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Culture

How a Polish tax accountant became Angela Merkel's look-alike

How does one become the spitting image of a famous politician? A woman who regularly slips into the skin of Angela Merkel gives insight into her unique career.

Her gestures are just like Merkel's. She rests her hands in a diamond shape and swipes her Merkel-like hair just like the original. Her closet is filled with shoes, colorful jackets, handbags and necklaces, ready to be worn for her next appearance. In fact, many items in her home near Cologne are reminiscent of the famous politician. But, the name on the door is not that of Angela Merkel, but rather Ursula Nawa-Wanecki.

Then I just went as the chancellor

Who would have guessed that a modest taxwoman from Poland living in Germany since 1985 would someday become the most popular doppelgänger of Chancellor Angela Merkel? Who could imagine that in this role, she would be the highlight of the birthday party of a Russian oligarch at Elmau castle? Or, that surrounded by exploding vehicles and helicopters, she would play the main character in a TV series called "You Are the Chancellor" on the online channel Galileo.tv?

It all began with a carnival costume

Ursula Wanecki in an interview with DW (DW/A. Rycicka)

The Chancellor in an interview with Deutsche Welle - or is it her double?

Nawa-Wanecki's career as "chancellor" began accidentally. "I actually wanted to wear an Indian sari for carnival," she recalls. However, she was accidentally mailed a roll of polyester fabric. "I looked at myself in the mirror. I had no choice but to go as the German chancellor." Her outfit was a sensation. She even sent an application to a doubles casting agency and was rejected due to her resemblance being "too similar."

Only traveling first class

Then, a call came during the 2013 German elections: a double was sought for appearances on TV stations ZDF and RTL. "Do you really look that much like the chancellor?" asked her future manager Jochen Förster. Her first appearance took place in an "average German household." Then, she appeared as Angela Merkel regularly.

"It all went way too fast," says the 56-year-old on the way to her favorite café. She constantly waves back at on-lookers. In her town, Olpe, everyone knows their "Angie." When taking the train to Berlin, she only travels first class. "It's not about luxury," she says with a smirk. "On Fridays especially, the train is full of young people. They come to me and ask for a selfie."

In Berlin, Wanecki quickly feels at home as her alias Angela Merkel. Taxi drivers always ask: "Where to, Chancellor Merkel?"

Maturing in the role

Ursula Wanecki as Angela Merkel (DW/A. Rycicka)

As authentic as the original - Ursula Wanecki as her alias Angela Merkel

Her role as Merkel's double has shaped the course of her life, says Ursula Nawa-Wanecki. "Being a double influenced my growth, both personally and politically," she confesses. Politics have long-played a role in her life, but after her "chancellorship" she now sees many issues from different perspectives. She learned to live with the "chancellor." With each appearance, she is bombarded with advice about how to run the country.

At the high point of the refugee crisis, she passed up many opportunities: "I avoided convention centers and festivals out of fear. It was good that my husband was with me."

How did the real Chancellor Merkel react?

Like a true "career politician," Ursula Nawa-Wanecki carefully selects her events. Under no circumstances does she want to cause the real Chancellor and trouble. As a result, she declined to appear on the show of satirical comedian Jan Böhmermann, since nude scenes were planned. "I categorically reject such things," says Wanecki.

She has, however, softened this hard line a few times, for example, when the lesbian magazine "Straight" asked her to slip into the role.

The media response was enormous

It's hardly surprising that Nawa-Wanecki was invited to a photo shoot with world-famous photographer Alison Jackson for the newspapers "Le Monde" and "Die Zeit." The resulting photos depicted the "Chancellor" and "President Hollande" in titillating poses. The editions quickly went out of print.

"She has an undeniable resemblance to Merkel and natural talent," says her manager.

Only her Polish accent exposes her as a fraud, although she has also been able to use that to her advantage. At a performance, she joked that German was always spoken with a Polish accent at home - after all, she has polish ancestry. Merkel's grandfather, in fact, was named Kazmierczak and hailed from Poland.

When she says this, she laughs to herself before shifting her gaze to her fingernails, cut short just like Merkel's.  

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