Laura Blackwell was born August 28, 1878 in St. Catharines, Ont., the tenth child of Walter and Euphemia Blackwell. Laura and her sister Keziah were trained vocalists and often gave performances in the St. Catharines area. Laura gave her final local performance in St. Catharines on September 27, 1900 at the Grand Opera House after which she was to make her debut at the Metropolitan in New York City. In the early 1900s she performed in Germany at Bayreuth and Munich. Her voice teachers were Ange Albert Pattou in New York and Brussels, Hermann in Munich, Lilli Lehman in Berlin and Jean de Reszke.

In 1907 Laura married Stanislaw de Turczynowicz, Count Gozdawa in Krakow, Poland. On June 16, 1908 her daughter Wanda Jolanda was born and June 28, 1909 her twin sons, Stanislaw Piotr (Peter) and Wladislaw Pawel (Paul) were born. After experiencing the invasion of Poland by the Prussian army Laura and her three children fled her home in Suwalki, Poland to the safety of Germany in 1915, arriving in New York on September 30, 1915. Laura de Turczynowicz wrote a book about her experiences during the Prussian invasion, When the Prussians came to Poland, and went on speaking engagements throughout the United States and part of Canada promoting her book. The proceeds from the sale of the book were to support the efforts of the Red Cross in Poland and Lithuania. Laura was instrumental in the training of young women in nursing to aid war torn Poland. This group came under the umbrella of the Y.W.C.A. and the American Relief Administration and was known as the Gray Samaritans.

From 1922 to 1927 Laura and her children resided in La Jolla, California. Laura was a voice teacher at Thearle’s Studio and produced musical operatic performances in the area. In 1928 she assumed the position of director of the operatic branch of the Toronto Conservatory of Music under the leadership of Sir Ernest Macmillan. After the 1929 season Laura left Toronto for Victoria and Vancouver, British Columbia where she held a similar position. On June 15, 1935 Laura and her daughter Wanda crossed at Blaine, Washington on their way to Santa Monica, California where Laura was to live until her death on October 25, 1953.

Click here to view Laura de Turczynowicz fonds finding aid: https://dr.library.brocku.ca/bitstream/handle/10464/2710/turc.pdf

Recent Submissions

  • "She Trumped Her Partner's Ace"

    Brandon, Kirsty; de Turczynowicz, Laura (n.d.)
    A short story written by Laura de Turczynowicz under the nom de plume Kirsty Brandon.
  • Photograph - Laura de Turczynowicz on stage in Gray Samaritans Uniform

    n.d.
    A photograph of a large crowd seated in front of a stage. On stage appears to be Laura de Turczynowicz in her Gray Samaritans uniform. There are several American flags hanging on and around the stage.
  • Sheet Music - "If He Can Fight-Like He Can Love Good Night, Germany!"

    Clarke, Grant; Rogers, Howard E.; Meyer, Geo. W. (Leo. Feist, Inc., 1918)
    Sheet music and words to "If He can Fight-Like He can Love Good Night, Germany".
  • When the Prussians came to Poland; the experiences of an American woman during the German invasion

    Turczynowicz, Laura Blackwell de Gozdawa (1916)
    The story of Laura de Turczynowicz and her family during the first World War in Poland.
  • Letter to Wanda Hermann from Laura de Turczynowicz and Peter de Turczynowicz

    de Turczynowicz, Laura; de Turczynowicz, Peter (1941-04-04)
    There are two letter that arrived for Wanda Hermann from her Mother Laura de Turczynowicz and her brother Peter de Turczynowicz. The first letter from her mother, discusses the weather in California and asks about Wanda's portrait that she recently painted. The second letter from her brother Peter reads in part "Dear Wanda, I hear you have all your pictures framed which is very much better than it was, I wrote Adelaide awhile ago but she as yet has not answered. Madame just read "Nazarene" by Soleman Asch which is really very good, have you been able to get "Secret Scepter" by Francis Gerard. Hobart is going to church next Sunday with us. goodfriend was down for bridge last night his bridge is very strange. We have had "Bambi's Family" by Sauter. It has been raining quite a lot Santa Monica has 31.63 in normal 12. in it is blowing and trying to rain right now which it certainly will do before long...navy stuck it chin out a little too far with german urgeing of course...I guess Hitler does not love the Serbes not too much any way."
  • "Musical Days in Europe"

