Persons related to Chopin Persons related to Chopin

Justyna Chopin

Justyna Chopin

Justyna Chopin

*przed 14 IX 1782 Długie, †1 X 1861 Warszawa

Justyna Chopin was born into the Krzyżanowski family in the hamlet of Długie, belonging to the Skarbek family estate, located 2 km south of their seat in Izbica, in the Kujawy lake district. Her exact date of birth is unknown, but must have occurred shortly before September 14th, 1782, the date she was christened at the parish church of Izbica, receiving the Christian names of Tekla Justyna. Her parents were Jakub Krzyżanowski (ca. 1729-1805), who was lessee of the Długie estate when Justyna was born, and formerly administrator of the Izbica estate, and Antonina Kołomińska; both came from the noble class. Justyna had two elder siblings: brother Wincenty, born in 1775, who probably died in infancy, and sister Marianna, born in 1780. In 1802 Marianna married Leon Bielski, and their daughter Zuzanna (ca. 1803-1869) lived for many years with the Chopins in Warsaw.

Little information is available from Justyna's childhood; as a young girl she probably lived with her parents, who resided at the Skarbek estate in Izbica, and occasionally acted as a godmother. After 1800, when the Izbica estate was sold, Justyna's parents lived in nearby Świętosławice for a few years. It has not been confirmed whether Justyna continued to live with them in that period and moved to Żelazowa Wola only after her father's death in 1805, or whether she followed the Skarbeks already in 1800. Uncertainty regarding the date of Justyna's arrival to Żelazowa Wola is coupled by an ambiguousness over her role there. Many authors have insistently repeated the legend of her alleged kinship with the Skarbeks, but this fact has never been substantiated by any source - only a very distant relationship can be traced. Surely Justyna did not live with the Skarbeks as a resident cousin but rather worked for them, although it is uncertain in what character. On June 28th, 1806 in Brochów (the parish to which Żelazowa Wola belonged) she married the Skarbeks' French tutor Nicolas Chopin. Although a romantic love between Nicolas and Justyna has been alleged in the literature, this marriage seems to have been arranged by countess Skarbek who was preoccupied with the future of 24-year-old Justyna, who had little hope of establishing a family due to her (by early 19th-century standards) advanced age and lack of estate.

Between 1806 and 1810 the Chopin family moved several times with the Skarbeks between Żelazowa Wola and Warsaw. During this time two of the couple's four children were born: Ludwika (1807-1855), later to be married to Józef Jędrzejewicz, and Fryderyk (1809 or 1810-1849). After the family's final relocation to Warsaw Izabela (1811-1881) - future bride of Antoni Barciński - and Emilia, who died young (1812-1827), were also born. Justyna spent the rest of her life with the family in Warsaw; few details from her life survive. A few ones, related mainly to family travels, can be found in Fryderyk's letters. Thus in summer 1826 Justyna and her four children travelled to Duszniki-Zdrój (then Bad Reinerz) in Lower Silesia. In the summer of 1829 the Chopins with daughters Ludwika and Izabela went to Strzyżewo in Greater Poland to await Fryderyk who was returning from Vienna. On this occasion the family visited the Duke Governor Antoni Radziwiłł in his Antonin estate. Justyna's next trip abroad took place in 1835, when she travelled with her husband to Karslbad (Karlovy Vary) to meet with Fryderyk - their first and only meeting after he left Poland in 1830. During these travels, the Chopins paid en route visits to Fryderyk's godmother Anna Wiesiołowska born Skarbek, in her Strzyżewo estate near Ostrzeszów (Poznań district in what was then Prussia). After Nicolas' death in 1844 Justyna seldom ventured outside Warsaw. One holiday trip in 1846 is documented, when she visited one 'lady Józefa'. Unfortunately neither the person nor the venue have been identified; it might have been Józefa Kościelska, born Wodzińska.

The Warsaw residences of the Chopin family between 1806 and 1810 have not yet been confimed. In 1807 the family resided with Justyna's relatives, the Kołomiński family, at no. 1899 Przyrynek St., and likely also at the Skarbeks' Warsaw address at 646 Leszno St. (not existing anymore). Later addresses of the family were related to the location of the Warsaw Lycaeum and were as follows: 1811-1817, Saski Palace at 413 Krakowskie Przedmieście Ave.; 1817-1827, right wing of the Kazimierzowski Palace (394 Krakowskie Przedmieście Ave.). From 1827 onwards the Chopins moved to an apartment in the left wing of the palace of general Wincenty Krasiński (410 Krakowskie Przedmieście Ave., currently seat of the Academy of Fine Arts). In 1844 the family moved to the house of Izabela and Antoni Barciński at 1255 (currently no. 45) Nowy Świat St., where Nicolas died. After her husband's death, the ill Justyna moved together with the Barciński couple, first to 1347 Mazowiecka St., then to the Zamoyski Palace at 1245a Nowy Świat St., where she remained until her death.

