CHOPIN’S POLAND CHOPIN’S POLAND

Szafarnia

Szafarnia Szafarnia

Fryderyk completed his fourth year of secondary school with a performance in a public display of pupils' talents. The event was reported by the Gazeta Korespondenta Warszawskiego i Zagranicznego (no. 128 of 1824), which listed the pupils' names. He was also awarded a distinction: 'Moribus et Diligentiae/Federici Chopin/in Examine Publico/Lycei Varsaviensis/Die 24. Juli 1824'. This dedication was embossed in gold letters on the cover of the book which he received as a prize. [1]

Towards the end of July 1824, Fryderyk set off on a long-awaited holiday for the Dziewanowski family estate at Szafarnia. The proprietor of the village and grange of Szafarnia [2] at that time was Julian (Juliusz) Dziewanowski, [3] father of Dominik, known as Domuś. Since 1822, Domuś had been a pupil of the Warsaw Lyceum, a school-friend of Fryderyk, and he boarded with the Chopins. The boys became friends and, after a successful end to the school year, in the summer of 1824 (most probably under the care of Ludwika Dziewanowski, Domuś's aunt) they left on their holidays for Szafarnia. Chopin stayed on this beautifully situated estate in Dobrinland until September. It was a real country holiday, with his hosts taking care to ensure the young Chopin of every possible amusement, although without dispensing him from the household customs. Besides a great deal of free time spent playing with Domuś, numerous walks and trips in the surrounding area, Fryderyk also had time to practise, or rather to play for pleasure, not infrequently four-handed with Miss Ludwika. The young man tried to remember about caring for his fragile health, which was rather good at this time.

The details of this sojourn in Szafarnia and, of most value to posterity, Fryderyk's own impressions from this wonderful holiday are perfectly documented thanks to the extensive, extremely detailed accounts of his stay in Dobrinland, abounding in anecdotes and apt observations, contained in his Kuryer Szafarski. Here is an extract from the 'Home News' section, carrying information intended for his family, concerning Fryderyk's amusements and daily life, reports of musical events, and also characteristic observations on the Szafarnia fauna, from an account dated 16 August 1824:

  • On 11 August this year his lordship Fryderyk Chopin took a ride on a plucky mount and competed to the line: and though, several times proceeding on foot, he was unable to rival Mrs Dziewanowska (in this, not he, but his horse bore the blame), he nevertheless gained victory over Miss Ludwika, who, already quite close to the line, arrived on foot. - His lordship Franciszek Chopin rides out daily on walks, yet with the honour of always sitting behind.
  • His lordship Jakób Chopin drinks six cups of acorn coffee a day, whilst Mikołaiek eats four rolls each day, nota bene besides a mighty dinner and three-course supper.
  • On day 13 of the current month and year His lordship Better could be heard on the piano with uncommon talent. A virtuoso, this Berliner - plays in the taste of HL Berger [...] in the thrust and set of his fingers surpasses Mrs Łagowska and plays with such feeling that almost every note seems to come, not from his heart, but out of his mighty belly.
  • On day 15 c. m. & y. the important news arrived that a baby turkey had happened to hatch in a corner behind the pantry. An important incident this, in that, not only did it cause the family of turkeys to increase, but it also increased the tax revenue and ensured its continued augmentation.
  • Last night a cat stole into the wardrobe and smashed a bottle of juice; but just as on the one hand apt for the scaffold, on the other it also merits praise, as it chose the smallest among them. - On 12th inst. a hen fell lame and a drake lost a leg in a duel with a goose. A cow fell so violently ill that she even grazes in the garden. - On 14th inst. the sentence fell that, under pain of death, no piglet should dare enter the garden. [4]

The summer Chopin spent around Szafarnia was a great success. Thanks to Domuś and Jan Białobłocki, from Sokołowo, Fryderyk was assured of excellent company in all amusements, and also companions for music. The climate of Dobrinland proved beneficial to his physical and mental state. After such a splendid holiday, there was no doubt as to the plans for his next vacation. Fryderyk spent the following summer in Szafarnia as well.

The history of the estate of Płonne, of which Szafarnia was originally part, has been associated with the Dziewanowski family since the first years of the eighteenth century. [5] The Szafarnia manor was situated within the area of Sokołowo Forest, abounding in pines and oaks. Around its inhabited part, the forest changed into a park, containing a garden, orchards and two small ponds. Next to a vegetable garden stood the timber manor house where the Dziewanowskis lived. Domuś's father was owner, not only of Szafarnia, but also of nearby Płonko, [6] which Juliusz Dziewanowski inherited from his father in 1815. He then moved to Działyń, transferring the estate, in 1838, to his son Dominik. The Dziewanowskis' old timber house, where Chopin stayed, was pulled down in 1910, at the request of Szafarnia's new owner, Feige, who erected a walled house, probably in a different place to the old building. The mansion and what remained of its outbuildings were then taken over by the next proprietors, the Noskowskis.

Today, the mansion is home to a Chopin Centre, equipped with concert hall and small museum. The building is set in a three-hectare park with six natural monuments (including the 'Chopin linden' and 'Dziewanowski oaks'). The small annexe to the right of the mansion was most probably already standing at the time of Chopin's sojourn in Szafarnia.

