Persons related to Chopin Persons related to Chopin

Izabella Barcińska

Izabella Barcińska

Izabella Barcińska

*9 VII 1811 Warszawa, †3 VI 1881 Warszawa

Justyna Izabella Chopin, Fryderyk's sister, was born on 9th July 1811 in Warsaw at the Chopin family house at 411 Krakowskie Przedmieście Ave. Shew was christened on 28th July at the Missionary Church (Holy Cross), and her godparents were Jakub Benik, head engineer of the Mint and youth friend of Mikołaj, and Justyna Pruska, a friend of the Chopin family. We have few testimonies of Izabella's early childhood: she grew up in the shadow of the intense activities of her elder sister Ludwika and her talented brother Fryderyk, among the pupils of the Chopins' boarding school. She probably took her first lessons together with them, attending classes of her father or those of hired teachers (one of which was Antoni Barciński, Izabella's future husband). It cannot be excluded, however, that like her elder sister Izabella attended the girls' boarding school of Mrs. Werbusz (or of Bogumiła Wiłucka). Like Ludwika, she received a thorough general education, and since the latter also included musical skills, she took piano classes with Wojciech Żywny.

Like her brother and sisters, Izabella showed a precocious interest for literature. It has been presumed that the educational-moralistic children's book titled Ludwik i Emilka, published anonymously in 1828, was in fact written with her participance. In 1836 Izabella published a two-volume book for artisans, titled Pan Wojciech, czyli wzór pracy i oszczędności [Mr. Wojciech, An Example of Work and Economy], co-written with Ludwika. Assiduous and hard-working, Izabella showed the best health of the entire family and assumed many household tasks from an early age. During the lengthy stay of her mother and sisters in Silesian spas in 1826, she stayed in Warsaw to take care of her father and the family house. In later years she also took care of her parents, her husband's cousins (the Śniadkowskis), and after Ludwika's death, even her young children.

She also engaged herself early in patriotic activities, when after the fall of the November Uprising, the Polish population was subjected to strict repressions by Russian authorities. Between 1831 and 1833, together with Ludwika she actively participated as 'comrade' in the activities of the Polish Ladies Patriotic Charity Union. She helped the poor, assisting at the Orphans and Poor Children Department of the Warsaw Charity Society and the School Institute Inspection in 1843. The following year she helped the Protection Council of the Refuge House, and in 1856 she was 'careworker on duty' at the Refuge House for Infants. From 1849 onwards she was patron of the Orphans' and Protective Rooms Board.

On 8th November 1834, she married Feliks Antoni Barciński, professor of mathematics at the Voivodship Grammar School. They were married at the Holy Cross church by rev. Jan Dekert, a former student and friend of Mikołaj Chopin, while their witnesses were Juliusz Dziewanowski, father of Dominik (Fryderyk's friend), and count Fryderyk Skarbek. The couple had no children. They first lived in Barciński's house at 796 Elektoralna St., and subsequently bought a house at 1255 (now 47) Nowy Świat St., where they moved together with Izabella's parents and where Mikołaj Chopin died in 1844. In 1850 the Barcińskis sold that house and moved together with widowed Justyna to a house at 1347 Mazowiecka St. Then they moved to the Zamoyski Palace at 1245 (currently 67/69) Nowy Świat St., where Izabella's mother, Justyna, died in 1861. This house became the scene for the tragic events of 19th September 1863, when from its windows a bomb was (unsuccessfully) thrown at the vehicle of the newly nominated tsar governor, Fyodor Berg. In retaliation, all residents were arrested, their apartments were sacked, and all property was thrown out of the windows to the courtyard by Lithuanian soldiers. According to contemporary witnesses, the flame of the burning stake "reached the belltower of the Holy Cross church". Many Chopin souvenirs burned in the incident, including his piano (as immortalized by Cyprian Kamil Norwid in his poem Chopin's Piano).

In 1853 Izabella with her mother and sister signed an authorization for Julian Fontana for the editorial rights to Fryderyk Chopin's compositions. Chopin's correspondence includes many letters from Izabella. After the death of her sister Ludwika (1855) and mother Justyna (1861), Izabella took over all matters relating to Chopin's estate. She always refused, however, to benefit from her rights. She also became the major source of biographical information on the Chopin family, as recorded among others by Maurycy Karasowski.

Izabella died in Warsaw in her house at 1257 Nowy Świat St. at 2am on 3rd June 1881, and was buried in the Barciński family tomb at the Powązki cemetery. The Warsaw press dedicated her a number of articles, stressing her unselfishness, dedication to her family, assiduousness and magnanimity.

Piotr Mysłakowski and Andrzej Sikorski

André Clavier, Dans l'entourage de Chopin, vol. 2, Lens 1984.
Piotr Mysłakowski, Andrzej Sikorski, Chopinowie. Krąg rodzinno-towarzyski, Warszawa 2005.
Janina Siwkowska, Nokturn czyli rodzina Fryderyka Chopina i Warszawa w latach 1832-1881 [A Nocturne. Fryderyk Chopin's family in the years 1832-1881], vols. 1-3, Warsaw 1986-1996.
Hanna Wróblewska-Straus, Katarzyna Markiewicz, Katalog wystawy Fryderyk Chopin i bracia Kolbergowie na tle epoki. Przyjaźń, praca, fascynacje [Fryderyk Chopin, the Kolberg brothers and their time. Friendship, work, fascinations. Exhibition catalogue], Chopin Society, Warsaw 2005, pp. 89-92 (HW-S).



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