L’histoire D’Izabella Miko
written by Jason Smilovic
Winter 1998. The white elephant, a shiny 747 airbus stands in brilliant contrast against the backdrop of the cold, grey day, sitting quietly on the tarmac, as she contrives to do the seemingly impossible: to fly.
The entire voyage, runway to runway, Warsaw to New York, Okecie to JFK, East to West, from the past to the future in a highly evolved Boeing Time Machine takes more or less a nine-hour spell. The flight pattern, in reverse-New York to Warsaw-with the tailwind from the jet stream, is a seven-hour trajectory, a strangely befitting metaphor, which tells us that it invariably takes longer to leave a place than it does to return to it. But, returning is not an option…not this time.
As she awaits the plane’s taxi down the slick runway, our protagonist, the slight, seventeen-year-old Polish girl seated in 17 F, contemplates the series of interconnected incidents behind her present space-time coordinates.
Born to a pair of Polish actors, Grazyna Dylag and Aleksander Mikolajczak, Izabella Anna Mikolajczak made her first appearance in Lodz, Poland on January 21, 1981 at 3:15 a.m. And on that first morning, Izabella demonstrated a flare for the dramatic, momentarily strangled by her umbilical cord. She arrived unharmed.
Growing up in Warsaw, Izabella became privy to the dogmatic nature of the communist regime that ruled over Poland with an iron fist. Bread lines at 5 a.m. were simply a reality that figured into the daily routine of our heroine. To escape the hazards of the impoverished landscape, Izabella dreamed of becoming a ballerina. She learned to dance before she could walk. Unfortunately in Poland, ballet school does not begin until the age of nine, therefore Izabella attended the Chopin School on Miodowa Street in central Warsaw, where she studied piano. She walked the hallowed halls of the Chopin School for three years.
When she was ten years old she auditioned for the National Ballet School in Warsaw (two blocks away from the Chopin School, just across the street from the famous Grand theatre). Nine-year old Izabella, after three auditions and finally a rejection, persuaded the entrance committee, who were convinced that she was not flexible enough, to grant her temporary admission to the school for a six-month probationary period. In Poland at that time you were either a ballet dancer or you were not. All or nothing. If she were denied entrance into the school, Izabella’s dreams would be shattered. She dedicated herself to her craft, practicing seven days a week, and was finally accepted into the program. The school, which was a two bus rides away jaunt from Izabella’s home, was a half ballet, half academic-7: 30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. – curriculum that was intended to last for nine years (Izabella left after four).
At the age of 14 Izabella left Warsaw for Biennale to study ballet in a summer workshop, where an American choreographer discovered her, and invited her to NYC to study ballet on a scholarship. On her fifteenth birthday Izabella left Warsaw, Poland, with her mother in tow, for New York, New York. Her mom stayed with her for two weeks to aid with the acclimation. Izabella moved into a small apartment in Harlem. She moved soon after a woman died of causes unknown on the 4th floor of the tenement.
Izabella took up residence with Spanish nuns in the Centro Maria convent on 56th street between 10th and 11th. A convent for non-native, Spanish speakers, who either had the calling or found themselves in trouble. The Lilliputian rooms were bare like prison cells: a table, a chair, a mirror and a bed (and a 9:00 p.m. no-exceptions-curfew). Izabella lived with the Sisters for 11/2 months, attending mass every morning and went to at least one confession during her visit. No one died! Izabella did, however, manage to avert a mugging attempt on her second day at the convent. One morning-allegedly after mass-Izabella was pursued by two would-be muggers. Izabella absconded and hid in a nearby deli.
Izabella auditioned for the highly acclaimed SAB (School of American Ballet) and, soon after her acceptance, moved into the SAB dormitory. Studying ballet is not an inexpensive endeavor-point shoes are $60 a pair and you go through one pair in a week. Izabella took odd jobs cleaning bathrooms and mirrors in the dance studio, sold batteries on Times Square and babysat to earn extra money.
After two and one-half years at the SAB Izabella suffered an injury to her vertebrae. Her knees followed and her ankles weren’t too far behind. She quit dancing and returned to Poland, depressed and disenchanted.
Casting directors calling with jobs for her parents offered Izabella a role in a silent made for television movie called Lithuania You Are My Motherland directed by Tadeusz Bystram (don’t pretend like you haven’t seen it). The movie was shot on location in Poland, Russia and Lithuania. Izabella rejoiced. Acting filled the void that dancing had left behind.
Four months after her sad departure Izabella was on her way back to the Big Apple, which brings us to where we left off. So, the plane took off from Okecie and when it landed the slight Polish girl seated in 17 F was miraculously translated to America…more specifically New York…JFK Airport to be exact. They say that when you leave a place that you never hope to return to, you cast a black stone. Izabella’s love for her homeland would never allow her to cast a black stone. Instead she cast a stone that signified that she would only return home on her own terms. The girl with the impossible blue eyes and a smile to end all wars had arrived in New York and she was here to stay.
Izabella studied acting at Strassberg and began modeling with Q models, but acting lessons and modeling does not an actor make. To act one needs an agent and agents live in LA. Once in the City of Angels, Izabella became a prisoner of public transportation and her snickers – walking to almost all of her appointments. While in Los Angeles She began to work unofficially with a huge agent, this in turn led to her first audition for Jerry Bruckheimer’s Coyote Ugly. She nailed the role (not to shabby for her first time out of the gate).
Slew of films followed in years ahead, utilizing Izabella’s “all or nothing” attitude.
3 month training to become a trapeze artist and do her own stunts, 2 month dance training to be able to “battle” at the most underground clubs and 20hr days in studio to perfect songs for her films.
Izabella lives and breathes in Los Angeles and New York respectively.
Since returning to New York, Izabella has been back to Warsaw several times, but always on her own terms.