Warsaw out of Warsaw – Frederic Chopin monument

On 22 February 2010 the Polish Post introduced a new stamp „Year of Fryderyk Chopin”. The stamp won the plebiscite on the „most beautiful stamp of Warsaw’s motives”, organised by the Board of the Polish Union of Philatelists. Source: http://blog.radekjaworski.com/?p=256

Warsaw is a city in Poland … However, we can find the fragments of Warsaw all over the world – copies of statues, sculptures and even parts of Warsaw’s buildings scattered around the world. People living in countries where they can see the pieces of Warsaw every day, do not even know about their Polish origin.


Frédéric Chopin (Polish: Fryderyk Chopin, also phonetically Szopen,  1 March 1810 – 17 October 1849) was a Polish composer and virtuoso pianist of French-Polish parentage. He is considered one of the great masters of Romantic music. Chopin was born in Żelazowa Wola, a village in the Duchy of Warsaw, but he grew up in Warsaw and completed his music education there; he composed many mature works in Warsaw before leaving Poland in 1830 at age 20, shortly before the November 1830 Uprising. Following the Russian suppression of the Uprising, he settled in Paris as part of Poland’s Great Emigration. During the remaining 19 years of his life, Chopin gave only some 30 public performances, preferring the more intimate atmosphere of the salon; he supported himself by sales of his compositions and as a piano teacher. After some romantic dalliances with Polish women, including an abortive engagement, from 1837 to 1847 he carried on a relationship with the French writer Amantine Dupin (pen name “George Sand”). For most of his life, Chopin suffered from poor health; he died in Paris in 1849 at age 39.

The Chopin Statue stands in the upper part of Warsaw’s Royal Baths Park  (Łazienki Park), adjacent to Aleje Ujazdowskie (Ujazdów Avenue). It was designed in 1907 by Polish artist Wacław Szymanowski for its planned erection on the centenary of Chopin’s birth in 1910, but its execution was delayed by controversy about the design, then by the outbreak of World War I. The statue was finally cast and erected in 1926.

During World War II, the statue was destroyed by the occupying Germans on May 31, 1940. According to local legend, the next day a handwritten sign was found at the site which read: “I don’t know who destroyed me, but I know why: so that I won’t play the funeral march for your leader.” The original mould for the statue, which had survived the war, made it possible to cast a replica, which was placed at the original site in 1958. At the statue’s base, since 1959, on summer Sunday afternoons are performed free piano recitals of Chopin’s compositions. The stylized willow over Chopin’s seated figure echoes a pianist’s hand and fingers.

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1. Warsaw, Poland– one of Warsaw’s landmarks visited on every Sunday during the Summer for free of charge open-air Chopin music piano recitals, very popular among tourists and locals. Szymanowski’s statue was the world’s tallest Chopin monument until the unveiling, on March 3, 2007, of the slightly taller, modernistic bronze in Shanghai, China.

2. Poznań, Poland – before WW2 the wooden copy of Chopin’s statute in 1:2 scale was given to Wielkopolskie Museum in Poznań (today the building houses the National Museum in Poznań).  The statue was destroyed by the Nazis during the war

3. Paris, France – Barbedienne studio, 1926 – Szymanowski worked on the statue in Paris, when it was ready it was transported to Warsaw and placed in Łazienki park. The ceremony was held on November 14, 1926

4. Hamamatsu, Japan – Act City Hamamatsu – a 1:1-scale replica of Szymanowski’s statue is set on the roof garden of one of the buildings composing “Act City Hamamatsu”. “Act City Hamamatsu” is a big complex of a few buildings in which are concert halls, convention halls, museums, exhibition halls, offices, hotels and shops. Its construction was sponsored by Hamamatsu city and private enterprises, and completed in 1994. It is located just a few minutes from JR Hamamatsu station. The roof garden where we see the copy of Chopin monument on the “Chopin’s hill” is named “Square of Relaxation”. The copy of the monument was set in commemoration of the 1990 agreement of musical and cultural exchanges between Hamamatsu city and Warsaw city. The bronze statue was made by a Japanese company. Hamamatsu city tries to make the monument as a symbol to present itself as a city of culture and music.