The idea of commemorating Chopin's stay in Szafarnia and initiating cultural activities there, particularly concerts, arose on 17 October 1949, on the centenary of the composer' death. Near that date, on 25 September 1949, the first Chopin Festival was organised, combined with the exhibition Around Chopin, devised by Professor Mieczysław Tomaszewski, which included works (drawings and sketches) by the Kotlarczyk brothers of Toruń, depicting the places visited by the composer in the years 1824-25. The festival was accompanied by a concert given by Stanisław Szpinalski, Irena Jęsiakówna and the Pomerania Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Arnold Rezler. At that time, a Fryderyk Chopin Memorial Room was set up in the mansion at Szafarnia. Three years later, on 7 September 1952, a commemorative plaque was unveiled, which proclaims: 'In Szafarnia and the surrounding villages Fryderyk Chopin stayed in the years 1824-1825. In the eighth year of the existence of the People's Poland, the School in Szafarnia was named after him. 1952.'

The plaque was set into the front wall of the mansion, which at that time also housed a primary school. During this ceremony the Memorial Room was renamed the Centre of the Cult of Fryderyk Chopin. In that same year the Fryderyk Chopin Society donated to the Centre several exhibits (including reproductions of the Kuryer Szafarski, copies of the composer's manuscripts, a portrait of Chopin, a plaster bust, and casts of his hand and death mask).

In the years 1957-77, the Centre was known as the Music Salon. Between 1970 and 1976 the Centre's activities were suspended. A fire in 1979 consumed part of the roof and an upstairs room; many exhibits were destroyed, and the Music Salon was flooded with water. In the years 1980-88, the Centre's work was suspended once more, and the mansion's renovation was not completed until 1988. The F. Chopin Cultural Centre, as it was now renamed, renewed its activities on 10 September; the opening ceremony was accompanied by an exhibition of traditional embroidery and sculpture and a concert given by the Baltic Philharmonic's wind quartet, Ewa Pobłocka and Igor Śmiałowski. At that time, the Centre gained new rooms appointed with stylish furniture. The first floor of the mansion was converted into a primary school. The cultural and artistic work commenced at that time has continued to the present day.

Today, the Centre organises concerts, music workshops and masterclasses, plein-air painting workshops, reciting and art competitions, exhibitions, tournaments of knowledge about Chopin, New Year balls, and above all the Fryderyk Chopin International Piano Competition for children and youngsters, which has been held since 1993. In May 2001 a bronze bust of Chopin on the front wall of the mansion, made to a design by Roman Dantan, was ceremonially unveiled. In the years 2001-03, the Chopin Centre at Szafarnia was beset by numerous problems. In 2002 the Radomin Communal Council passed a resolution to close down the primary school on the first floor of the mansion, and in 2003 to close down the Centre itself. This led to efforts to protect the Chopin heritage, successfully concluded in 2004. In the years 2005-2006 the palace underwent a general refurbishment. The Centre now has a number of extra facilities: three practice rooms, an audiovisual room for 40 people, four guest rooms and a cafe.

In Płonne, preserved to our times are the old manor park (near to the school) and the gothic church from the turn of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, together with the obelisk in memory of the war hero Jan Dziewanowski (1782-1808), a 'fearless knight', commander of 3 Company of the 1st Regiment of the Light Cavalry of the Guard, who fell in the charge at Somosierra in Spain. Standing nearby is a classicist bell tower from the first half of the nineteenth century.

Szafarnia and Płonne are located in the Radomin commune, in Golub-Dobrzyń county, respectively 7 km and 9 km from Golub-Dobrzyń itself.

Worth seeing in the area:

  • commemorative plaque to Maria Dąbrowska on a stone near the primary school in Płonne. The writer stayed there for four years (1925-28), gathering material for her novel Nights and Days,
  • fifteenth-century gothic church in Radomin (constructed from erratic blocks),
  • baroque church in Dulsk from the second half of the eighteenth century,
  • beech avenue and landscape park in Radomin (natural monument),
  • larch hill in Płonne (natural monument).

[1] 'For morals and diligence' - the dedication embossed on the cover of the Gaspard Monge book Wykład statyki dla użycia szkół wydziałowych i wojewódzkich..., trans. O. Lewocki (Warsaw, 1820) [Fr. Orig. Traité élémentaire de la statique (1786)]; this souvenir is held at the Fryderyk Chopin Museum in Warsaw, inv. no. M/381.
[2] For Chopin's parents, the choice of the Dziewanowskis' estate of Szafarnia as the holiday destination for their son may have had another motive besides Fryderyk's good, friendly relations with Domuś. An interesting hypothesis on this subject was put forward on the basis of their research by Piotr Mysłakowski and Andrzej Sikorski. The authors claim that the composer's father, Mikołaj Chopin, may have struck up close contacts with families from Dobrinland, and in particular with the Dziewanowskis of Szafarnia, some thirty years previously, when he was employed as a tutor. It cannot be ruled out, therefore, that Mikołaj knew most of the people and places mentioned by his son in his Szafarnia correspondence (see Mysłakowski and Sikorski, Chopinowie, 69-70.
[3] Sources give alternately the forenames Juliusz and Julian Ignacy Alojzy Dziewanowski.
[4] Cit. after the facsimile version of the Kuryer reproduced in Z. Helman (ed.), Kurier szafarski. Faksymilia czterech autografów ze zbiorów Muzeum Chopina w Towarzystwie im. Fryderyka Chopina w Warszawie.
[5] The Dziewanowskis of the Jastrzębiec (Bolesta) coat-of-arms, of the line of Klemens Dziewanowski of Dziewanowo, near Płock; Mysłakowski and Sikorski, Chopinowie. Krąg rodzinno-towarzyski [The Chopins. Their family and social circle] (Warsaw, 2005), 69.
[6] Juliusz Dziewanowski was also proprietor of Bocheniec-a village named by Fryderyk in the Kuryer Szafarski.

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