Halina Konopacka

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Halina Konopacka
Halina Konopacka 1928.jpg
Konopacka at the 1928 Olympics
Personal information
Born26 February 1900
Rawa Mazowiecka, Russian Empire
Died28 January 1989 (aged 88)
Daytona Beach, Florida, United States
Alma materWarsaw University
Height180 cm (5 ft 11 in)
Weight65 kg (143 lb)
Event(s)Discus throw, javelin throw, shot put
ClubAZS Warsaw
Achievements and titles
Personal best(s)DT – 39.62 m (1928)
JT – 34.83 m (1930)
SP – 9.96 m (1925)

Halina Konopacka (Leonarda Kazimiera Konopacka-Matuszewska-Szczerbińska)[1] (26 February 1900 – 28 January 1989)[2] was a Polish athlete. She won the discus throw event at the 1928 Summer Olympics, breaking her own world record and becoming the first Polish Olympic champion. After retiring from athletics she became a writer and poet, she immigrated to the United States after World War II and died there.[3]


Konopacka was born in Rawa Mazowiecka, Russian Empire, and grew up in Warsaw, where she trained in horse riding, swimming and skating, her whole family also played tennis, including her father Jakub, sister Czesława and brother Tadeusz. While studying at the Faculty of Philology of the Warsaw University she also took up skiing and athletics, but soon abandoned winter sports because the training facilities were too far from her home. In 1926 she set her first world record in the discus throw, after only a few months of training, which followed by two more records in 1927 and 1928.[3][2]

Konopacka had dark skin and brown eyes owing to her Tatar ancestors, she always wore a red beret while competing, and was nicknamed "Miss Olympia". In 1928 she married Ignacy Matuszewski, the treasury secretary of Poland, she retired from athletics in 1931, but continued to do sports recreationally, including skiing, tennis and car races, and was listed as one of the best Polish tennis players until 1937. She was a guest of honor at both the 1936 Winter and Summer Olympics, and a member of the Polish Olympic Committee in 1938–1939.[2] Being a well-educated woman fluent in three foreign languages, she engaged in writing, she wrote her first book of poetry Któregoś dnia (Some Day) in 1929, and later published her poems in the literary magazine of the Skamander group and in the Wiadomości Literackie, the premier literary periodical of the interbellum Poland, earning recognition of established writers such as Mieczysław Grydzewski, Kazimierz Wierzyński and Antoni Słonimski. According to professor Anna Nasiłowska, Konopacka's works were valued for their feminist approach in analyzing the relationship between the man and the woman, and for their reminiscences of youth and the treatment of the topic of jealousy.[2][4]

In September 1939, at the onset of World War II, she helped her husband, Ignacy Matuszewski, the former Minister of Treasury in the Polish Government, evacuate the gold reserves of the Polish National Bank to France to help finance the Polish government-in-exile. After France surrendered to Germany in June 1940, the couple immigrated to the United States, arriving there through Spain, Portugal and Brazil in September 1941. After her husband died suddenly in New York in 1946, she founded a skiing school near New York, as well as designed clothing and ran a boutique shop there. In 1949, she married George Szczerbiński, an accomplished tennis player. After her second husband's death in 1959, she moved to Florida, where in 1960 she graduated from an art college and then became a painter, working under the alias of Helen George, she painted mostly flowers. She died on January 28, 1989,[2] and shortly thereafter was posthumously awarded the Silver Cross of Merit by the Polish government, her ashes were laid to rest in her parents' grave at the Bródno Cemetery of Warsaw.[5][2]


  • Któregoś dnia, Warszawa : Heliodor, 2008. ISBN 9788360854242, OCLC 297820845
  • Halina Konopacka; Maria Rotkiewicz, Wznosiłam świat miłością, Warszawa : Spółka Wydawnicza Heliodor, 1994, ISBN 9788386338023, OCLC 749660642


  1. ^ "Halina (właściwie Leonarda Kazimiera) Szczerbińska z Konopackich". www.ipsb.nina.gov.pl (in Polish). Retrieved 22 May 2019.
  2. ^ a b c d e f Olimpijski, Polski Komitet. "Biografie • Polski Komitet Olimpijski". www.olimpijski.pl (in Polish). Retrieved 18 October 2017.
  3. ^ a b "Halina Konopacka Bio, Stats, and Results". Olympics at Sports-Reference.com. Retrieved 18 October 2017.
  4. ^ Witold Malesa, "Silna ręka i miękkie serce", a Polish Radio programme (see online).
  5. ^ Halina Konopacka. sports-reference.com


Preceded by
Czechoslovakia Maria Vidlaková
Women's discus world record holder
23 May 1926 – 22 August 1926
Succeeded by
Germany Milly Reuter
Preceded by
Germany Milly Reuter
Women's discus world record holder
4 September 1927 – 15 May 1932
Succeeded by
Poland Jadwiga Wajs