Hollywood A-lister Milla Jovovich falls in love with Kraków’s historical botanical gardens
Revered for its outstanding beauty, Poland’s oldest botanical garden has found an unlikely fan in the form of Hollywood A-lister Milla Jovovich.
Currently in Kraków to film In The Lost Lands alongside fellow star Dave Bautista, the actress visited the city’s botanical gardens in her free time accompanied by her family.
Clearly impressed, the screen siren Instagrammed her experience to her 4.3 million followers in a post that’s since been liked by over 120,000 people.
“Never thought a trip to the botanical gardens would make the kids so peaceful and introspective,” wrote Jovovich.
Gushing in her praise, the 47-year-old star continued: “We all wandered through the humid environment and the little ones would sit so still waiting for the fairies to come out of hiding.
“The girls watched the reflections of the plants and leaves in the pools of water, speaking in whispers.”
Posting nine pictures, she added: “I took the opportunity to snap some beautiful, poignant pictures that I knew captured the mood we all felt.
“Some places have magic. You can feel them.”
The Ukrainian-born actress, supermodel, fashion designer, singer and public figure, has been on the cover of more than a hundred magazines, and starred in such films as The Fifth Element, Ultraviolet and the Resident Evil franchise.
Now working on her first film for a couple of years, Jovovich has not cut herself off from enjoying the city.
Settling temporarily with her family, the actress has visited the city’s markets to stock up on mushrooms, and been pictured cooking family recipes in her accommodation.
One Instagram post even shows her visiting a local launderette. “And of course this morning started with an epic New Year’s trip to the laundromat which though not very glamorous, was extremely necessary,” joked Jovovich.
However, it is the botanical gardens that have impressed her the most.
“My own [children] who are usually chatterboxes just perched in out of the way places and let the garden speak to them in its warm, languorous, embracing way,” she wrote. “And it all felt exactly as it should. And it all felt just right.”
Often overlooked in favour of Kraków’s more high-profile attractions, the 9.6 hectare garden was established in 1783 to function as part of Jagiellonian University’s Department of Botany.
Founded on a plot formerly owned by the Czartoryski aristocratic family, it was in these early years that the still-existent Victoria greenhouse was built, with its contents carefully tended by the director, Franciszek Scheidt.
Resigning after the Austrians took over Kraków, Scheidt was replaced in 1805 by an Austro-German team who set about cataloguing the contents of the nascent collection for the first time.
Recording their findings inside an index that survives to this day, by their count the gardens had already amassed 2,158 species by this early stage.
The ‘re-Polonization’ of the university saw a new bout of investment and it thrived under the guardianship of Józef Warszewicz – his 19th century trips to South and Central America saw further exotic samples added to the portfolio, and his decision to bring back several thousand plants from his pioneering journeys are credited with helping popularise European orchid cultivation.
Symbolic of the garden’s grandeur, an ornately intricate palm house was added in 1882, and this stood until 1969 when its decline necessitated its demolition.
This was not, however, the only unfortunate chapter to beset the gardens in the 20th century.
In 1907 one wooden orchid house collapsed, and five-years later a greenhouse caught fire along with its priceless collection of plants imported by Warszewicz.
This, though, was just a precursor for the most challenging time of all. Kraków’s brutal occupation was overseen by Hans Frank, arguably the perfect embodiment of the caricature Nazi villain.
Cultured and intelligent but also unrelentingly cold and callous, it was on his orders that the gardens were emptied of hundreds of plants in 1942 to decorate his home.
With the garden’s Polish director fired for his refusal to cooperate with the Germans, he was replaced by Wilhelm Herter, a German described as “a mediocre scientist with a psychopathic personality”.
One Polish gardener was arrested and later killed at Auschwitz for his subversive activities, but despite the risks involved several botanists continued to teach students in secret.
When peace came, the fact that Kraków had been spared bombardment proved a double-edged sword for its botanical gardens, and it found its collection depleted yet further so as to restock gardens around the country that had not been so fortunate.
Yet in spite of these trials and tribulations, the gardens have since subsequently thrived, and 2019 saw its crowning glory, the venerable Victoria glasshouse, restored courtesy of a PLN 9 million facelift.