Behind the Scenes of the Greater Poland Uprising

Ignacy Jan Paderewski and Poznań in december 1918

Marek Rezler

Select Pages

On 31 December 1918, in the afternoon, I. J. Paderewski started preparations for his further trip to Warsaw. Then, soldiers from the Kórnik company who had arrived in Poznań a couple of days before wished to see the artist. The master thanked them in a speech which he made to them as they were gathered in the hotel yard. Then, he was quietly taken to the railway station in a car from which, at 2:00 a.m. he travelled to Ostrów Wlkp. And Kalisz by train - at that time, there was no direct railway connection between Poznań and Warsaw yet. If we should believe the artist himself, he was accompanied by a military escort consisting of Polish soldiers. From Kalisz, he sent a telegram to Poznań, expressing his thanks for the excellent reception, without even mentioning the outbreak of the Uprising. In a memoir published after some years, the artist described the events related to the Uprising in Poznań very generally and inaccurately, in a manner which proved his poor orientation in the situation and his lack of involvement in insurgent matters - thus making the sincerity of his attitude during the period between 26-31 December in Poznań only more reliable.

In the capital city, I. J. Paderewski took the post of prime minister and minister of foreign affairs. He arrived in Poznań on 8 March 1919, to effectively champion the provision of help by Greater Poland to relieve Lviv which was being besieged by the Ukrainians. Several months later, on 27 December, being enthusiastically welcomed, he participated in the celebrations of the first anniversary of the outbreak of the Greater Poland Uprising. The welcome events, which had taken place one year before, were reconstructed and the artist again made a speech from the hotel’s window. The photos taken on that day are even today often described as the arrival from 26 December 1918.

The master visited Poznań one last time between 22 and 29 November 1924. These were days which the city devoted, above all, to him. Held in high esteem, he resided in the “Bazar” Hotel, just like a couple of years before. On Saturday 22 November, he received the diploma of an Honorary Citizen of Poznań in the Town Hall. The next day, in the University Hall, he received an honorary doctorate from the Poznań University, and in the afternoon, a homage march in front of the hotel, from the window of which the artist made a speech, was organised. In the evening of the same day - 23 November 1924, a solemn performance of the opera entitled “Maria” by Henryk Opieński took place in the Opera House. Next day, a concert of the music pieces composed by I.J. Paderewski was organised in the University Hall, with his special participation. The following days were also filled with events scheduled in the programme of the visit. On Wednesday 26 November, the artist visited pupils from a school which was named after him, first at the school itself and then in the afternoon in the building of the Polish Theatre. During leisure time the Paderewski family paid private visits to their friends from Poznań. Thus, the time was spent very intensively.

This was the last visit of Paderewski to Poznań. The artist, being in conflict with Józef Piłsudski, and after the latter’s death, leading the opposition alliance called Front Morges, had neither the time nor the conditions to travel around Poland. But, he did not forget about Poznań. In 1931, he funded a monument of president Thomas W. Wilson for the city. Poznań, in turn, commemorated him in 1928 with a beautiful plaque on the building of the ”Bazar” Hotel.

After World War II, on 24 November 1980, the Poznań Music Academy was named after Ignacy Jan Paderewski. On 3-4 July 1992, the coffin with I. J. Paderewski’s remains was honoured in Poznań on its way to Warsaw; the route which the master covered in the evening on 26 December 1918 was reconstructed on 6 May 2015. On the initiative of the Hipolit Cegielski Society in Poznań, a monument of the artist, designed by Radosław Nowak, was unveiled at the new building of the Music Academy


Select Pages