Persons related to Chopin Persons related to Chopin

Konstanty Pruszak

Konstanty Pruszak

Konstanty Pruszak, one of Fryderyk's closest school-friends belonged to the Pruszak family of Pomerania (coat-of-arms Leliwa), whose recorded history dates back to the beginning of the fifteenth century. The first member of this family to attain high office was Józef-Bernard Pruszak (c.1702-1774), Castellan of Gdańsk and owner of numerous estates in West Prussia and a mansion on Marszałkowska St. (land registry no. 1372) in Warsaw. One of his sons, Józef-Andrzej, was married to Perpetua Trembecka (her sister Cecylia was the wife of Jan-Kanty Dziewanowski and grandmother of Dominik ‘Domuś' Dziewanowski). Their children were Michał, a colonel in the Polish Army and owner of Jabłonowski Palace on Teatralny Square in Warsaw, Aleksander-Paweł, Antoni, and Justyna, married to Józef Leski.

Aleksander Pruszak (1777-1847) was considered to be one of the wealthiest landowners in Mazovia; his property included the estates of Sanniki, in the district of Gostynin, and Żychlina and Śleszyna, in the district of Kutno. He held a number of important posts, including chairman of the Credit Society and chairman of the Warsaw Department Council (1813). In 1831 his estates were plundered and destroyed by the Russian forces of Ivan Paskevitch, in retaliation for his financing (to the tune of 20,000 zloty) of Polish troops in the November Rising. He was married to Marianna Skarzyńska (coat-of-arms Bończa), daughter of Jerzy, Castellan of Sochaczew, with whom he had three children: Tomasz, Konstanty and Weronika (Olesia).

Tomasz-Makary (b. Warsaw, 1 Jan. 1806) was, in contrast to his younger brother Konstanty, a healthy child who gave his parents no cause for concern, which explains the dearth of references to him in correspondence. He married Seweryna Żochowska (c.1816-1905), with whom he had six children. The marriage broke up, however, and the couple separated. Tomasz died in Budzyń on 25 August 1856. His widow initially kept a salon in Warsaw, later becoming involved in conspiratorial-insurrectionary activities, as a result of which, for her own safety, she left Warsaw for Paris. There, in 1864, she married the historian Franciszek Duchiński. She died in Paris on 21 January 1905, leaving a substantial literary output.

Aleksander Pruszak's only daughter, Weronika-Bibianna-Justyna-Aleksandra, is familiar from Chopin's correspondence as ‘Olesia', a close friend of Ludwika Chopin. She was born on 4 February 1814 in Warsaw and as a little girl would often play with her brother Kostuś (Konstanty) and his friend Fryderyk Chopin, who even-albeit without enthusiasm-gave Olesia piano lessons. Olesia frequently crops up in Chopin's letters to Tytus Woyciechowski, as Frycek (Fryderyk) saw in her the perfect wife for his friend. However, the matrimonial plans of Olesia's parents led to her marrying the much older Onufry Mleczko (c.1783-1853), a prominent businessman and entrepreneur, chairman of the Merchants' Club. This union did not prove a happy one: after the birth of a daughter, Marianna, and her early death, the couple divorced or separated, and on Onufry's death Olesia married Władysław Gruszecki (1812-1874), also an eminent businessman and banker. This marriage produced no children. Olesia died in Warsaw on 27 May 1868 and was buried in the catacombs of Powązki cemetery.

