replied: ‘the recipe for a successful series is quite simple. First, you need to find a film director, preferably one of Zbigniew Chmielewski's calibre. Precisely because he knows how to make TV series. And then, bagatelle, you need to enthuse this director about the subject. By the way, it doesn't hurt to be a writer and have something ready in prose in your portfolio: a novel, a novella or a novella, a novel. In the case I'm talking about, the starting point was two pages of my book ‘The Professor on the road’. So the scriptwriter must have quite seriously, well, fascinated director Zbigniew Chmielewski, since two pages of the story became a contribution to the creation of seven episodes lasting over an hour.

The main character, Leszek, is a simple boy from a poor country family. He is not interested in working on the farm or weaving wicker baskets, as his parents do. He has a flair for motorisation. He finds the countryside restrictive, cramped and stuffy, but is attracted to city life and wants to get out into the big world. With a few things packed into a cardboard box, he heads for Upper Silesia. He is escorted to the bus stop by the apprehensive Bronka, his girlfriend from the neighbouring village, (played by Slawomira Łozińska, a born Varsovian, fantastic in the role of the village girl). In Silesia, Leszek initially works as a labourer at a road construction site, and soon passes his professional driving test and gets a job as a dump truck driver. During one of his visits to his home village, Leszek meets Ania (Irena Szewczyk), a biology student from Łódź who spends her summer holidays with friends out of town. Leszek is fascinated by her. He also arouses positive emotions in her with his perseverance, straightforwardness and sense of humour. At first, the gap between the educationally neglected country boy and the young girl from an intellectual, urban home seems unbridgeable. However, apart from some inner compulsion for constant development that pushes Leszek forward, Ania becomes another reason and motivation for action. The boy perseveres and catches up to get into an adult evening technical school. Eventually, he splits up with Bronka. After military service, Leszek moves to Łódź, passes his bus driving licence. He works and at the same time studies at the Automotive Technical School. His path, though seemingly straight, is full of twists, difficulties and doubts. The situation is not made any easier by the fact that the girl's mother is totally against the relationship, considering it a misalliance and does not want her boyfriend to visit her at home. Despite everything, Leszek and Ania take on the challenge of living together. The series shows the everyday problems they have to deal with, and there are many of them. Exams, dealing with bureaucracy, constant problems with finding accommodation and registering. Sometimes all this weighs Leszek down and we have the impression that this time he will not get up again, that he will give up. And yet, we cheer him on with all our might, convinced that a man with such determination and inner strength cannot be broken. And so it is every time we watch this cult series.

However, when the series hit television screens in 1976 (interestingly, the series was filmed in colour, but the vast majority of the public had black and white sets), different emotions flared up among viewers. Newspaper editorials flooded with letters, and public discussions about the characters began. They ranged from admiration and looking for parallels to their own fates, to remarks that were highly critical and even insulting towards the characters. The dissatisfaction mainly concerned the choice of actors and their acting, the length of the episodes, and the immoral conduct of the main characters. Letters of abuse were even sent to the theatre where Krzysztof Stroiński worked. It was another of his roles that decided him to play the main character. In 1974 Stroiński played the character of Frank Bieniak in the film ‘Pójdziesz ponad sadem’ (‘You'll go above the orchard’). There, too, a determined boy overcomes life's difficulties, working initially as an unskilled labourer, gaining successive levels of education, and eventually passing university. For many years, the actor found it difficult to break away from his image as a smiling, affable country boy. After the success of 'Daleko od szosy', he was reluctant to talk to journalists. Like the actors playing the roles of Janek Kos, Hans Kloss or Janosik, he could not stop having been categorized for a long time. Even as a mature actor, he decisively broke away from this image with his role as an alcoholic policeman in Patryk Vega's series ‘PitBull’.

On the other hand, Irena Szewczyk, the series' Ania, got her role thanks to a positive impression at rehearsal photos. Asked what was the most difficult, she said that she was most afraid of the third episode, because then she started competing with Bronka, Leszek's girlfriend, whom the viewers had already come to know and like. She had to constantly prove with her character's behaviour that Leszek had made the right choice. She recalls being verbally attacked by viewers on many occasions. Popularity also had a more positive side. It manifested itself, for example, in the fact that a saleswoman in a thrift shop promised to put away a set of foreign pots if she told her how the series would end. Despite her immense popularity, Irena Szewczyk did not choose to follow the path of acting. Like her character, she chose a career in science and became a researcher at the Department of Pre-school and Early Childhood Pedagogy at the University of Łódź.

Other extremely popular actors of the time also played episodic roles in the series: Jan Himilsbach as a trader of pots and recyclables (in the series he makes his typically absurd line ‘I once bought a piglet at the market, and after a year it turned out to be a pig’), Zdzisław Maklakiewicz as a salesman in a clothes shop where Leszek buys and then returns a suit, or Witold Pyrkosz, who buys a motorbike from Leszek at a car dealership, making his: "...because I know... I'm buying this corpse". Ania's parents also created excellent supporting roles: the cool and distant mother was played by Barbara Horowianka - later adored for her role as laboratory technician Maria in the TV series ‘W labiryncie’ (‘In the Labyrinth’), while the warm and friendly father was played by Jan Machulski.

Despite a lot of criticism of the characters, objections to the portrayal of the countryside as a place devoid of any prospects or, at times, the ridiculously untrue, strained dialogues that the students around Ania had with each other, the series broke popularity records. Quoting again from Piotr Piotrowski's publication, even though surveys indicated that the socio-personality series was not the audience's favourite genre, the last episode was watched by more than 80 per cent of all Poles over the age of sixteen! The most likely key to its success were the characters and the real-life story, in which the vast majority of viewers were able to find a piece of their own destiny. Today, we look at the story of Leszek as a tale of social advancement, with an unforgettable love triangle... and a mine of quotes that recur in family discussions.

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