    1934
    This article in the September 8, 1934 issue of the Vancouver Sun discusses the time Madame Laura de Gozdawa de Turczynowicz spent in Europe, Germany specifically, performing before the war.
  • "Woman's Story of the Hun Beast in Poland"

    Boyd Stevenson, Frederick (1918)
    The article discusses the experiences of Mme Laura de Turczynowicz during the first world war in Poland. The Germans kept her family prisoners for nearly a year and she recounts the terror they encountered during this time.
  • "Organizes Polish Gray Samaritans"

    Underwood, 1918
    A brief caption with a photograph of Countess Laura de Gozdawa Turczynowicz. The caption reads, "Working in harmony with the Young Women's Christian Association, Countess Laura de Gozdawa Turczynowicz is organizing the Polish Gray Samaritans. She is pictured here in her uniform as a captain of that organization".
  • "Recruiting Nurses to Serve with Polish Legion

    Underwood & Underwood, 1918
    An article concerning the work of Countess Laura de Godawa Turczynowicz with the efforts in France. She "started a campaign to recruit 500 women to form an independent battalion to serve in France".
  • "Operatic Director to leave Toronto"

    n.d.
    An article that discusses Mme de Turczynowicz as an Operatic coach and director in Toronto and her impending move to Vancouver for a new position.
  • "Persecuted Poland === Through the Eyes of an American Woman" - The Journal Magazine

    Meade, Norah (1917)
    An article describing the impact of war on the family of Mme. de Turczynowicz. She describes the illness, Typhus, that afflicted her children and the soldiers that lived in her home.
  • "Von Hindenburg a Scientific Prussian Savage, Declares Madame De Turczynowicz" Binghamton Republican-Herald

    1918
    An article in the Binghamton Republican-Herald, "Von Hindenburg a Scientific Prussian Savage, Declares Madame De Turczynowicz" discusses her encounters with the General in her home during the war.
  • "Red Cross Meeting to Hear Countess"

    n.d.
    A newspaper article, "Red Cross Meeting to Hear Countess" discusses the the arrival of Mme Laura de Turczynowicz, member of the National Cabinet of the Lithuanian nation, holding the portfolio of Public Charities.
  • "Army for Poland is now in the Making"

    n.d.
    A newspaper article "Army for Poland is Now in the Making" discusses the forming of the Grey Samaritans. The group will be trained in "nursing and dietetics, and the plan is to send them abroad to do reconstruction work in Poland as soon as war conditions will permit."
  • "Canada has fine Voices"

    1924
    A newspaper article "Canada has fine Voices" discussing the "'Operatic Situation in Canada'".
  • The El Paso Times, "El Paso Visitor Recalls March of Prussians Through Poland in 1916, Flight From Europe"

    Sweeney Brown, Joteen (1942-11-05)
    A newspaper article from The El Paso Times, "El Paso Visitor Recalls March of Prussians Through Poland in 1916, Flight From Europe". The article includes quotes from Laura de Turczynowicz about the year she spent living under the Prussians and a new book she is working on "Strange Altars".
  • Boccaccio Program

    1924
    A program for "Boccaccio" at the Spreckels Theatre in San Diego, California. The production is produced and directed by Mme. Laura De Turczynowicz.
  • Hansel and Gretel Program

    1928-04-16
    A program for "Hansel and Gretel" and "The Sorcerer" presented by The Conservatory Opera Company. The program mentions that the opera's are presented under "personal direction" by Dr. Ernest MacMillan, Mme. Laura De Turczynowicz, and Dr. Healey Willan.
  • The Geisha Program

    n.d.
    Royal Victoria Theatre program for "The Geisha: A Story of a Tea House, A Japanese Musical Plan in Two Acts by Sydney Jones, Produced and Directed by Mme. de Turczynowicz".
  • Polish Grey Samaritan Training School of the Young Womens Christian Association

    n.d.
    A brochure of the Polish Grey Samaritan Training School of the Young Womens Christian Association. The pages display the following: School of Polish Grey Samaritan, Headquarters of the Young Womens Christian Association, A Group of Students in cooking class, A Class in Home Hygiene, Polish Grey Samaritans in Summer Uniform, Polish Dance, Play on the Roof, Group of Grey Samaritans Writing Letters, Polish Grey Samaritans at Dinner, Group of Students Entering the Main Living Quarters, Nurses Aid.

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