5. Chicago, Illinois, USA – project to erect Warsaw Chopin monument replica in Chopin Park in Chicago. The year 2010 marked the 200th anniversary of the birth of Frederic Chopin. In honor of Chopin’s contribution to music “We The People of Chicago” want to bring Chopin to Our City and to erect a copy of the famous Art Nouveau Chopin Monument in Warsaw’s Royal Baths Park here downtown in Chicago. It will be a fitting tribute to commemorate the 200th anniversary of one of the most influential composers ever. The intent to locate Chopin’s monument in one of Chicago’s tourist hotspots – Chicago Grant Park, section between 11 St. & South Michigan Ave. and Museum Campus- Metra Station , will expose it to the greatest number of people of Chicago and tourists alike. Temporary name for the project “Chopin Garden”. It will be another architectural jewel in the crown of Chicago architectural marvels. More about the project: http://www.chopinmonumentinchicago.com


Warsaw historic buildings – the “Polish Theatre” (Teatr Polski)

A theatre founded at the initiative of Arnold Szyfman opened in 1913. It is housed at 2 Karasia Street, a building completed in 1912 to a design by Czesław Przybylski and fitted with what was then state-of-the-art equipment (Poland’s first revolving stage). In the interwar period the Teatr Mały (Small Theatre) and Teatr Komedia (Comedy Theatre) operated as its branches. The theatre had a second venue in 1949-2001 – initially called the Teatr Kameralny, and later the Scena Kameralna (at 16 Foksal St.).

“…Warsaw desperately needed a theatre not just with a modern structure and stage equipment, but also modern artistic plans, especially in terms of production, directing, and decorative art, something completely unknown in Warsaw in those days,” wrote the theatre’s founder Arnold Szyfman. “Besides, the aim was to set up a theatre which would systematically cultivate a classic repertoire and foster audience interest in it. The general motto of the newly established theatre was: a work of art in the most perfect artistic form.” (Arnold Szyfman, “Powstanie Teatru Polskiego. Teatr Polski w Warszawie 1913-1923”)

The theatre was a private enterprise. The first general manager, in 1912-1939, was Szyfman himself, who also ran the theatre in 1945-1949 and 1955-1957. The inaugural premiere at its Warsaw headquarters took place in January 1913. It was Zygmunt Krasiński’s IRYDION directed by Arnold Szyfman, with stage design by Karol Frycz.

During World War II the theatre was taken over by the Nazis and operated as the Theater der Stadt Warschau in 1940-1944. Propaganda department of the General Government in Nazi ocupadied Poland gave the post of the director of the theatre  to Igo Sym – an Austrian-born Polish actor and collaborator with Nazi Germany. He was also the director of the Nur für Deutsche cinema, the Helgoland (former Palladium), and licensee at the Teatr Komedia. Igo Sym was killed in Warsaw by members of the Polish resistance movement on March 7, 1941.

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The theatre building was partially destroyed during Warsaw Uprising 1944, but comparing to the average rate of the city distruction the damages were not severe.

The Warsaw Ghetto Uprising – 69th anniversary

April 19, 1943 – Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. Please spare a minute to think of those who fell and of those who survived to give their testimonies of the Nazi crimes…
On April 19, 1943, the Germans under the command of SS General Juergen Stroop, began the final destruction of the ghetto and the deportation of the remaining Jews. The ghetto population, however, does not report for deportations. Instead, the ghetto fighting organizations have barricaded themselves inside buildings and bunkers, ready to resist the Germans. After three days, German forces begin burning the ghetto, building by building, to force Jews out of the hiding places. Resistance continues for weeks as the Germans reduce the ghetto to rubble. General Stroop reports after the destruction of the ghetto that 56,065 Jews have been captured; of those 7,000 deported to the Treblinka extermination camp, and the remainder sent to forced-labor camps and the Majdanek camp. Some of the resistance fighters succeed in escaping from the ghetto and join partisan groups in the forests around Warsaw.

Evangelical Reformed Church

The church is rarely visited by tourists, although it is surely worth attention. Not very many historic buildings in Warsaw survived WW2 destruction, this church is a unique example of modern architecture of industrial era of 19th century which used new technologies of construction and modern materials.

The Warsaw Reformed Protestants registered their congregation on the juridical ground of Leszno, in 1776.  The next year, the modest new church was consecrated (today it houses the Warsaw Chamber Opera, located behind the current church). The construction of the church, as seen today, began on 30th October, 1866. The building had been designed in the neo-gothic style – with the use of cast-iron, a very popular building material at the time – by Adolf Loewe, a renowned Warsaw architect and a member of the congregation. On account of the enormous costs of the enterprise, the whole building process lasted 14 years.

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The active development of congregational life was interrupted and repressed by the outbreak of World War II. The time of German occupation was the most turbulent and the hardest in the history of the Warsaw Reformed congregation and its city. Many parish members were actively involved in the September campaign of 1939 and, later, in the resistance and conspiracy movement

The Jewish Ghetto was established in the direct neighbourhood of the parish buildings, surrounding the buildings in a kind of walled enclave. This made it possible for our parish members and pastors to help ghetto inhabitants on the so called Arian side, for example: to provide them with false documents and personal papers issued by the parish office.

