It debuted in 1956 and with one 25-minute episode every week on Saturday it has continued until present on Program 1 of Polskie Radio, making it one of the longest-running radio dramas in the world. Episode 2600 was broadcast in December 2006, and Episode 2815 in January 2011. It is estimated that more than ten million Poles have listened to the radio play.
The creator of the series and principal scriptwriter was Jerzy Janicki; other scriptwriters included Stanisław Stampf'l, Władysław Żesławski and Dżennet Półtorzycka. The series had featured many actors (over 250 since the show begun), including Jerzy Bończak, Tadeusz Fijewski, Mieczysława Ćwiklińska, Edmund Fetting, Stanisława Perzanowska, Krzysztof Chamiec, Mieczysław Czechowicz, Hanka Bielicka, Maciej Damięcki, Jan Englert and others. In recent years the series is also distributed by Polskie Radio as a podcast.
For the first few years Polskie Radio made no official announcements about the show, which led many to believe it was not a play, but a form of a reality show. Although the show's popularity has waned in recent years, it used to be the most popular radio drama in Poland (declared as such by the Centrum Badania Opinii Społecznej study in 1968 ), with estimated 12 million listeners [permanent dead link].
The Matysiaks family mirror many events from contemporary Polish history; however despite being created during the times of communist People's Republic of Poland it has never been a propaganda mouthpiece—one of the reasons that may explain the show's popularity. Created in December 1956, soon after the events of the Polish October, in the first episode of 1956, the family members were donating to a charity "for Hungarians". Not a single family member has ever joined the Polish United Workers' Party. The show had to deal with censorship; for example, the censors forbade to mention a church marriage in the 1970s. The show was also stopped for half a year during martial law in Poland in 1981.
For the most part, however, the series is concerned with everyday life's issues: living on small worker's wages and pension, children's education, local events in Warsaw, and so on; but the big topics return every now and then, such as discussion on the lustration. The series tries do distance itself from a soap opera image by concentrating on such issues, with little 'big events' or romance; only once during the entire 50+ history of the series one of the main characters was considering an extra-marital affair. On some levels the family is idealized as "the good guys", Polish patriots: their members fought in the siege of Warsaw (1939), the Warsaw Uprising of 1944 and even in the battle of Monte Cassino. The characters of the series age and die as in real life, their children grow up to replace them on the antenna. Their backgrounds change as the worker's family children receive higher education, and live in the modern Computer Age.
Because of its popularity, the show also received gifts and donations from listeners. People involved with the Matysiakowie show helped organize such gestures of goodwill, organizing a nursing home in the 1960s, a monument to Bolesław Prus in the 1970s and Ignacy Paderewski in the 1980s; currently they support the animal rights movement in Poland.
- (in Polish) Matysiakowie entry on Polskie Radio page
- (in Polish) Matysiakowie po pięćdziesiątce, Gazeta Wyborcza, 2007-01-04
- (in Polish) Matysiakowie po raz 2600, Gazeta Wyborcza, 2006-12-15
- (in Polish) Matysiakowie: to już 50 lat[permanent dead link]
- (in Polish) Michał Grech, "Obraz świata w powieści radiowej Matysiakowie (w latach 1968 i 1978)" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2003-10-17. (308 KiB)