Persons related to Chopin Persons related to Chopin

Zofia Rosengardt-Zaleska

Zofia  Rosengardt-Zaleska

Zofia Rosengardt-Zaleska (1824–1868) was the daughter of the Napoleonic officer Józef Rosengardt and his wife Józefa, née Bańkowska (in the literature, misspelled ‘Bońkowska’).

Her father (1793–1866), son of Franciszek, was born in Opava, in Czech Silesia. On completing his studies at Cadets’ School, he joined the cavalry and served in the Russian campaign of 1812; in Vilnius, he was taken captive, then released in 1814. Assigned to the Staff of the General Quartermaster Department of the Polish Army, he advanced to the rank of lieutenant, then captain. After the fall of the uprising, he was assigned to Registration and Recruitment in the Veterans’ Corps, from which he resigned, in 1835, due to a second paralysis (the first had occurred in 1828). In the literature, he has been wrongly identified with the well-known Warsaw hotelier and restaurateur Konrad Rosengardt, owner of the Hotel Wileński in Warsaw, among other properties, which was famed for its excellent cuisine (‘dumplings à la Rosengardt’).

Doubtless on account of her husband’s invalidity, the responsibility of keeping the family fell to Zofia’s mother, who, burdened with four daughters (their son had died in childhood), struggled financially. For that reason, at least one of the daughters, Zofia, spent three years in the countryside, away from her family. She had some ties with Bytom. Despite the financial difficulties, the musically gifted Zofia received a suitable training; her teacher was Wojciech Żywny.

In Warsaw, Zofia maintained close contacts with Chopin’s family, particularly with his sisters. In May 1843, she left for Paris, in the hope that letters of support from Chopin’s sisters would enable her to receive lessons from the maestro, yet she had to wait six months for her first meeting with Chopin.

In Paris, she found herself in the milieu of the Great Emigration, where she met such figures as Adam Mickiewicz, Juliusz Słowacki, Klementyna z Tańskich Hoffmanowa and Stefan Witwicki. It was Witwicki who put her in touch with the composer.

The first lesson took place in November 1843. By mid March the following year, there had been ten lessons, occurring on average once a month. During this time, Zofia met Józef Bohdan Zaleski (1802–1886), whom she married in November 1846, and Chopin was a witness at their wedding. For some time, the couple lived in Hyères, in the south of France, then in Fontainebleau, and subsequently in Paris. They spent the summer of 1847 in Rome, where they met with the poet Cyprian Kamil Norwid. They had six children, two of which died very early.

She left a diary, which is a valuable source for Chopin’s biography. Among other things, we learn from it that she harboured secret dreams of marrying Chopin. Zofia describes her teacher’s personality and behaviour in everyday situations from the perspective of a pupil of an adored master. In tracing a colourful portrait of Chopin, she brings into relief his sensitivity and also his mood swings and stormy temperament. She did not pursue a musical career. She died in 1868.

Piotr Mysłakowski


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