Ewa Cybulska
Photo Credit: Everett Collection

Ewa Cybulska

The Immigrant

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About Her

Living… in New York City in 1921, where she’s escaped the oppressive environment of post-WWI Poland. Ewa arrived here with her sister, who was quarantined at Ellis Island. That’s when Ewa was almost sent back to Europe as an “unaccompanied woman,” until a mysterious man named Bruno bribed an officer and offered her a place to stay.

Profession… dancer at the Bandits’ Roost Theater, the place Bruno runs. Ewa certainly did not imagine herself dancing in a theater when she was back in Poland, but she has no recourse but to take the work offered her in order to raise enough money to get her sister Magda out of holding. When it soon becomes clear that Ewa has no chance of raising enough money through dancing any time soon, Bruno then coerces her into prostitution, taking further advantage of her need to ensure her sister’s release.

Interests… Emil the illusionist and his act. Ewa first saw Emil perform upon her arrival at Ellis Island. Later, Emil came to see Ewa perform at the Bandit’s Roost and handed her a white rose. He wants her to be a part of his act, but Bruno (Emil’s cousin) sees through Emil’s efforts and wants Ewa to himself.

Relationship Status… complicated. Ewa is almost entirely dependent on Bruno, who has enlisted Ewa as one of his “doves” – a pawn in his prostitution ring. Bruno’s cousin Emil has fallen for Ewa, infuriating Bruno and essentially endangering Ewa’s quest to have her sister released. Yet there is an attraction between them, and Ewa’s feelings for Emil are mutual. Both Emil and Bruno are fighting for Ewa as an object for their own material gain, and Ewa is torn between her actual feelings and her dependence on these men to provide a way for her to help her sister.

Challenge… sacrificing everything for her sister’s well-being. Since her arrival to Ellis Island, life has been a constant struggle for Ewa. She has been dragged into a life of prostitution, detained as an illegal immigrant, used and abused by her caretakers, and ostracized by her relatives. Every supposed helper has betrayed her; every promise to her has been broken. Yet she refuses to break the promise she made to her sister.

Personality… loyal, courageous, and resilient. Ewa knew immigrating would be difficult, but part of her believed a safe, happy life with a loving man was possible. She believed in the American promise and still wants to believe it, even with all this hardship thrown her way. Miraculously, she still maintains her belief in God and asks for his acceptance. She even seeks to learn forgiveness for those who’ve made her suffer. As she puts is, “Is it a sin to want to survive when I’ve done such bad things?... God sent me to someone who's really lost, someone who turned my life into a sin. And now, this person is suffering for me. So I'm learning the power of forgiveness.”

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