Voices -- The Women's College Magazine at Santa Monica College
 
 








 

Rennaisance Woman
Emily Busch

Beata Pozniak

Beata Pozniak

In the days of the Renaissance, famous historical figures were masters of many fields. These people painted works of art while they simultaneously developed mathematical theories and made monumental scientific discoveries. Today, most of us aspire to make a significant contribution through becoming knowledgeable in one area of study. Seldom do you come across a modern day Renaissance person. Finding a woman who has established herself in a variety of areas is even rarer.

She Monk
She Monk

Recently, however, I have had the privilege of encountering Beata Pozniak-Daniels, who can only be described as a Renaissance woman. Beata is an actress, who had appeared in over twenty foreign films before coming to America. Upon arriving in the states, she was chosen for a leading role in Oliver Stone’s film, JFK, and has since appeared in the Young Indiana Jones series, Babylon Five, and Melrose Place. With her paintings and sculptures widely displayed and collected, Beata has established herself as an artist. Beata is a dramatist, with formal training and an MFA from the Film, Television, and Theater University in Lodz, Poland, her native country. The dramatic and poetic skills she acquired in Lodz collided when she wrote and directed Theater Discordia. A winner of championship metals, Beata has competed in speed skating, judo, karate, fencing, and running. Beata is also an activist who works tirelessly for women’s issues, and is personally responsible for making International Women’s Day a national holiday in the United States.

Beata’s many undertakings consume much of her energy. Many would think it impossible for her to take on anything else. Beata, however, has recently been endowed with a new challenge: motherhood. She explains the shift that has occurred in her life. “Right now quite frankly a big part of my energy by Beata Pozniakgoes into my family and taking care of my two and a half year old son who is a huge inspiration for all my other interests.”
Beata does not let her many endeavors weigh her down. Instead, her vision of life is dominated by a positive outlook. She says, “The way I design my life is like a tree … one branch is painting, one is writing, another activism, and so on. Overall its one tree, one person. Now and then a new branch comes to life with a new possibility, a new expression of who you are. I’m interested in how far I can go. I am inspired by human potential.”

Beata’s faith in human potential and the worth inherent in each individual has led her to become anactivist for women. Women, especially those from foreign countries, are too often forgotten and ignored. Beata became aware of the invisibility of women when she immigrated to America. She says, “I came from communist Poland with excitement for my dream of freedom at the age of twenty-five. I very much wanted to find powerful female role models who had also immigrated. I soon discovered that all of the great names were men like Carnegie, Einstein, and Taper. It was a challenge to find known immigrant women.”

Beata decided to address this discrepancy with a political campaign aimed at raising the visibility of
women through a national holiday: International Women’s Day. International Women’s Day has been celebrated around the world every March 8th since it’s beginning in Denmark over eighty years ago. Beata decided it was time for America to formally recognize the contributions of women.

Mother Bosnia
Mother Bosnia

Beata’s quest to make International Women’s Day a holiday was not easy. She describes the obstacles she encountered. “I wrote many letters and made many telephone calls. I ran into a lot of bureaucracy, politics, and back turning.” However, this did not deter Beata from her goal. She says, “I gained strength from what Mahatma Gandhi said, “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win”.” With help from Congresswoman Maxine Waters the bill was passed by President Clinton and on March 8, 1994 women were honored on America’s first International Women’s Day.

Beata, being an actress, was able to solicit help from Hollywood, “a very powerful community”, in raising awareness of women’s issues through International Women’s Day. She says, “I brought stars like Stevie Wonder and Diane Lane to the event to help focus people’s attention on the real heroes,

Czaszka
Czaszka

such as Stephania Burzminski who risked her life to save many Jews in Poland during the war, or Rose Freedman who survived the Triangle Shirt factory fire in New York that began the union movement in America. I was often horrified, shocked, and then inspired by how these women overcame obstacles."

Beata’s connection with the Hollywood community has raised awareness for International Women’s Day, and therefore the women’s issues that are addressed at this event. Beata says encouragingly, “I still get many letters from colleges and different ethnic groups around the world that are inspired and want to bring the idea to their community.” With all of this progress, Beata “hopes that one day there won’t be a need for a “Women’s Day”. She continues, “Women and men will celebrate and honor each other equally. Maybe we will just celebrate a “People’s Day”.”

Because we have not yet reached the type of equality Beata hopes for, “[she] will continue to be a

Mnemosyne
Mnemosyne

strong advocate for a woman’s voice.” She lists some of the issues on which she is currently concentrating her efforts. “In the US, it still surprises me that California is the only state that has a family leave policy. Every other civilized country in the world has it. In other countries there are so many issues crying for attention including: 1) the right to vote (just last year Kuwait’s cabinet approved the first bill giving women the right to vote, but still has not ratified it), 2) forced abortions in China, 3) female genital mutilation, 4) Taliban, 5) marriages with more than one wife (often without consent from the wives), 6) picture brides (fathers marry off their very young daughters), and 7) divorces that can only arise from the will of the husband in countries such as Algeria.”

One might think that the emphasis on beauty, glamour, and fame found in Hollywood would conflict with the feminist beliefs and ideals that Beata has tried to conquer with her activism. She explains how she is effectively involved in both spheres. “Hollywood poses special challenges because the stories and roles often do not depict women in a truly liberated fashion. However, in my own modest way I have tried to portray women who have strong voices like Irene in “The Young Indiana Jones” series who tries to overthrow the Russian Government in 1917, or the first female president of the world on “Babylon 5”. Even Marina Oswald in “JFK” was a woman struggling to be heard.”
by Beata Pozniak
The issues Beata addresses through her acting and activism can also be found in her artwork. She escribes the themes and focus of her work. “Surrealism is a lens through which I view many of the events and circumstances occurring in the world today. Whether it is the horrors of war or inspirational insights found in ancient mythology, I am constantly exploring fantastical juxtapositions that express something about the experience of being a woman. That is why my paintings and sculptures are often surreal and full of symbolism. Feministic, poetical, and political.”

In her search to find a positive immigrant female role model, Beata created one in herself. This modern day Renaissance woman embodies the strength, ingenuity, and compassion which shines through the selfless work she has done and continues to do. Her work will serve as inspiration for future generations and will attest to the absolute equality and ability of women to succeed in any endeavor they decide to undertake.


Birth to Film
Birth to Film

 

Emily Busch is an English major with a minor in Environmental Studies. She has recently been accepted to UC Berkeley. Emily is also a Crew Leader for Sustainable Works and is VOICES’ Environmental editor.


 

 

 

 

 

 
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