A recipe for simplicity of life

Bru­kom ulic się dzi­wić przez okna, li­czyć wro­ny i ły­kać dzi­siej­szość,
wszyst­kie my­śli od­rzu­cać od sie­bie i zo­sta­wiać je­dy­nie naj­mniej­szą,
nie na­zy­wać ni­cze­go sło­wa­mi, nie wy­pla­tać ze wzru­szeń okre­śleń,
nie wpi­sy­wać w ze­szy­ty spo­strze­żeń, de­fi­ni­cji nie są­czyć z unie­sień. – Zuzanna Ginczanka

Star of pre-war Warsaw, artist and provocateur. She died at the age of 27 in Krakow – murdered after being denounced by a Polish woman. Unlike the texts of authors from the “Columbus Generation,” however, Zuzanna Ginczanka’s poems are not about dying – we can find in them the essence of life.

Young talent, companion of the Skamandrites, friend of Tuwim

Zuzanna Ginczanka (born Susanna Polina Gincburg) was born in 1917. in Kiev, but grew up in Rivne, a small town in the Borderlands, raised by her grandmother, the owner of a drugstore. Her family left Russia shortly after the outbreak of the October Revolution, fleeing the Bolsheviks. Susanna’s father abandoned his relatives and went to Hollywood, where he pursued an acting career. The mother left for Cordoba with her second husband.

At the time, Rivne was a true cultural melting pot, with Ukrainians, Poles, Russians, Jews and Armenians living there. Although Russian was spoken in her home, Ginczanka went to a Polish middle school, which provided a higher level of education. Little Sanka (as she was called by her relatives) soon began to manifest literary talent and decided that she would become a poet. Even as a little girl she wrote her first poems, which she published in the school newspaper. When she was 17, she won her first “serious” poetry contest organized by “Literary News” – a magazine associated with Skamandrit circles.

From the beginning, she wrote in Polish and felt connected to Poland – although she never received Polish citizenship. Before the outbreak of war, she only had a Nansen passport issued to stateless persons. Although Susanna’s mother did not take much interest in the girl, she was the one who took her poems to Julian Tuwim.

Zuzanna Ginczanka – unruly poet, Semitic beauty

After high school graduation, Ginczanka moved to Warsaw, where cultural life was flourishing and where she had the best opportunities for creative development. She studied pedagogy at the University of Warsaw, at the same time she quickly joined the literary circles: she established close relations with the Skamandrites, she is friends with Tuwim, Przybos, Iwaszkiewicz, Lechon, Slonimski. He publishes in “Wiadomosci Literackie” and “Szpilki”. He writes poems and sharp social satires.

She was brought together with Tuwim not only by her Jewish roots, but also by a similar approach to creativity. You can see the “claw” in her poems Even as a teenager, she wrote very mature poems – including sexually.

Susanna Ginczanka About the centaurs
Title poem from the volume O centaurach by Zuzanna Ginczanka, Warsaw 1939, National Library, PD license, source: Polona

At the age of 19, he publishes his first – and only in his lifetime – volume “On the Centaurs,” which receives an enthusiastic reception. She writes very mature poems for such a young girl – including sexually. She lives alone, is independent, full of energy and eager to please. In Warsaw, legends circulate about her beauty, it is told that all men from the circle of “Skamandrites” are supposed to be interested in her (except perhaps Gombrowicz, who had other preferences). 20 years older than the girl and happily married to Stefania Marchew, Tuwim jokingly refers to their group as “Susanna and the old men.”

Susanna Ginchanka was indeed a very beautiful woman, but her Semitic beauty soon became a curse. In the tense atmosphere of the 1930s capital. The girl already attracted attention at first glance. She had dark skin, prominent lips and nose, eyes of different colors: one bright blue-green and the other brown. When attacks by All-Polish Youth militias begin at Warsaw University, Ginczanka is forced to miss more and more classes.

He has a distance from himself and tries to turn the whole situation into a joke.

Jaroslaw Mikolajewski wrote very interestingly about the attitude of men towards Zuzanna Ginczanka in his biography of the poet, “Shadow for Shadow,” pointing out that very often they wanted to see in her a showy phenomenon, meanwhile they failed to see the fleeing woman, who often just had to die of fear:

“Ginczanka is a mystery, her femininity too. It’s a kind of beauty against which you can’t do anything, you are completely helpless. I see a reflection of this in the poems of my beloved poet, Pavesego, who speaks of women as the earth, the smell of the sea and the mystery, and portrays man as one who completely fails to pay for his actions. Woman, on the other hand, suffers all the consequences, because she pays with her body, with devastation. Everything she does has a price.” Yaroslavl

The fullness of life in the poems of Susanna Ginczanka

Zuzanna Ginczanka May 1939
Zuzanna Ginczanka, May 1939, “Literary News”, 1939, no. 28, Jagiellonian University, CC BY license, source: Malopolska Digital Library

Zuzanna Ginczanka in Rivne, 1934
Zuzanna Ginczanka in Rivne, 1934, the Ginczanka Museum of Literature. Adam Mickiewicz in Warsaw, CC BY license, source: Culture.pl

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