The parish buildings on Leszno Street (today Solidarity Av.), the two church attachments and the presbytery with the centrally placed wooden preaching pulpit (never reconstructed again) were burnt down. However, the rest of the church survived, together with the church tower – at that time the tallest in the city – but marked with gun shots and prepared by the Nazi soldiers to be blown up.

Pańska Skórka (The Lord’s crust) – an icon of Warsaw?

pańska skórka

When you ask about this sweet delicacy anywhere else in Poland nobody will probably seem to know what you are talking about… Pańska skórka? What is it? Although known for more than 100 years it is only Warsaw special candy, which in addition, you can’t buy in any shop….

Pańska Skórka is a type of chewy candy (similar to taffy) sold at cemeteries during  All Saints’ Day (November 1) and All Souls’ Day (November 2). The tradition of Wszystkich Świętych (All Saints’ Day) and Dzień Zaduszny or Zaduszki (All Souls’ Day) began in the first centuries of Christianity. Today, it is an important holiday in many countries that are predominantly Catholic. All Saints’ Day has been designated by the Roman Catholic Church as the day to pray for the Saints of the church. All Souls’ Day is a day of prayer for all who have died. In Poland the tradition is to light candles and visit the graves of deceased relatives. Beginning on November 1st and throughout the following week, cemeteries are filled with people, flowers, and thousands of candles. These special candles can burn anywhere from 24 hours to a week, depending on their size. At night, during the week following All Saints’ Day, they give the cemeteries of Poland a glow that can be seen from many kilometers away.

Pańska skórka is connected to this old tradition but it is only known locally in Warsaw. In Kraków similar candies can be found but they are called “Turkish honey” (Polish: “miodek  turecki“) and unlike pańska skórka they contain nuts.

Pańska skórka is a home-made candy – to tell you the truth it is better not to think about the hygienic conditions of production…. but it reminds the wonderful taste of the childhood and recalls the sweet memories from the past.

pańska skórka

Pańska skórka is made of water, sugar, a bit of vanilla, some honey, whipped egg whites and flavored with red fruit juice in order to finally get a white-pink color. It was for the first time described in the “Warsaw Dictionary” of 1908 as soothing cough medicine for children sold in pharmacies, exactly 100 years later – in 2008 pańska skórka was recognized by the Polish Ministry of Agriculture as traditional regional product of Mazovia.

So… next time you are in Warsaw, make sure you put this delicacy to your test 🙂

2012 – The year of Janusz Korczak in Poland

Janusz Korczak and the children in front of Orphans Building in Warsaw at 92 Krochmalna street (before 1939)

“When a child laughs, the whole world laughs” (Janusz Korczak)

Polish Parliament decided that year 2012 is dedicated to Janusz Korczak, Polish-Jewish writer, thinker and the great leader in the fight for children’s rights and innovative pedagogics.

Janusz Korczak real name was Henryk Goldszmit. He is remembered today primarily for his contributions to education as a great authority when it came to custodial pedagogy, yet he was an accomplished writer as well, taking on a range of literary forms to pursue varied social topics, from medicine and pedagogy to hygiene, politics and interpersonal relationships.

This year Poland commemorates two separate dates in Janusz Korczak’s life, the 70th anniversary of his death at the Treblinka extermination camp during the war (1942) and the 100th anniversary of his founding the House of Orphans in Krochmalna street in Warsaw (currently Jaktorowska street) in 1912.

more information:
1. Janusz Korczak at Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Janusz_Korczak

What does it mean “to be a tour guide”?

Wherever I have traveled, there has always been a tour guide to show me the true beauty and meaning of my destination. Each time, I have thought that these people were probably the happiest in the world.  They adored the place where they lived, and they loved their chosen profession.  Each time I was jealous; I wanted that same passion in my life. Plus, these guides were so friendly, energetic, and professional that I had to think – this particular city is the best place in the world to live. One could say that this was my good fortune, but I believe otherwise.  The ability to make other people happy and to make them fall in-love with the travel spot are simply the general characteristics of people who have decided to become tour guides.

In seeing how private guides work, I have felt some sort of energy exchange. These people have shared their love of their city with me and have provided tourists with a piece of that same passion. Coming full circle, this makes me feel like a part of the city as well. I guess it is because only “in-love-with-a-place” individuals choose such a profession, and they do everything to share this ‘love’ with others.

I do believe that being a guide is THE mission, THE passion and THE life style! This may be a bit romantic… a bit idealistic but is so nice! (found at: privateguide.com)

Yes, my mission, my passion and my life style is Warsaw….. I realize this may not be an objective point of view, but… love is blind 🙂