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Olympic Polonaise
Jack McCallum
January 27, 1988
The Tlalka twins, Dorota and Malgorzata, left their native Poland to make sweet ski music for France
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January 27, 1988

Olympic Polonaise

The Tlalka twins, Dorota and Malgorzata, left their native Poland to make sweet ski music for France

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"We've always been together," says Margot, "doing the same things, going to the same places. So maybe it is natural we work together so well, and that we have the same view of so many things."

Perhaps. But the twins seem preternaturally close, given the pressures they face both in private and on the slope. Their respective marital situations, for example, could be a breeding ground for trouble, but they aren't. Margot doesn't relish talking about her arranged marriage to Christophe, but neither is she ashamed of it. She and her husband are good friends and, fortunately for the harmony of the household in Uriage, she and Christian are extremely close, too. "I think of myself not only as the husband of Dorota," says Christian, "but also the brother of Malgorzata."

The twins miss their parents desperately, so desperately that it is hard for them to talk about it. They have seen them only a few times since leaving Poland, but they have not been back to their native country. There is no legal reason they cannot travel freely to and from Poland, but they have decided that it would be better to let some time pass before they do. Chances are, they will return in the spring or summer.

Their feelings about Poland are complicated and, refreshingly, not identical. Dorota seems much more certain than her sister that her future lies in France.

"If I would finish my ski career in Poland, and everyone would know my name, it would be nice, but then what would I be?" says Dorota. "Only a ski trainer. In France, there seems to be more of a chance to develop yourself."

Margot is not so sure. "I think of myself as a Pole." she says. "Maybe in 20 years it will be different, but that's how it is right now.

"You know, in Poland there were moments when it was not nice to be there, like during the time of martial law. It was not quite so dramatic in Zakopane as in other, more working-class cities, but you could feel it. The soldiers, the policemen. Dorota and I had been in the West competing, shopping, smiling, out doing things, and when we came home, we could see that our people were anxious and distressed. Poland is not going to look very good with that comparison."

She pauses and smiles. "But still I love Poland," she continues. "When I think of Poland, I think of our childhood, our parents, only pleasurable things. The Poles have a strange mind, you see. In every world-famous person they try to find the Polish blood. And usually they succeed. They are proud of their people, and I know they would be proud of Dorota and me. It would give me great satisfaction to win a medal, for myself, for France, for Poland."

The twins are not favorites to finish in the top three in Calgary, but neither are they long shots. They have a chance. Which raises an interesting question: How would one twin react if only her sister won a medal?

Dorota squirmed in her seat and thought about it for a moment. Then she looked her sister squarely in the eye and smiled. "I would be unbelievably happy," she said, "but I would prefer it would be me." Margot smiled and nodded. "I agree with that," she said.

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