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150th Anniversary of the Birth of Kazimierz Przerwa-Tetmajer

W 2015 r. mija 150. rocznica urodzin jednego The year 2015 marks the 150th anniversary of the birth of one of Poland’s greatest poets of the late 19th and early 20th century – Kazimierz Przerwa-Tetmajer. He came from a family of landowners and convinced patriots. He was a member of the intellectual elite of his time - his half-brother was the painter Włodzimierz Tetmajer and his cousin was Tadeusz Boy-Żeleński. Tetmajer was recognized as the voice of the Young Poland generation, which found in his poetry a reflection of the fears and anxieties of the end of the century (Koniec wieku XIX). The loss of faith in progress and in power of the man of the “age of steam and electricity” led him to seek refuge in art and subsequently in the wild nature of the Tatra Mountains. And he found it in the nature and culture of the Podhale region. This led to the creation of the unique Tatra series, in which the verses of poems (Widok ze Świnicy…, Melodia mgieł nocnych) are masterful descriptions of the mountains and the human soul.

Tetmajer was also a prose writer. He became famous after the publication of the national epic Na Skalnym Podhalu, which is a series of short stories - flavored with down-to-earth folk humor and stylized dialect - about the people of this region, from mythical times to the present. The measure of Tetmajer’s talent is the fact that the Polish Highlanders recognized this collection as their own and passed the stories contained therein in their oral storytelling. This work has played an important role in the awakening of their national consciousness.

During World War I, the poet was involved in patriotic efforts, siding with Piłsudski’s Legions (O żołnierzu polskim). During the struggle over the Polish borders, he participated in the creation of the Committee for the defense of Spisz, Orawa and Podhale, which worked towards uniting these territories with Poland. After 1918, Tetmajer moved to Warsaw, but the interwar period marked the decline of his activity. In 1921 he was elected as the president of the Society of Writers and Journalists and in 1934 he was awarded the honorary membership of the Polish Academy of Literature. Ailing and depressed after the loss of his son, he retired from public life. He lived in the Europejski Hotel in Warsaw until the outbreak of the war and died in a hospital in the first months of the Second Word War (18 January 1940).

Grzegorz P. Bąbiak