Polish Modern Art Foundation

Zuzanna Ginczanka. Only Happiness Is Real Life

The exhibition Zuzanna Ginczanka. Only happiness is real life, presented the figure and work of Polish poetess of Jewish origin, Zusanna Ginczanka. The exhibition was first shown at the Museum of Literature in Warsaw (October 29, 2016 – February 29, 2016) and then in the Museum of the History of Photography in Crakow (June 8, 2016 – August 14, 2016)

Zuzanna Ginczanka (1917-1944) was a Polish poetess of Jewish origin, star of the interwar Warsaw bohemians. Born in 1917 in Kiev, she lived and worked in Rivne, a city in the Ukraininan region of Volhynia, Warsaw, Lviv and Krakow. She published only a single collection of poetry in her lifetime, the book O centaurach (About the Centaurs, 1936). She published in some of the most important literary periodicals in Poland at the time: “Kurier Literacki-Naukowy,” “Skamander”, “Sygnały”, “Wiadomości Literackie” and the satirical weekly “Szpilki”. Her poems which survived the war were created in the years 1940-1942 and appeared in some of the Lvov magazines: “Nowe Widnokręgi” and “Almanach Literacki”. Her last surviving poem poignantly begins with the words “Non omnis moriar” and was published after the war in the weekly “Odrodzenie”. Somewhat prophetic, because it describes the death of the author, resulting from denounced by a neighbor. Ginczanka was shot in 1944 in Krakow, a few months before the end of the war, when she was only 27 years old.

History of Ginczanka is a clash of the legend of her incredible, magnetic beauty and exceptional talent with the tragedy of the Holocaust. “Beautiful Jewess”, muse of contemporary artistic circles, socialite in Warsaw’s “Zodiac”, was forced to flee from persecution from city to city.

Poetry of Ginczanka is a testament of an era, closely linked with the fate of the poetess. Poems by Ginczanka are the voice of a women, but also the voice of the “Other” – in artistic circles she was refered to as “Shulamite” and “Star of Zion.” Her works reflect the conventions of a bygone era, customs and artistic circles, often ironic and sarcastic. They capture the pre-war sentiment both of borderland towns, the last of the Warsaw bohemians, as well as the growing fear of war sweeping through Europe.

The exhibition presents both the life and work of this iconic Polish poet and is an attempt to reanalyze her poems. The exhibition is arranged in a reverse chronological order, and the line “Non omnis moriar,” which sums up the tragic cruelty of the Holocaust is the starting point of the narrative.

Thoughts and poems of Ginczanka are juxtaposed with contemporary art inspired by her works, which creates an interesting dialogue between eras. The exhibition presents the manner in which the legacy of this outstanding poet is seen and understood nowadays. Contemporary artists whose works will be on display include Hubert Czerepok, Alex Czetwertyński, Marta Deskur, Aneta Grzeszykowska, Angelika Markul, Maldoror, Magdalena Moscow, Krytyna Piotrowska, Slavs and Tatars.The catalog accompanying the exhibition includes texts by: Agata Araszkiewicz, Marek Bieńczyk Maria Janion, Izolda Kiec, Jarosław Modzelewski and Magdalena Środa.

Author: Aleksander Modzelewski


Exhibition at the Adam Mickiewicz Museum of Literature:
29 October 2015 – 29 February 2016

Exhibition at the Museum of History of Photography:
8 June 2016 – 14 August 2016

Adam Mickiewicz Museum of Literature
Polish Modern Art Foundation
Museum of History of Photography
Miasto Literatury Foundation

Zygmunt Zaleski Stiching

Co-financed by the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage as part of the National Readership Development Program


Program was implemented with the support of the capital city of Warsaw


Krakow City
Krakow City of Literature UNESCO
Krakowskie Biuro Festiwalowe
Jewish Culture Festival

Archiwum Państwowe w Warszawie

Media patronage:
Wysokie Obcasy
Zeszyty Literackie
TVP Kultura
Czas Kultury

Adam Mickiewicz Museum of Literature in Warsaw is financed from the funds of the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage and the Self-government of the Mazowieckie Voivodeship