Topics of coins

Ignacy Jan Paderewski

A stylised image of the bust of Ignacy Jan Paderewski. On the right, a stylised image of the Eagle relating to the Coat of Arms of the Republic of Poland introduced in 1919. At the top, a semicircular inscription: IGNACY JAN PADEREWSKI. At the bottom and on the left-hand side, a semicircular inscription: 1860-1941 against the backdrop of the bust of Ignacy Jan Paderewski. Shaped in schools in Warsaw in 1872-1878, and subsequently in Berlin, Strasbourg and Vienna, his musical talent allowed him to start in 1888 a dazzling artistic carrier of a piano virtuoso at the stages around the world. In 1890, having given concerts in France, the Netherlands and Germany, he took England by storm. By 1892, Paderewski had performed in more than a hundred cities of the United States and Canada. He also gave concerts to audiences in South Africa, Australia, Tasmania, New Zealand, Hawaii, Cuba and South America and made famous himself and his country. The depth of feeling of his performance was compounded by magic of tones and truly dramatic power. It was perceived as quintessentially Polish at the same time. On top of his own compositions (among which the most praised were Fantasie Polonaise, opera Manru and Minuet in G-minor), the music of Frédéric Chopin featured prominently in his repertoire. The artist was employing the fame, as well as wealth he soon managed to gain, to support the national cause. The year 1910 marked the 500th anniversary of Poland’s victory over the Teutonic Knights near the village of Grunwald (Tannenberg). To celebrate the occasion, Paderewski funded a famous monument of King Władysław Jagiełło in Kraków, and the inscription on the monument reads: TO The GLORY OF OUR FOREFATHERS, TO OUR BROTHERS TO HEARTEN THEIR SPIRITS. The artist delivered a passionate speech to the crowds of compatriots who arrived from all three parts of partitioned Poland to attend the monument unveiling ceremony. He called for the unity of the nation in its pursuit of independence. The speech exerted a lasting impression on the listeners and became a starting point of Paderewski’s own political activity. During World War I, Paderewski set up Polish war victims’ relief committees, organised the Polish armed forces, and would end his musical concerts with speeches for the Polish cause. Thanks to his social relations and connections in the United States, the issue of an independent Poland was recognised at the international arena. This activity resulted in President Woodrow Wilson’s famous address in 1917 and brought about the declaration by the Prime Ministers of France, Italy and Great Britain in 1918 on the need to rebuild a sovereign Poland as a vital element of the new order in Europe. Having returned to Poland, he headed for Poznań, where in December 1918 he was greeted by enthusiastic crowds of Poles. Paderewski delivered a speech from a hotel window, urging unity of all groupings and classes in the act of rebuilding the Polish statehood. The speech sparkled off a victorious Greater Poland Uprising. Greeted around the country with ever growing enthusiasm, having come to Warsaw, he made a declaration which he abided by for the rest of his life: to serve Poland only, and not any political faction. Soon Paderewski assumed the post of Poland’s Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs. At the Paris Peace Conference, side by side with Roman Dmowski, he gamely sought to safeguard Polish interests and strengthen the authority of Poland. The resolutions of the Treaty of Versailles, onto which Polish negotiators had but a limited influence despite their best efforts, satisfied neither the political elites nor the general public back home. Internal challenges in the newly re-established country led to the collapse of the Paderewski cabinet in December 1919 and resulted in his decision to emigrate (Paderewski remained Poland’s delegate in the League of Nations until 1921). In 1921, Head of State Józef Piłsudski decorated Paderewski with the Order of the White Eagle „in the recognition of outstanding services for the Republic of Poland in the areas of civic and political activity”. The proof of the international recognition of Paderewski’s artistic and political achievements were honorary degrees received, inter alia, from Oxford and Cambridge universities. Paderewski’s disillusionment with domestic politics and mounting authoritarian tendencies after 1926 did not abate the artist’s patriotic zeal. He rendered continued support to and strengthened Poland’s interests. In 1936, the so-called Front Morges was established under his patronage. It was an alliance of centrist political parties, set up to counterbalance the growingly anti-democratic rule by the adherents to Marshal Piłsudski. In December 1939, Paderewski was appointed the President of the National Council – Polish parliament in exile. Paderewski acted for the benefit of Poland until his death in New York on 29 June 1941. Under the decision of President Roosevelt he was buried at Arlington National Cemetery. In 1991, in the presence of the President of Poland and the President of the United States, Paderewski’s remains were placed in the Metropolitan Cathedral in Warsaw.

dr Marek A. Janicki
Institute of History
University of Warsaw