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The Warsaw Voice » Regional Voice » April 30, 2010
Mazovia – Heart of Poland
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Chopin’s Mazovia
April 30, 2010   
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Poland’s greatest composer, Frederic Chopin, the 200th anniversary of whose birth is being celebrated worldwide this year, was born and brought up in Mazovia. The most frequently visited places connected with Chopin include Żelazowa Wola, where he was born, and Brochów, where he was christened. There is also a Chopin Center in Sanniki, where concerts are held.

All these places are connected with Chopin’s childhood and youth. They are well worth visiting. Here you can sense the ambiance of Mazovia, which is reflected strongly in the music Chopin composed. This is probably where the young musician’s knowledge of folk music came from, music that is clearly interwoven into his works. Chopin never forgot his roots even in the later years of his life, which he spent in Paris, where he became a favorite guest of the salons of the time.

Żelazowa Wola is located on the outskirts of Sochaczew, which boasts a famous Chopin museum. It is housed in the early 19th-century annex of the manor house once owned by the Skarbek family. This is where the famous composer was born — either on February 22 or March 1, 1810. Sources vary as to the date. Out of all buildings comprising the Skarbek estate, the one where the Chopin family lived has survived to the present day.

Mikołaj Chopin, the composer’s father, was the private tutor of the Skarbek children and it was in Żelazowa Wola that he met his future wife, Justyna Krzyżanowska, a cousin of the Skarbek family. Shortly after Chopin was born his family moved to Warsaw, but the future composer often spent time in Żelazowa Wola during the holidays. His last visit to the village was in August 1830. Four years later the Skarbek family lost Żelazowa Wola. From that time the estate often changed owners and towards the end of the 19th century a community organization was set up to buy the estate from its private owner. The annex was finally purchased in 1928. The badly neglected property was restored in 1930-31 and a museum was opened inside. Although the museum interior reflects the building’s historical character, the original 19th-century furnishings have not been preserved. The museum in the manor house comprises several exhibition rooms with period furniture and furnishings, replicas of the composer’s portraits, and copies of musical scores and documents.

Concert performances of Chopin’s music held here during the tourist season are very popular. The manor house is situated in a pleasant 7-hectare park with rare tree species and a wide variety of plants, giving the impression of a botanical garden. The river Utrata runs through the park, completing the picturesque landscape.

Tours “on the Chopin trail” also usually visit Brochów, a small place where you can stop and admire a rare historical building — a Gothic-Renaissance church that looks more like a fort than a place of worship. It has three towers and is surrounded by a brick wall with pentagonal bastions in the corners and with narrow slits in the walls. The parish church of St. Roch and St. John the Baptist was built in 1551-1561. Despite suffering heavy damage during both world wars it is still an imposing building today. It’s here that in 1806 Chopin’s parents were married. You can still read the record in the parish book of little Frederic’s christening on April 23, 1810 in Brochów. The antique furnishings of the church were destroyed during times of unrest and strife. There is a plaque in memory of Chopin inside the church.

While on the Chopin trail in Mazovia it is also worth visiting Sanniki, another village in the vicinity of Sochaczew. In 1828, the 18-year old Chopin spent his vacation here with the Pruszak family, the then owners of the property. This is where he composed his Rondo in C major. In Sanniki you can visit the Chopin palace and park complex. The neoclassical palace was designed by the architect Władysław Marconi. The Chopin Center is located in the palace, built in 1910. Concerts of the great composer’s music are also held here. The center holds a collection of Chopin memorabilia and literature.

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