A Polish pre-war story getting yet another life in California (Episode 60)


This story is featured in Episode 60

What I really love is when fascinating stories grow by getting extensions and often new lives. Here is one such story.

At the beginning of our POLcast I interviewed Ron Davis, a renowned Canadian jazz musician, a son of Holocaust survivors. His mother Alicja, who came to Canada from Poland after the war with no documents, no family photos, had one story to tell: that before the war her father, Ron’s grandfather, used to run an inn in Warsaw, which was so well known and famous that it was immortalized in a popular song. No one really believed her for decades – nobody knew the name of the place or the song. And then, one day, she found proof at a multicultural exhibition in Toronto, where at the Polish booth they played to her the song “Bal u Grubego Jośka” a.k.a “Bal na Gnojnej”. That was that song! All Varsovians, like me and my family, knew that song – it was played by street bands and was part of Warsaw city folklore.

Ron got to know the whole story and recorded an album “My mothers’ father’s song” with his own three arrangements of the classic song. He had a chance to perform it at the Jewish festival in Warsaw, sadly soon after his mother’s death.

Ron Davis telling his amazing story at our POLcast launch at the Polish Consulate in Toronto

I loved the story and was honoured to be invited by CBC producer Barb Dickie to participate in her radio show in order to provide the background by talking about pre-war Warsaw and the importance of the sort of music of which “Bal na Gnojnej” is an example.  

Ron’s story on POLcast:

“A Canadian jazz artist’s reconnection to his family history and Poland”

Since then Ron has been discovering other missing pieces of the family puzzle and has played the song in many places including Fringe Festival in Edinburgh.

This is where he was approached Ana Bayat, who heard his music and the magical story of the song – how Ron discovered its origin and its connection to his life. Ana, a multilingual actress of Persian origin living and working in California, was charmed by the story and is working on a play about Alicja – Alice, Ron’s mother.

Anahita Ghazi Bayat(aka Ana Bayat) is an international multilingual actress based in California, USA. Encouraged by her actor father, Nader Bayat, Ana started studying acting and working professionally on stage and camera since the mid 1980s, establishing herself as a strong on-camera presence in Iranian cinema prior to embarking for England where she underwent a second rigorous conservatory training at Birmingham School of Speech and Dramatic Arts.

Ana holds a B.A. Honors in Linguistics and an M.A. in Film and, when not acting, dedicates her time to voice over work and language consulting.

In addition to UK and US English, Ana is fluent in Persian, Spanish and French and can get by in German, Italian and Catalan.

Ana’s website

SoundCloud account

Ana’s solo show “Mimi’s Suitcase”:

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