Ignacy Jan Paderewski was born on November 18, 1860, in Russian-occupied Poland, the son of the steward of a Polish landowner. He studied music from the age of twelve at the Warsaw Conservatory, later taught music there, and in 1901 became its director. In 1880, at the age of twenty, he married Antonina Korsak, who was one of his pupils. She died in childbirth a year later. Encouraged and financed by the actress Helena Modjeska, Paderewski studied in Vienna under the influential teacher, Theodor Leschetizky.
Paderewski's first public appearances in Vienna, Paris, and London were overwhelming successes. His personality and stage presence generated an almost mystical devotion at a time when the concert pianist sat atop the world of public entertainment. Paderewski became the worthy successor to the piano virtuosos of the Romantic era, including Frédéric Chopin, Franz Liszt, and Anton Rubinstein. His repertoire consisted mainly of these composers along with Ludwig van Beethoven and Robert Schumann.
In 1891 Paderewski made his American debut at Carnegie Hall in New York City. Soon thereafter he struck up a friendship with the Krajewski family. The pianist was with them aboard the R.M.S. Tentonic in 1896 when they left New York to make Europe their home. He and they frequently took meals together on the ship.
In 1899 Paderewski married his friend and companion Helena Górska, Baroness von Rosen. A patron of the arts, she had long taken an interest in the performer's career.
During World War I, Paderewski, a devoted patriot, became a member of the Polish National Committee, and was appointed its representative to the United States. He urged President Woodrow Wilson to support the cause of Polish independence, which he included in his Fourteen Points in 1918. As the representative of Poland, he signed the Treaty of Versailles, which ended the Great War and restored Polish sovereignty after more than 120 years.
Paderewski and his wife later spent much time with the Krajewskis in New York and traveled with them on occasion to his ranch near Paso Robles, in the Central Coast of California. Much of the contact between the two families during the war was related to raising money for financial relief for Poland, and when the war was over, to efforts to encourage American support for an independent Polish state. To this end the Paderewskis met with President Wilson and his chief foreign policy advisor, Colonel Edward House.
Mother admired Paderewski as a genius and almost as a saint. It was he who introduced her to George Fudakowski, who he had met in Poland. They were later married in a ceremony witnessed by Paderewski and his wife, and he became the Godfather of their son, Thomas Ignace Fudakowski.
There is a sizable collection of letters and telegrams, principally for the years 1917 to 1919, from Helena Paderewski to Mother giving a clear picture of the relationship of the two families and Helena's fondness for Mother.
The correspondence is to and from many places, including New York, California, Chicago, Miami, and trains en route. Much has to do with travel plans and when they can next meet. There is news about friends, the sale of the dolls (for fund-raising for Poland), and organizations to benefit children. Helena talks about being ill and tired at times; she suffered a fall in Paso Robles with broken bones and pain.
Helena had great affection for Leonida and her mother, Rose. En route in a private Pullman car she wrote to Leonida: "I feel happy having you so close to me. I am sure that your dear friendship will be an immense comfort to my rather lonely life. God bless you my dear girl." Helena also expressed warm wishes and love to Mrs. K. on many occasions.
After the war, Josef Pilsudski, the provisional head of state, asked Paderewski to form a government free of party influences. Paderewski did so in January, 1919, keeping the foreign affairs portfolio himself. His premiership was not a success, and as he was accustomed to flattery and not criticism. He resigned in November, 1919. It was his ambition to be elected president of the Polish Republic, but no political party supported him.
In 1922 he resigned his remaining political appointments and resumed his musical career. Following the outbreak of World War II in Europe, he refused a position in the Polish government-in-exile, preferring to campaign against the Nazis from his home in Switzerland. He moved to the United States in 1940.
There was much tragedy in Paderewski's life. His mother died a few months after his birth. When he was a small boy, his father was arrested and sent to prison for a year because of his nationalist political activities. Paderewski's son, Alfred, grew up with a serious disability and died at the age of twenty. Helena's health began to decline in the late 1920s, and she died in 1934.
Yet Paderewski always remained a consummate professional and was well liked and respected by people from all backgrounds. He believed that whatever personal tragedies he endured were small compared to those of the Polish nation. Austria, Russia, and Prussia dominated and partitioned his homeland in the nineteenth century and Germany and the Soviet Union did likewise for much of the twentieth century.
Paderewski died in New York on June 29, 1941, less than six months before Leonida. He was eighty years old. At the request of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, he was entombed above ground in the Arlington National Cemetery. In 1992, following the collapse of the Soviet Union, Paderewski's remains were returned to the newly independent Polish state and interred at St. John's Cathedral in Warsaw. Presidents Lech Walesa of Poland and George H. W. Bush of the United States attended the ceremony.
Resources: Encyclopedia Britannica; Mother's diaries; Paderewski: A Biography of the Great Polish Pianist and Statesman, by Adam Zamoyski, 1982; Ignacy Jan Paderewski: Polish Pianist and Patriot, by Elaine Slivinski Lisandrelli, 1999; and The Paderewski Festival at Paso Robles
Fudakowski-Krajewski family home