In the year of the 100th anniversary of independence gained by Poland in 1918, we present the most prominent people of that time. One of the key people of this group is Ignacy Jan Paderewski – a piano virtuoso. As the ambassador of the national matter in the world, he contributed to returning Polish statehood after 123 years of partitions.

Our hero came from a patriotic family settled on the Eastern Borderlines of Poland, where he was born in 1860. A few months after his birth, his mother died. His father – Jan Paderewski fought in the January Uprising 1863/64. Ignaś, as a four-year-old child experienced dramatic moments in his family court, when his father was arrested with shackles. The Cossacks beat the child begging for freeing his dad. After a year Jan Paderewski was released from prison. There was no evidence against him about his participation in the uprising. He got remarried and home began to be full of family life again. However, Ignaś was a loner, revealing his oversensitivity of his artistic soul.

The birth of talent

It was noticed in the boy very early that he had a talent to play the piano. Although he did not get the basic music education, he coped with music very well – his music compositions aroused amazement of his family and neighbours. His father decided to provide his 12-year-old son with education at the Warsaw Music Institute. It turned out there that Ignacy had to get down to a hard work on techniques to play the piano and….. on character – get rid of his belief about his being perfect. He won the fight, but after a lot of difficulties. His consistence and persistence in those efforts opened him a way to fame and wealth.

A virtuoso and a celebrity

What helped Paderewski in his career as a pianist, was also his personal grace and presenting himself – a cape of his golden hair and gentle face features impressed crowds, especially of women who were his devoted fans. It was so both in Paris and in Cracow. He was supported there by Helena Modrzejewska, performing with declamations during his concert. Being delighted with the 19-year-old genius, aristocrat women paved him the way to salons in Paris and London. His romantic style of performing music and his lion-like fringe were particularly impressive.

A real success of the pianist was in the United States where he arrived in 1891. He made the Americans love his music. But not only – maybe he impressed even more with his personality, dynamism and determination to aim at a purpose, and also with his life, which began in a provincial wilderness in the east of the Old Land. In his private life the way of the master was not strewn with roses – he got married at a very early age; soon after the birth of his son Alfred, suffering from inertia of legs, he became a widower. The second wife of Paderewski, gently speaking, was not liked in salons.

A patriot

For Poles Ignacy Jan Paderewski was somebody more than a piano virtuoso and a person of the entertainment world, giving hundreds of concerts in Europe and both Americas. During concerts he used to remind about the idea of liberating the country being partitioned. He shared his millions earned in the USA with his compatriots suffering from poverty.

The outbreak of the great war between the partitions of Poland in August 1914, brought a revival of hope for regaining the country. Paderewski joined charity actions, for example, in Switzerland in 1915 he and Henryk Sienkiewicz set up a General Committee of Help to War Victims in Poland. He sympathized with a democratic-national camp of Roman Dmowski, related to the anti-German coalition. After some time he decided to use his concession in the world of western elites for the sake of Poland. When in 1917 the political camp of Dmowski managed to negotiate acknowledgment from powerful countries of the West for the National Committee of Poland in Paris as an official representation of Poland among them, Paderewski became the representative of the Committee in the USA. it was due to him that the president of the United States Thomas Woodrow Wilson claimed for Poland. In January 1918 he represented a 14-point peace program – a suggestion of ‘arranging’ the world after the end of the war. The 13th point of the presidential message proclaimed that ‘it is necessary to create an independent Polish country, which should comprise territories inhabited by Polish people and which should be provided with a free and safe access to the sea and whose political, economic independence and territorial integrality should be guaranteed with the international pact’.

Everything for Poland

The defeat of partitioning powerful countries in the First World War became a key for gaining independence of Poland. in autumn 1918 when the war ended, Poles liberated the area of the Austrian partition first, and then a part of the Polish Kingdom occupied by German armies. Four generations had been waiting for that moment, the fifth one had managed to live till that moment. The authority in independent Poland was taken over by Józef Piłsudski. Whereas Paderewski arrived in Poland at Christmas 1918 by a British War Ship HMS ‘Concord’. He decided to enter the land in Gdańsk. Soon after that he went to Poznań, being under the German authority. His arrival and fire-like speech became the beginning of the uprising in Greater Poland. In Warsaw Paderewski was welcomed as enthusiastically as before. On 16 January 1919 he was appointed the prime minister of the government of Republic of Poland. His person authenticated the revived country – his Prime Minister’s Office was the first government of Poland acknowledged on the international arena. He also united his compatriots – the authority represented by Paderewski was acknowledged by the regional Polish government for Galicia, Śląsk Cieszyński, Orawa and Spisz, as well as the National Committee of Poland in Paris. At a peace conference in Paris in 1919, Paderewski and Dmowski in agreement with Pilsudski, were fighting well for Polish interests. They were united by their great love to Homeland. Paderewski had to feel great joy and satisfaction with the purpose he had achieved. He did a lot for the renewal of Poland. In independent Second Republic of Poland he always devoted a lot of time and strength to the matters of Poland, joining various patriotic initiatives. He used to give concerts in the USA and Switzerland where he had his headquarter.

During the Second World War, being at his elderly age, Ignacy Jan Paderewski became the chairman of the National Council of Republic of Poland in London – an emigration parliament. In the United States he achieved loans for weapon for Polish Military Forces in the West. He had been fighting for Poland till his last breath. He died in the USA on 29 June 1941 at the age of 81.

Translation: Aneta Amrozik

„Niedziela” 3/2018 (21 I 2018)

Editor: Tygodnik Katolicki "Niedziela", ul. 3 Maja 12, 42-200 Czestochowa, Polska
Editor-in-chief: Fr Jaroslaw Grabowski • E-mail: