Is The Getaway King Based on a True Story? Is Zdzislaw Najmrodzki a Real Polish Thief?

Polish director Mateusz Rakowicz directed the Polish-original comedy crime thriller ‘The Getaway King’ (originally ‘Najmro: Kocha, kradnie, szanuje’). The movie presents a comprehensive take on the life of its protagonist, Zdzislaw Najmrodzki, a famed criminal and embezzler who is also something of a folk hero in his country. People know him for his innovative jailbreaks, and the police think of him as a vermin in a socialist utopia.

Well, after escaping the radar of the police multiple times, he thinks of moderately legalizing the business. However, his plan does not seem savory to all of his associates. At the backdrop of changing undercurrents of time, the movie chronicles the eventful life of Najmrodzki. However, you may wonder how much the story borrows from reality. Is Zdzislaw Najmrodzki a real Polish thief? Let us find out!

Is The Getaway King a True Story?

Yes, ‘The Getaway King’ is based on a true story. As much as the tale is cinematic — filled with slo-mo sequences and neon colors — you may be astonished to know that there is much truth in the film’s depiction of one of the most notorious criminals of Poland. Mateusz Rakowicz (‘Romantik’) directed the movie from a screenplay he developed with Lukasz M. Maciejewski. To envision the screenplay and the movie, they seemingly had to dig into the life of the original Zdzisław Najmrodzki.

Therefore, our protagonist has a basis in a real-life Polish thief who has become an influential figure in the popular imagination. Much like the early title cards of the movie reveal, Najmrodzki’s escapes from the hands of law amount to 29 times. Once, he escaped from a train, and he fled the authorities from a courthouse window in another instance. As the movie depicts, Najmrodzki bid his farewell to the court before jumping out of the window.

Najmrodzki’s first infringement was at the age of twenty when he battered a police officer in a pub near Żyrardów in Central Poland. Although earning himself a sentence of one and half years, “the Getaway King” managed to escape the police after a few weeks of imprisonment when he was being moved to Warsaw for trial. As shown in the movie, Najmrodzki put together a gang of car thieves in the early 1980s. They were in operation for two years until the police got wind of the organized crime. In the duration, Najmrodzki and his gang stole over 100 homegrown FSO Polonez cars.The gang crimes so petrified the law enforcement that they formed a Civilian’s Militia special group codenamed Polonez.

On March 3, 1983, the police caught Najmrodzki after a tiresome car chase. In February 1985, he was brought to the Civilians’ Militia headquarters in Mostowski Palace for interrogation. However, before the police could begin interrogation, Najmrodzki flew from confinement once again. However, his freedom would not last long. Within a year after his escapade, Najmrodzki was caught and imprisoned in Białołęka, earning 15 years in prison. This time, he escaped through the tunnels while leaving a letter for the warden. And the movie depicts the incident with an uproarious sequence.

Image Credit: Public domain via Wikimedia Commons

Therefore, although not strictly adhering to history, the film retains the chronology and most of the memorable escapades of Najmrodzki. Moreover, the director infused the cinematic storytelling with real-life footage to maintain the biopic aspect. The documentary movie ‘Arsen Lupin po polsku’ chronicles the life and crimes of the embezzler. Józef Łoziński also wrote the biography, ‘Poszukiwany Zdzisław Najmrodzki,’ based on Najmrodzki’s life. Therefore, the thief has earned a special place in the popular culture of Poland, and this movie adds another feather to the lasting legacy of Najmrodzki.

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