Moving to Cracow
Oskar Kolberg lived in Warsaw from childhood, yet, at the end of the 1860s, he decided to move to the vicinity of Cracow. The decision was caused by his uncertain financial situation and very tough political conditions in the Kingdom of Poland just after the January Uprising.
Kolberg chose the region of Cracow for a few reasons. He had connections with the scientific and cultural community in the city. Moreover, he was promised by the Cracow Scientific Society that it would provide him the funds to publish ‘The People’. Another fact which contributed to the Kolberg’s decision were decent living conditions in the Austrian partition under the rule of Franz Joseph I. Finally, Kolberg was encouraged to move out by his friend, Józef Konopka, who shared his ethnographical interests. In addition, Konopka was a landowner; hence he was able to provide Oskar with a comfortable living. Thus, in 1870, Oskar Kolberg started a new chapter of his life; he devoted all of his time to ethnographic research.
Initially, for a short time Kolberg lived in Mogilany; later he moved to Modlnica. In 1884, he changed the place of his dwelling once more, this time to Cracow. The city turned out to be an ideal place for his work. Firstly, he rented a room from the Jasiński family, and in the middle of 1889, he was invited to live with Izydor Kopernicki, his friend and a doctor.
The Academy of Arts and Sciences
The academy was established in 1872 in the place of the former Cracow Scientific Society. The said society, whose president was Józef Majer, awarded Kolberg with funds for the publication of ‘The Cracow Region’. As a result of this help, during the following years, Kolberg was able to realize his programme of ethnographic research and publish his works.
Kolberg was connected with the academy not only because of the funds which he received from it, but also because he was a correspondent member of the institution. He coordinated the ethnological branch of the academy. In addition, he was an author and editor of many articles published in the annual issued by the academy.
The official inauguration of the Academy of Arts and Sciences took place on May 7, 1873, in the presence of the Emperor Franz Joseph I. In 1918, the institution changed its name to the Polish Academy of Arts and Sciences. After 1945, the academy suspended its activity; however, after 1989, the academy resumed its research.
“I have every intention of writing the monograph about Chopin”
Kolberg was fascinated with Frederic Chopin’s work since childhood. He knew the composer, and, as his neighbour, he regularly heard the music played by Chopin.
During his stay in Cracow, circa 1871, Kolberg started to gather materials related to Frederic. He continued for the next fifteen years, which suggests that he was preparing to write the biography of the artist. Moreover, there is a letter in which Kolberg complains about the fact that Frederic’s notes and letters which Kolberg’s brother, Wilhelm, possessed, were sent to the Chopin family: ‘I am very surprised that my brother did not send me those things. He knows that I am collecting such documents; I have every intention of writing a monograph about Chopin’.
In the end, Kolberg did not manage to write the biography of Chopin. However, the material that he collected complemented the works by Karasowki and Schultz, published in 1883 and 1877, respectively. It is believed that Kolberg had an excellent musical memory; and ‘his description of Chopin’s play in a letter to M. A. Shultz from May 20, 1879, is one of the most accurate and authentic accounts from the 19th century’.
Kolberg’s lodging, Floriańska street 53
Kolberg’s lodging was located in the flat of the Jasiński family. He moved in here in 1884, after leaving the manor in Modlnica. The new place was modest, but the living conditions were favourable. The Jasiński family, whose members were natives of Greater Poland, provided him board, lodging and basic care. He reflected on that in his correspondence.
The Golden Jubilee of Oskar Kolberg, the hall of the Cracow Marksmen’s Fraternity
The celebration of the 50th anniversary of Oskar Kolberg’s scientific work was held on May 31, 1889 at 7.30 p.m. in the hall of the Cracow Marksmen’s Fraternity. The main organizer was Ksawery Konopka. The concert was preceded by the awarding diplomas and congratulatory letters. Some telegrams and letters from both institutions and private people were read out. The programme of the concert included the orchestral pieces of the conductor, Władysław Żeleński, and fragments of ‘Król pasterzy’ [The King of Shepherds]; moreover, there were songs of Moniuszko and Kolberg performed by Ryta Andrzejkowicz, as well as Chopin’s ‘Fantasy on Polish Airs’ and ‘Rondo a la Mazur’ in a rendition by Franciszek Bylicki; in addition, the programme contained the performance of the choir from Bieżanowo, and declamation of poetry of Asnyk and Lenartowicz performed by the excellent actress, Wanda Siemaszkowa.
The apartement of Izydor Kopernicki, Sławkowska street 29
In 1889, Izydor Kopernicki invited the 75-years-old, sick and weakened Kolberg to live with him. Kopernicki, a scientist and a long-time friend of Kolberg shared his ethnographic passion. As a doctor, he provided Kolberg with decent living and permanent healthcare. In this apartment, in the last months of Kolberg’s life, Kopernicki arranged the ethnographer’s manuscripts. It is known that Kolberg prepared his material for printing till the last days. Oskar Kolberg died in the apartment of his friend on June 3, 1890.
The friendship with Izydor Kopernicki
An anthropologist and doctor, Izydor Kopernicki was a bosom friend of Oskar Kolberg. He studied in Kiev. He was a doctor of Polish insurgents during the January Uprising; later he lived in Paris and Bucharest. In 1871, he moved to Cracow where he was appointed a professor of anthropology; his research focused on comparative anatomy. He issued works on anthropology, archaeology and ethnography in the publishing house of the Academy of Arts and Sciences. At the end of the 1870s, he carried out research with Kolberg in Pokuttia. The content of Kolberg letters suggests that Kopernicki’s opinion as a scientist was very important for Kolberg.
In 1889, Kopernicki took care of the sick Kolberg, providing him accommodation and health care. In addition, he finished ‘The Chełm Region’ (volume 34 of CWOK) and published ‘The Przemyśl Region’ (volume 35 of CWOK) on the basis of Kolberg’s manuscripts. He was named as the executor of Kolberg’s last will and testament. Kopernicki died one year after Kolberg.
The Kolberg’s gravestone, the cemetery on the Rakowicka street 26
The inscription on the gravestone with Kolberg’s bust reads:
”Oskar Kolberg
rendered a great service to Poland
by travelling, exploring and loving”