Mieczysław Ćwiklińska could not marry her beloved 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 films. She appeared on the screen for the first time in 1933. Until the outbreak of the war, she starred in 37 productions
  • She stood on the wedding carpet three times. Her husbands were: journalist and writer Zygmunt Bartkiewicz, trader 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 organization Muszkieterzy
  • The text was written in the series of the Pleiades “Stars of the Second Polish Republic”
  • You can find more such stories on the Onet homepage

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According to the legend, Mieczysław Ćwiklińska was born in a theater dressing room and spent her early childhood behind the scenes of provincial theaters. One of the greatest 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 at a salary in Poznań. She wanted to be a teacher She did not intend to follow in the footsteps of her parents, each public performance (for example, when she handed flowers to Helena Modrzejewska) was a huge challenge for her. Throughout 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 anything, and me 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 film camera an enemy of women

Mieczysław Ćwiklińska did not become a teacher. First, she ran a fashion salon in Warsaw, a At the beginning of 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. Assessing her performance, enthusiastic critics wrote: “The liveliness of movements and freedom in treating the role, perfect diction, lightness in conducting a dialogue, and at times a touching accent of sincere feelings – these are positive and endearing advantages.”

She has 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 audience 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 received offers earlier, but rejected them. In an interview for “Ekran” she admitted:

When she saw herself on the screen during the screening of her film debut, she announced that she would not appear at the premiere. She was afraid of the audience’s reaction. Unnecessarily, 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. For her friends she was “Ćwikła”, for admirers – the queen of Polish pre-war comedy. Although she played mostly supporting roles, her name in the lead became the guarantor of full movie theaters. Tadeusz Boy-Żeleński wrote:


Photo: NAC / National Digital Archives

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

The first divorce was her fault. For six years she could not get married

The private life of Mieczysław Ćwiklińska (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 drunkard and a womanizer obsessed with jealousy of his young wife. Marriage lasted 14 months. Mieczysław (then Trapszo) packed her bags and left Łódź, where she lived with Bartkiewicz, to Warsaw, where she began 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 at ul. Jasna 8. She fell in love with him, with reciprocity. The ambitious man first decided to make a fortune in Colombia and only then 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 could not marry as punishment for six years.

Mieczysław Ćwiklińska

Photo: NAC / National Digital Archives

Mieczysław Ćwiklińska

Before, in June 1919, Ćwiklińska became Madera’s wife, her fiancé betrayed the actress with her friend. 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 make a bust of the actress. Ćwiklińska packed up, moved out of the shared apartment and filed for a divorce, which she probably obtained in Vilnius in 1928.

“Absorbed work, I had less time for chores, what my husband, who liked a happy social life, parties and visits, could not come to terms with. This is often the case with the divergent interests of the spouses, especially when the wife is a more busy and preoccupied person. And yes my great true love has ended“- Mieczysław Ćwiklińska recalled.

After divorce got into Romance with Stefan Hnydziński, an actor 21 years his juniorwho robbed and ridiculed her in the environment. In September 1931 in Bydgoszcz, where she came with guest appearances, Mieczysław Ćwiklińska met Marian Steinsberg. This Warsaw bookseller and publisher, eight years his junior of Jewish origin he sent her several bouquets of flowers every day. The sleeping car on her way back to the capital was drowning with roses from him. Steinsberg became the third husband of the actress. Their wedding in 1932 (some sources say 1933) was quiet and discreet. They lived on the seventh floor of a tenement house at al. May 3 5. They went to Italy on a honeymoon.

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

She took the secret of her espionage activity to the grave

During the occupation, Mieczysław Ćwiklińska She did not agree to performances in open theaters, she worked in Café Bodo and U Aktorek. The apartment at al. He still shares 3 May with Steinsberg. The man not only disregarded the Nazi order to wear an armband 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 at al. Szucha, where she was asked about her husband. She replied that she knew nothing about him. In order to get money for the evicted escape to Switzerland, the actress sold two valuable Chinese vases. Steinsberg was caught at the border and imprisoned in the Warsaw ghetto, where he died of starvation and exhaustion in 1943.

Mieczysław Ćwiklińska in her apartment at al.  3rd of May

Photo: NAC / National Digital Archives

Mieczysław Ćwiklińska in her apartment at al. 3rd of May

No one in family or friends knew that Mieczysław Ćwiklińska was a spy during the occupation of the Polish underground intelligence organization Musketeers, operating 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 zlotys). murdered in 1942 on the basis of an unlawful sentence of the Special Military Court of the Home Army, and then buried them. Where? She took this secret with her to the grave.

After the war, Mieczysław Ćwiklińska starred in only one film – Aleksander Ford’s “Graniczna Street”. She was successful again in theaters. From November 1958 to May 1971, she delighted in the role of Grandmother in the play “Trees die while standing” Alejandro Casona, in which she appeared over 1,500 times.

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

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

Photo: NAC / National Digital Archives

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

In 1971, at the invitation of the American Polonia, Mieczysław Ćwiklińska went on a tour of the United States. She flew by plane for the first time in her life. The deteriorating state of health (problems with movement, she hardly saw and heard) forced the actress to say goodbye to the audience.

On the night of July 26, 1972, Mieczysław Ćwiklińska suffered pains and began to vomit. Ambulance took her to the hospital, where doctors diagnosed acute cholecystitis. On July 27, she had an operation, 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 someone who revealed his whole life, revealed and offered to others their minds and hearts as daily food“- said Gustaw Holoubek at her funeral.

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

The material was created thanks to the cooperation of Onet 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 on nac.gov.pl

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