The city of Kolberg’s childhood

This is the place where the future folklorist and ethnographer, Oskar Kolberg, was born. The Kolberg family lived here just for a few years, yet those were very important years for the history of the family.

The Kolbergs came here from Warsaw in 1810. Julius Kolberg, the engineer, was employed in the local ironworks, a property of Ignacy Dembiński leased by Samuel Fraenkel, an entrepreneur from Warsaw. Many years later Fraenkel who just as the Kolbergs, was a member of the Lutheran church in Warsaw, helped Oskar to get a job.

In 1810 in Przysucha, the only daughter of the Kolbergs, Julia, was born. She died when she was 7 years old. In February 1814, Henryk Oskar was born; later in June 1815, in nearby Machory, the mother of Oskar’s mother gave birth to Antoni, who later became a painter. During their stay in Przysucha, the children were taken care of by a peasant woman, Zuśka Wawrzek from the region of Sandomierz. Later she moved with the family to Warsaw and started to work for the Chopin family.

In Przysucha, the Oskar’s grandmother, Henrietta, died too. She was buried with her granddaughter, Julia, on the local cemetery. The grave is still there. However, the Kolberg’s house is not there anymore. The family’s souvenirs are exhibited in the Oskar Kolberg Museum which is located in the former manor house of the Dembiński family.

After years…

Kolberg visited Przysucha during his field research. It is known that in 1844 he stayed with the Żurkowski family. They were probably very good friends with the Kolbergs, or even part of their family, since a young member of the Żurkowski family, Julian, addressed Kolberg as ‘uncle’ in his letters, which contained some folkloristic materials.

In the first volume of ‘The Radom Region’, published in 1887, Kolberg wrote about the city of his childhood:

“Przysucha, a city that used to belong to the Morsztyn family, later was owned by the Dembiński family. Urszula Dembińska, from the Morsztyn family, the wife of Wolbrom’s starost, erected in 1780 an ashlar church in the place of former wooden church. The town has three market squares: Polish, Jewish and German. Already at the beginning of the 18th century, the landlords brought here craftsmen from abroad. In the neighbourhood there is an ironwork, a rolling mill, a puddling plant and other industrial plant”.

In the footnote he added an interesting fact:

“On the nearby mountain there are two villages: Kozłowiec and Lipno. It is believed that in their neighbourhood (another version says it was near Grudek) the devil lives: the one who reveals himself as an apparition in a whirl”.

The monograph of this region contains also the description of a wedding with the note: “from Przysucha, Skrzynno (Rdzuchów, Skrzyńsko) 1845” which starts with the following words:

“When a young peasant wants to get married, he first sends an old woman to the house of the future wife. If, after a conversation with the potential in-laws, she assumes he will be accepted, a man goes to the house of his love with other men. They carry a bottle of vodka. After entering they tip their hats and ask for a cup to fill it with the alcohol”.

The material collected in the former district of Przysucha includes an account of the ‘dyngus’ tradition. Unlike in other parts of the country, this tradition was not connected with the water pouring on someone on Easter Monday but with house visiting:

“In the vicinity of Opoczno, there is a song about the ‘dyngus’ tradition, which is unknown in other regions. We know that it is old due to its mentioning of Turks and Tatars. Here, ‘dyngus’ doesn’t refer to the tradition of pouring water on others people, but, rather, to giving them presents. Young children go from house to house signing the song about the soldier who killed many Turks and Tatars in battle. They ask for something to eat in exchange. Later they organize the feast during which they eat the collected food and drinks and enjoy themselves playing games. The melody of the song is forgotten, so today it sounds, rather, like a declamation than singing”.

Some of the collected songs from the Radom region, including love songs are from Przysucha.