There are legends told about your diligence.
My parents started work at six in the morning. They dealt with production and supply matters throughout the day. After school, I joined my brother to help in the company. Later, there was a joint work on writing out documents, bills, packing goods – sometimes until two or three a.m. Only then did we say good night. I do not know how we survived it then … Madness!
How about your school? Did it not reflect negatively on your marks?
No. Fortunately, I was a good student. I do not remember having any real backlog due to my work in the company.
Maybe the social life of a young man suffered because of it?
I remember a story from this period. Cholerzyn, where our house and the company’s first office were located, is a beautifully situated town near Cracow: close to the lake, forest. Once, my friends drove to the gate of the plant. Of course, not to help us with production, but to have a good time at the beach which was trendy among the inhabitants of Kraków. Sun, carefree summer, youth. The girls waved to me from behind the fence, shouting: “Marek, come to us.” And I? I left the production for a moment in a white coat all stained with lipstick dyes and … I could not join them because there was no one to take my place for a time. I had to go back to work and continue mixing all these ingredients when they were having fun. That’s what my social life looked like then. There was either school or work – hard work at the production or trips with my father all over Poland to get materials or sell finished cosmetics.
Did you prefer to produce or sell?
Sale was certainly more difficult because it required skillful contact with people, encouraging them to buy from us. And I was a bit shy then, so I had to fight this feeling. I remember how once I went on a trip with my father. He gave me a box of cosmetics and told me to go into the store and sell them. I went in. I wandered around the shop, I did not say a word to the owner about what I brought, I only waited for a moment and then left. I told my father that they had everything in this shop and they did not need anything from us. My father took my cardboard box without a word and went back to the store. He was gone a few minutes. Of course, when he returned, it turned out that he sold everything. For him, this work was something completely different from what he did all his life. Nonetheless, he was great at it. He won over people, he built friendly relations, and this is extremely important in trade.
Haven’t you had a leave from your parents even before your graduation?
I do not recall anything like that, perhaps there was no need. School and work were two separate worlds. I felt good in each and I did not even feel that suddenly I had to start working less to learn more. School and work somehow got along naturally. I remember, however, a bump before graduation. I had a long way to school because I had to commute 30 km. After two years of work in the company, I managed to earn enough to buy a good sports car. In order not to arouse unnecessary sensation at school, I did not park directly in front of the school, but next to the theater. Then I went to school by the side door. This strange habit was noticed and deciphered by the school director. And that led to some problems. I was given to understand that when I was driving such a car, I was disturbing the existing social canon, not to say the order of the world. From that time on, I started to park even further, so as not to have a negative impact on morale – not so much of my friends as my teachers. Of course, there was a sign of the times in that assessment, some regret that I earned a good-class car so quickly, and the headmaster had to ride a thirty-year-old Mercedes. Such was the social price of rapid changes in Poland.
(Source: Lidia Lewandowska “Beautiful Stories. The Success of Polish Cosmetics Brands”, PWN 2016)