Konstanty-Jan-Józef-Jerzy, Aleksander's younger son, was born in the family's Warsaw home at 1372 Marszałkowska St. on 1 March 1808, in difficult circumstances, as is attested by his hasty home baptism in the presence, among others, of Justyna Pruska, a family friend. His official church baptism took place two years later. Konstanty was initially taught at home; later, in 1820, he was enrolled at the Liceum Warszawskie secondary school. During his time at the Liceum, Konstanty, known as ‘Kostuś', became friends with Fryderyk Chopin, with whom he attended one of the classes. He was a pupil of Mikołaj Chopin, who would put him up when his parents travelled to their estate at Sanniki. After leaving the Liceum, on 30 October 1826 Konstanty entered the Department of Law and Administration of Warsaw University. The Pruszak family home was the venue for numerous pupils' gatherings, at which Fryderyk Chopin was a frequent and regular guest, including at Sunday dinners. The boys, together with Olesia, would stage amateur theatrical shows in the Pruszaks' home, described in one of Chopin's letters to Tytus Woyciechowski (of 27 Dec. 1828). Konstanty's parents also invited their son's friends to stay at Sanniki during the holidays, including Tytus Woyciechowski, Karol Weltz and Fryderyk Chopin. Many of Chopin's letters to Woyciechowski contain interesting details about the daily fortunes of Kostuś and his family: about social gatherings at their home, Olesia's matrimonial fortunes and the travels of ‘Old Pruszak' (Kostuś's father). During one of his summer sojourns at Sanniki, Fryderyk was suspected of seducing the Pruszaks' governess; the matter was later cleared up, and Fryderyk himself was made the illegitimate child's godfather.

In 1830 Konstanty went on a lengthy ‘tour' abroad, in the company of the university professor Romuald Hube, with whom he visited Germany, Austria, Switzerland, France, Italy and Hungary. Tours of this type were a typical part of the all-round education of the progeny of affluent families. In the November Rising, Konstanty initially served in the Academic Guard of Honour (15 Jan. 1831), with the rank of second lieutenant of the Sixth Uhlans, later becoming ‘unsalaried lieutenant-aide-de-camp' (13 Mar. 1831) to his uncle, Brigadier General Ambroży Skarzyński. By an order of the day issued by headquarters in the Praga district of Warsaw, he was awarded the Gold Cross of the Polish Army (Virtuti Militari no. 1252), and on 29 September 1831 he resigned from the army.

After the fall of the November Rising, on 10 October 1831, he swore an oath of allegiance to the new authorities and took up land management. He collaborated with the Bank of Poland, on behalf of which he participated in the exploitation of the state forests of Augustów and Płock. From his father he inherited the Sanniki estate, and from his uncle, Antoni Pruszak, the estate of Czubin, in the district of Błońsko, formerly belonging to Ludwika Skarbek. Together with his siblings, he also inherited a property in Warsaw, which he sold in 1847 to the piano manufacturers Seidler & Krall. He also owned the estates of Kotowice, Mielęcin and Falęcin in the Błońsko district, and when resident in Czubin discharged the functions of alderman of Chodaków. Unfortunately, he did not inherit his father's flair for business, and a series of failed ventures and unpropitious circumstances led to him losing the better part of his vast fortune. In 1849, together with Tomasz Pruszak (his brother), Franciszek Berski and Felicjan Bereźnicki, he set up a sugar factory at Sanniki, which a few years later passed into the hands of Ignacy and Selig Natanson. The sugar factory employed almost two hundred people, and was one of the largest in the Warsaw province. At the same time, Konstanty built up a large-scale sheep farm, regarded as one of the best in the province. This promising undertaking was greatly impaired by inept trading in wheat, which led Konstanty to the brink of bankruptcy.

On 19 March 1836, in Warsaw, Konstanty married Amalia, daughter of General Ksawery Jarosław de Christiani and Amalia Hibl, born in Rzeszów, with whom he had one son, Aleksander (b. 1837). In 1839 Konstanty proved his legitimate nobility to the Tsarist authorities. He died in Warsaw on 1 November 1852 and was interred in the church crypt in Żychlin.

Piotr Mysłakowski and Andrzej Sikorski (October 2006)

 Bibliography:
 Information from Mr Jan Pruszak of Warsaw, 2002.   
Piotr Mysłakowski and Andrzej Sikorski, Chopinowie. Krąg rodzinno-towarzyski [The Chopins. Their Family and Social Circle] (Warsaw, 2005).   
Bronisław E. Sydow (ed.), Korespondencja Fryderyka Chopina [The Correspondence of Fryderyk Chopin], 2 vols. (Warsaw, 1955).

 


 

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