CHOPIN`S LIFE CHOPIN`S LIFE

Year The year 1810

The year 1810

The following arguments speak in favour of the year 1810:

1. The entry in the civil book of births from Brochów, which gives the day and the year of birth. The weight of the certificate of baptism is lessened to some extent by the lack of the year of birth. These certificates are, of course, the most important argument in favour of the year 1810. It should be pointed out, however, that the date 22 February, given in both documents, raises serious doubts over their reliability – a fact that weakens this argument.

2. Fryderyk Chopin’s letter of 16 January 1833 to the president of the Polish Literary Society in Paris, in which he offers his thanks for his election as a member, signing the letter ‘FF. Chopin born 1 March 1810 in the village of Żelazowa Wola in Mazovia voivodeship’.[1]

3. We know that in the spring of 1810 Mikołaj and Justyna spent at least several months in Żelazowa Wola. We can state this on the basis of entries in the Brochów civil records: on 23 April, Mikołaj Chopin announces the birth of his son Fryderyk; on 8 May, Justyna Chopin becomes godmother to Justyna-Józefa, the illegitimate daughter of Rozalia Kunk; on 22 May, Mikołaj Chopin and Tekla Gerszt baptise Ferdinand-Karol, son of the miller Michał Strzelecki; finally, on 15 June, Mikołaj is a witness to a document prepared by Countess Ludwika Skarbek in the presence of the notary Benedykt Tański in Sochaczew.[2] Let us note, however, that there is no evidence in those books that the Chopins were in Żelazowa Wola before 23 April 1810 (e.g. in February 1810), as is indicated by the ‘accumulation’ of entries after 23 April and their complete absence before that date.

It is worth giving the likely causes of the delay of a couple of weeks in holding the baptism, and above all in preparing the official document. At the end of 1809, the post of civil registrar in Brochów (i.e. the parish priest) became vacant. Leon Porzycki, who had been the parish priest up to then, was moved, died or for some other reason was unable to carry out his duties. In mid April 1810, a new parish priest was appointed: Revd Jan Duchnowski. In the meantime, the parish was formally administered by the parish priest of Kampinos, Revd Jakub Żegocki. Kampinos, where Revd Żegocki lived, lies around twenty kilometres from Brochów, and the priest was certainly not often in Brochów, particularly during the winter, and having a child registered in Brochów, in accordance with the three-day deadline, required that the priest be urgently ‘dragged’ from distant Kampinos. One is given pause by the fact that Revd Żegocki died two weeks after 23 April (although his last entry is made under the date 17 April). Perhaps he had been ill for a long time and was not always at his parishioners’ disposition? In that situation, there was nothing else for the Chopins to do than wait for the arrival of the new permanent parish priest, whose first entry is dated 19 April, so four days before Fryderyk’s baptism. It would appear, therefore, that irrespective of the actual date of Fryderyk’s birth (22 February or 1 March) the delay over the document could have been caused quite simply by the lack of an official, and the Chopins announced the birth as soon as the possibility arose. Let us note, however, that this hypothesis may be applied just as well to the year 1809, as mentioned below.

 

[1] Korespondencja Fryderyka Chopina, i:224.

[2] Warsaw Metropolitan Curia, Liber Baptizatorum parafii Brochów 1802–1821 [Brochów parish book of baptisms 1802–1821], 414, entries nos. 2–4; Marek Wojtylak ‘Tajemnice dworu w Żelazowej Woli’ [Secrets of the manor in Żelazowa Wola], Rocznik Mazowiecki, xii (2000), 210.