Mieczysław Ćwiklińska could not marry her lover for six years

  • She was 21 when she made her debut as Mieczysław Gryf at the Ludowy Theater in Warsaw. She quickly changed the pseudonym chosen by chance to her grandmother’s maiden name
  • She believed that the camera was an enemy of women and rejected roles in movies. She first appeared on screen in 1933. Until the outbreak of the war, she starred in 37 productions
  • She was on the wedding carpet three times. Her husbands were: journalist and writer Zygmunt Bartkiewicz, merchant Henryk Mader, publisher and bookseller Marian Steinsberg
  • During the occupation, Mieczysław Ćwiklińska worked in Café Bodo and U Aktorek. She also belonged to the underground intelligence service Muszkieterzy
  • The text is written in the series Pleiades “Stars of the Second Polish Republic”
  • You can find more such stories on the Onet homepage

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According to legend, Mieczysław Ćwiklińska was born in a theater dressing room and spent her early childhood behind the scenes of provincial theaters. One of the biggest stars of the Second Polish Republic was born on January 1, 1879 in Lublin. She was a daughter actresses Aleksandra Ficzkowska and a Russian officer, she never met her biological father. In 1881, her mother married her colleague Marceli Trapsza, who 11 years later recognized Mieczysława as his child. The girl was then a student with a salary in Pozna. She wanted to be a teacher She had no intention of following in her parents’ footsteps, any public appearance (for example, when she handed flowers to Helena Modrzejewska) was a huge challenge for her. All her life she struggled with stage fright.

“My friends said about me: this is the daughter of an actress. It was believed that the actor’s child should be able to play everything, and I I had incredible stage fright. When I was about to go on stage I didn’t want to do anything, they forced me out– Mieczysław Ćwiklińska recalled in “Conversations with Mrs. Miecia”.

She considered the movie camera an enemy of women

Mieczysław Ćwiklińska did not become a teacher. First she had a fashion salon in Warsaw, and In early December 1900 she made her debut – as Mieczysław Gryf – on the stage of the Ludowy Theater under the watchful eye of his father, Marceli Trapsza. Reviewing her performance, enthusiastic critics wrote: “The vibrancy of movements and freedom in handling the role, perfect diction, lightness of dialogue and sometimes a touching accent of sincere feelings – these are positive and endearing benefits. “

She already played the third theatrical role (in the comedy “Jejmość mayor” by Aleksander Fredro) as Mieczysław Ćwiklińska, resigning from a randomly chosen pseudonym in favor of her grandmother’s maiden name. The public loved her.

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Mieczysław Ćwiklińska’s film roles brought enormous fame. She first appeared on the screen in 1933 in the comedy “His Excellency the Subject” by Michał Waszyński, opposite Eugeniusz Bodo, Ina Benita and Konrad Tom. She was 54 at the time. She previously received offers but turned them down. In an interview for “Ekran” she admitted:

When she saw herself on screen during the screening of her film debut, she announced she would not be appearing at the premiere. She was afraid of the reaction of the public. Unnecessary, because in the role of Idalia Porecka she once again proved her comedy talent. Until the outbreak of World War II, she starred in 37 films. To her friends she was “Ćwikła”, to admirers – the queen of Polish pre-war comedy. Although she mainly played supporting roles, her name in the lead role became the guarantee of full movie theaters. Tadeusz Boy-Żeleński wrote:


Photo: NAC / National Digital Archive

Mieczysław Ćwiklińska, Jerzy Pichelski and Aleksander Zelwerowicz in the movie “Granica” (1938)

The first divorce was her fault. She couldn’t get married for six years

Mieczysław Ćwiklińska’s private life (as opposed to her successful professional career) was full of failures. The star of the Second Polish Republic was not lucky in love. She married for the first time in July 1897 (some sources say 1896) Zygmunt Bartkiewicz. Journalist and painter 11 years older turned out to be a drunk and a womanizer obsessed with jealousy towards his young wife. Wedding lasted 14 months. Mieczysław (then Trapszo) packed her bags and left Łódź, where she lived with Bartkiewicz, for Warsaw, where she started her artistic career. The abandoned husband did not want to divorce her.

In 1908, Henryk Mader, the son of the owner of the Victoria Hotel in ul. Jasna 8. She fell in love with him, reciprocally. The ambitious man first decided to earn a fortune in Colombia and only then to marry his beloved, who was still officially married. In July 1909, Mader left for South America, and Ćwiklińska was looking for a quick divorce. She changed her denomination and in 1911 the consistory of the Evangelical Augsburg Church he dissolved the marriage of the actress and Bartkiewicz “through the fault of his wife”, who was unable to marry for six years as a punishment.