Due to the limited number of sources it is difficult to come up with a description of Justyna's character. Her principal trait was her deep religiousness, which however was far from bigotry. Towards the end of her life she mainly prayed, and left her home only to go to church. According to chronicler Eugeniusz Skrodzki, who was a personal acquaintance of the Chopins, Justyna would take care of Fryderyk's spiritual education and ensured he regularly went to masses at the Wizytki or Carmelitan Church and that he confessed and prayed. The early Chopin biographer Maurycy Karasowski also emphasized Justyna's personal traits as a person of particular sweetness and modesty, who never grew particularly proud of her son's international fame, and who valued her home above anything else. The already quoted Skrodzki described Mrs. Chopin as a person surrounded by love and respect, an efficient manager of the family estate, honest and hard-working, who through her resourcefulness was able to secure funds for the family's future existence.

Based on surviving sources, Justyna's physical aspect can be roughly traced. Although we do have a portrait of her by Ambroży Mieroszewski, dating from 1829, anthropological measurements of the skull as undertaken in 1948 have questioned the outline of this painting. Written sources include an extensive description of Justyna in Hoesick's biography of Chopin (although not based on first-hand information), who describes her as "an especially nice and sweet being, of charming aspect, considerable grace in her movements, greatly sociable [...], the most beautiful type of healthy Polish virgin, with hair golden as wheat and serene, sapphire-like eyes [...]", who "[...] with her regular face, full of seriousness and femininity, made the impression of a great lady". Pupils of the Chopins' boarding house remembered Justyna as a woman as thin as her husband, but not very shapely, quiet, hard-working and very diligent, soft and sympathetic, who saw to the state of the living quarters, proper and healthy nutrition, and moral education of her children and pupils. With these traits, Justyna was typical of a well-organized Polish housewife, orderly and hard-working, who could build an honest estate from scratch. Like her husband, Justyna was rather of flegmatic nature, and her everyday life, based on purely Polish traditions, was very orderly: she would get up early, have lunch at noon, and all members of the family would go to bed soon after an early supper. Meals were taken together: the Chopins, their children, pupils and tutors, while during holidays and on Sundays all (perhaps apart from Nicolas) would go to church to the Wizytki.

These descriptions need to be completed by a few words on Justyna's health which could have influenced her appearance. From Fryderyk's correspondence we gather that she often suffered from various illnesses, including rheumatism (mentioned in 1827, 1842 and 1845) and eyesight problems, probably a long-term weakening of her sight (1836 and 1842), as well as "a mysterious weakness which visits her from time to time" (1841). Justyna also suffered from toothaches for many years. In her later life her health had deteriorated and she required assistance, without however becoming a real burden to her family.

Justyna died on October 1st, 1861 at eleven thirty at night, in her daughter Izabela's apartment at the Zamoyski Palace at Nowy Świat St. in Warsaw. Chopin's mother's death was widely noticed in the press, who wrote: "That brave lady died on 2nd Oct 1861 and was buried alongside her husband. With quiet and painful resignation she had suffered loss after loss: son, husband, daughter. She requested to be dressed as poorly as possible, and brought to her grave in modesty". She was buried on October 4th in her husband's grave at the Powązki cemetery in Warsaw. After the Catacombs' destruction during the Warsaw Uprising of 1944, a decision was taken to exhume the couple, which took place on March 25th, 1948. On May 25th the same year Chopin's parents' remnants were moved to the new church of St. Charles Borromeo (quarter 9-4-1) where they lay to this day.

Piotr Mysłakowski, Andrzej Sikorski (January 2006)

Sikorski Andrzej, Mysłakowski Piotr, Rodzina matki Chopina. Mity i rzeczywistość [The Family of Chopin's Mother. Myths and reality], Warszawa 2000.
Mysłakowski Piotr, Sikorski Andrzej, Chopinowie. Krąg rodzinno-towarzyski [The Chopins. Their Family and Social Circle], Warszawa 2005.
Hoesick Ferdynand, Chopin, życie i twórczość [Chopin. Life and Work], Lwów 1932.


By category:

Gallery of photographs »
mini mini