His name was on everyone’s lips: on the covers of magazines in Berlin, Vienna and Paris. Maria Orska filled theaters and cinemas in Germany and Austria, Prague and Budapest. His autograph on postcards where he appeared acting or wearing the latest fashion made girls dream. Her most successful role: a diva, a woman with such strong eros that she turned men’s lives into tragedies (works apparently written by men). She was Oscar Wilde’s Salome, Wedekind’s Lulu, Strindberg’s Manipulators. His theatrical career (1910-1929) included sensational comedies and dramas. He brought Pirandello to Berlin. He annoyed the critics with his exotic emotionality that trampled the rules of the German theater. A brand of cigarettes bore his name. He acted in a dozen German silent films. The numerous interviews she gave to journalists reveal a sensitive and intelligent artist, crushed by the loneliness of fame.

Maria Orska wrote in the guest book of her friend Edith (sister of politician Walter Rathenau): “We always keep only what we have lost.” The Bolsheviks destroyed the birthplace of Maria (born Rachel Blindermann) on the coast of the Black Sea, in the still suffering Ukraine. A foreigner conquered Europe with her talent and hard work. How to understand that such an artist would destroy her life chasing the love of an unfaithful husband: Baron Hansa Jr. von Bleichröder, from the famous Bismarck banking family. Maria’s sister, Gabi, married an Italian marquis; and his brother, Edwin, Ecuadorian by birth and fortune. As fate would have it, the brother of the great Orska ended up in Ecuador after escaping from Berlin besieged by Nazism. Born, like his sisters, in Mykolaiv, to a Ukrainian father and an American mother of German-Jewish descent, Edwin will die in Quito, where his descendants still live today.

(…) he survived in the memory of his family in Ecuador, thanks to which his story came into my hands…

The remains of Maria Orska rest in Vienna together with the remains of her mother, but at the end of the Second World War the tombstone was removed. I don’t need to explain to you why none of the Jewish relatives were in Austria to prevent it. Maria Orska committed suicide in 1930, and at that time few knew the reason for her addiction to morphine (scandals that the press voraciously followed). In a 1924 letter to theater director Meinhard (whom the Nazis would deport to Theresienstadt), the actress reminds her boss that she sacrificed herself “out of a sick sense of gratitude, out of a sense of duty, and thus ruined my health. 9 years ago I left the clinic after undergoing surgery to act in Kameraden. I remember that, in order for the theater to be full at each performance of Erdgeist, I performed with an open wound. In my stupid lightness, I ruined myself so much that today I have become an old woman with an incurable female disease, and the destruction that I brought to my life in the name of theater is not only physical! It is a tragic and magical story at the same time. Magical because of the artist she was and because she lived on in the memory of her family in Ecuador, thanks to which her story came into my hands and followed me to discover not only her life, but also my own soul. (OR)