Mieczyslaw Swiklinska

Photo: NAC / National Digital Archive

Mieczyslaw Swiklinska

Before, in June 1919, Ćwiklińska became Madera’s wife, her fiancé betrayed the actress with her boyfriend. She forgave him for this affair. After the wedding, she pretended not to see her husband’s infidelity. Until Henryk betrayed her with Olga Niewska – a sculptor who came to Warsaw to create a bust of the actress. Ćwiklińska packed her things, left the shared apartment and filed for divorce, which she probably got in Vilnius in 1928.

“Absorbed work, I had less time for chores, which my husband, who enjoyed a happy social life, parties and visits, could not live with. This is often the case with the divergent interests of the husbands, especially when the wife is a busier and more preoccupied person. And yes my great true love has ended– recalled Mieczysław Ćwiklińska.

after divorce became involved romance with Stefan Hnydziński, an actor 21 years younger than himwho robbed and ridiculed her in the area. In September 1931 in Bydgoszcz, where she made guest appearances, Mieczysław Ćwiklińska met a Marian Steinsberg. This one Bookseller and publisher in Warsaw, eight years younger of Jewish descent he sent her several bouquets of flowers every day. The sleeping car on the way back to the capital drowned with roses from him. Steinsberg became the third husband of the actress. Their marriage in 1932 (some sources say 1933) was quiet and discreet. They lived on the seventh floor of a tenement. May 3, 5. They went on a honeymoon to Italy.

The third marriage also did not survive. When Ćwiklińska worked from dawn to dusk, Steinsberg spent her money on evenings spent with friends in the most fashionable locations in Warsaw. The actress spent the summer of 1939 alone. She planned to move to Podkowa Leśna and live in the Trambo villa, which she built together with her half-brother Władysław Trapszo (chemical engineer, director of the fire extinguisher factory). The outbreak of war changed her plans.

She took the secret of her spying activity to the grave

During the occupation, Mieczysław Ćwiklińska She did not agree to perform in open theaters, she worked in Café Bodo and U Aktorek. The apartment already. He still shares May 3 with Steinsberg. The man not only ignored the Nazis’ order to wear a bracelet with the star of Zion, but also kept books for which he could be imprisoned or a camp. Ćwiklińska was repeatedly summoned to the Gestapo headquarters. Szucha, where she was asked about her husband. She replied that she knew nothing about him. In order to get money for the evacuated escape to Switzerland, the actress sold two valuable Chinese vases. Steinsberg was arrested at the border and imprisoned in the Warsaw Ghetto, where he died of starvation and exhaustion in 1943.

Mieczysław Ćwiklińska in her apartment on May 3 already

Photo: NAC / National Digital Archive

Mieczysław Ćwiklińska in her apartment on May 3 already

No one in family or friends knew that Mieczysław Ćwiklińska was a spy during the occupation of the Polish underground intelligence service Musketeers, that are active throughout Europe. She was friends with its leader Stefan Witkowski. As historian Jerzy Rostkowski claims in his book “The Musketeers World. Forget it or Die”, Mieczysław Ćwiklińska bought Witkowski’s body from the Germans (for half a million zloty). murdered in 1942 under an illegal judgment of the Special Military Court of the Interior Army, and then buried. Where? She took this secret to the grave.

After the war, Mieczysław wiklińska starred in only one film – Aleksander Ford’s “Graniczna Street”. She was again successful in theaters. From November 1958 to May 1971 she enjoyed the role of grandmother in the play “Trees Die Standing” Alejandro Casona, in which she appeared more than 1500 times.

“Some people are surprised that I still want to work at my age. But my work is my life. If I stop working, I will die– she explained.

Mieczysław Ćwiklińska (on Wednesday), Maria Della (on) and Jadwiga Smosarska in Nałęczów (1963)

Photo: NAC / National Digital Archive

Mieczysław Ćwiklińska (on Wednesday), Maria Della (on) and Jadwiga Smosarska in Nałęczów (1963)

In 1971, at the invitation of the Polish community in America, Mieczysław Ćwiklińska toured the United States. She flew an airplane for the first time in her life. The deteriorating state of health (problems with movement, she barely saw and heard) forced the actress to say goodbye to the public.

On the night of July 26, 1972, Mieczysław Ćwiklińska was in pain and began to vomit. Ambulance took her to the hospital, where doctors diagnosed acute cholecystitis. She underwent surgery on July 27, after which she did not regain consciousness. She died at noon on July 28, 1972.

“She was an actress in the most beautiful and deepest sense of the word, so one who revealed, revealed and offered to others their minds and hearts as daily food throughout their life– said Gustaw Holoubek at her funeral.

On the 40th anniversary of the death of the actress, Mieczysław Ćwiklińska Street was marked in Warsaw’s Białołęka district, right next to Elżbieta Barszczewska, Marian Wyrzykowski and Hanka Ordonówny streets.

The material was created thanks to Onet’s collaboration with the partner of the National Digital Archives, whose mission is to build a modern society aware of its past. NAC collects, stores and makes available photos, sound recordings and films. The digitized photos can be viewed at nac.gov.pl

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