Identity of mystery woman photographed nearly 40 years ago uncovered following museum appeal

Taken in Wrocław by world-renowned photographer Chris Niedenthal, the photo shows a young, rosy-cheeked woman in a floral dress, leaning one arm against a concrete balcony as the other appears to brush back a lock of her raven hair. Muzeum Architektury we Wrocławiu

The identity of a mystery woman standing on the balcony of an iconic housing estate in Wrocław during martial law has been discovered after nearly 40 years.

Following an appeal from the city’s Museum of Architecture ahead of a new documentary film about the architect of the high-rise buildings known as ‘Manhattan’, it took internet sleuths just three hours to reveal the woman as Aneta Dienstag-Mroczkowska who at the time was studying for her entrance exams to the Medical Academy in Wrocław in the summer of 1982.

Originally published in a German magazine in 1982, the photo quickly became as iconic as the building itself.Muzeum Architektury we Wrocławiu

Posting on social media, the museum said: “We’ve got her! We knew that the Internet and the media have enormous power, but the speed with which we solved this puzzle has surprised us completely!

“The woman on the balcony of skyscraper number 8 in Wrocław's Manhattan today lives in Kłodzko and is a dentist. 

It took internet sleuths just three hours to reveal the woman as Aneta Dienstag-Mroczkowska who at the time was studying for her entrance exams to the Medical Academy in Wrocław in the summer of 1982.Muzeum Architektury we Wrocławiu

“She was living with a friend. She remembers that day as exceptionally hot; she went out on the balcony to rest for a while from studying and to get some fresh air.”

Taken by world-renowned photographer Chris Niedenthal, the photo shows a young, rosy-cheeked woman in a floral dress, leaning with one arm against the concrete balcony as the other appears to brush back a lock of her raven hair.

Posting on social media, the museum said: “We’ve got her! The woman on the balcony of skyscraper number 8 in Wrocław's Manhattan today lives in Kłodzko and is a dentist.”Muzeum Architektury we Wrocławiu

Originally published in a German magazine in 1982, the photo quickly became as iconic as the building itself.

Designed by Jadwiga Grabowska-Hawrylak, the first woman to gain an architecture degree in Wrocław, the building estate known locally as the ‘toilet seats’ because of the oval window recesses has since been described as one of the most important European housing projects of the last century.

Martial law photographer Chris Niedenthal had been walking around Wrocław in 1982 when he came across the housing estate and knew he had to photograph it.Marcin Obara/PAP

Martial law photographer Niedenthal had been walking around Wrocław in 1982 when he came across the housing estate and knew he had to photograph it.

He later said: “Everyone thinks it was posed, that I asked her to stand there.

“But I had no idea who she was, I was just glad to see a living soul at last, not another concrete balcony with laundry.

The building estate known locally as the ‘toilet seats’ because of the oval window recesses has since been described as one of the most important European housing projects of the last century.CC BY-SA 3.0

“There were no intercoms, so I entered the building, took the lift and knocked on the door of a flat to ask if I could take a photo through the window.

“Today it would probably be impossible.”

Unaware she was wanted by the museum, Aneta only found out after her identity had been revealed on social media.

She told Polsat news: “I found out by accident. I was just out for a walk.

The museum had wanted to know the identity of the mystery woman for a documentary about architect Jadwiga Grabowska-Hawrylak (pictured).Aleksander Koźmiński/PAP

“My daughter called and asked if I recognised the photograph. I replied that I did.”

She added: “Thanks to this story, the phone has been non-stop ringing.

“The most beautiful thing is that many of my friends from high school have called and we have renewed friendships from long ago.

“We have agreed to meet after the pandemic.”

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