Paderewski in Warsaw

On February 1, 1919, Ill Secolo, a Millan newspaper interviewed Józef Pi³sudski. Józef Pilsudski expressed the following:
“I took power in an unusually difficult moment for our nation. No political authority had the trust of the people. The rigid policy of activism* held by the Regency deprived them of political support. Enemies on all sides wanted to forcibly remove them from power. Chaos threatened the country. There was no Army. There were only 4000 disorganized troops. The Ukrainians took advantage of the situation and took over Lwów. In Warsaw, Bolsheviks are sending agents attempting to ignite a communist revolution. A war that had ended for the rest of the Europe was just beginning for us and setting fire to our borders.  Ukranians are threatening Lwow, the Bolsheviks had taken Vilnius and were at the gates of Brześć and Grodno, making progress and assuring that their goal was Warsaw and all of Poland. We were surrounded on all sides by enemies and alone….”
Taking under consideration the above facts and that Poland at this time did not have a unitary political representation internationally; Pilsudski welcomed Paderewski with open arms. Paderewski was able to strengthen Pilsudski’s political standing domestically and internationally. Pilsudski wanted to use Paderewski reputation. The Polish National Committee in Paris, under leadership of Roman Dmowski, was not supportive of Pilsudski’s politics. In Paris, the Polish National Committee had General Haller’s Blue Army under its political leadership. It was created from Polonia voluntaries from the United States and Canada. Pilsudski needed that Army in Poland to fight its enemies.
The enthusiastic greeting of Paderewski in Poznan occurred at the same time as the outbreak of the Wielkopolski Uprising. Warsaw greeted Paderewski no less enthusiastically than Poznań. The route leading to the Palace of Belvedere (Pilsudski’s residence) was filled with cheering crowds. People filled every window, stood on the roofs, and climbed on the lampposts. National flags and carpets decorated every apartment. The enthusiasm even lead to many being seriously wounded when on Nowy Świat street a balcony filled with spectators collapsed.
Piłsudski awaited Paderewski in the Palace of Belvedere with many topics for discussion. Longing to put his guest in a good mood, Piłsudski began not with politics but “from the other side.” “Perhaps the maestro will play something on the piano?” he suggested with a smile. Paderewski, who had not played the piano for a long time because of pain in his hands, knew his host was not musically inclined and said, “Of course, I will play, but under one condition.”
-“What is that?”
-“If you will dance…”
Both men broke out in laughter and began a lively discussion.
Paderewski eventually assumed the functions of Premier and Minister of Foreign Affairs. He lived in the Hotel Bristol, which he owned. The hotel was regarded as one of the most elegant in Europe and at the time held meetings of the council of ministers. One anecdote has been immortalized: During a difficult meeting at which matters of war with the Bolsheviks and Ukrainians and the attack of the Czechs were discussed, Pani Helena, the wife of the Premier, unexpectedly came into the room. She interrupted the meeting with a question for her husband: “Honey, what kind of potatoes should we have for dinner tonight?”
Paderewski may have been a henpecked husband, but Piłsudski valued him above all as a dignified figure in the presence of western diplomats.

Henryk Lapczyński
translated by Sean Martin

Forum, 10/2003