By POLONIKA The National Institute of Polish Cultural Heritage Abroad
POLONIKA The National Institute of Polish Cultural Heritage Abroad
The history of Liepājā (Polish name: Lipawa, German: Libau) includes many interesting and relatively little known Polish threads. Liepāja’s links with Polish history date back to the early seventeenth century, when the city became part of the Duchy of Courland, which since 1561 had been a fief of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. Successive kings on the Polish throne, starting from Sigismund III in 1626, affirmed the city’s rights and privileges.
Jan Heydatel (1800–1871), was a civil engineer and Major General. He was a son of Maria née Korbacka and Józef Heydatel, a French emigrant, doctor, founder of one of the first schools for midwives at the Polish land. Jan Heydatel finished secondary school in Białystok (1819), and then he graduated from the Faculty of Physics and Mathematics of Vilnius University (1824) and the Institute of Communication Engineers in St. Petersburg (1829). He was a member of the secret Filaret Association and a friend of Adam Mickiewicz. He designed and rebuilt the Royal Canal (now the Dnieper-Bug Canal); he worked on the expansion of many ports, including Astrakhan, Riga, Windau (now Ventspils in Latvia) and Pernau (now Pärnu in Estonia). He designed the expansion of the port of Liepājā, and then, in the years 1861–1868, he was in charge of the construction works, as a result of which Liepājā became one of the main ports in the Baltic Sea.
Juliusz Rechniewski (1824–1887), was a lawyer, writer and social activist. He and his family settled in Liepājā in 1872. He was elected town councillor three times (1878–1886) and was a member of the town’s management board, in which he served as deputy mayor. His eulogies stated that his work and knowledge of the law had been extremely valuable to the town. The dramatic experiences connected with the arrest of his son Tadeusz as an activist of the First Proletariat, and the subsequent trial and 14 years’ hard labour sentence contributed to Juliusz Rechniewski’s premature death in 1887. He was buried in the old Catholic cemetery, but the grave has not been preserved.
Jan Mac-Donald (1850–1906), was a civil engineer, Lieutenant General, chief engineer of the construction of the fortress and war port in Liepājā. He was the son of Aeneas George and Pelagia née Soczołowska, and he was a grandson of a Scottish emigrant, mechanical engineer John Mac-Donald, who had come to Poland at the beginning of the 19th century. He read mathematics at the University of Warsaw and graduated from the Nicholas Engineering Academy in St. Petersburg. From 1887 he was in charge of the design and construction of the fortress and war port in Liepājā. He was associated with Liepājā for almost 20 years. He actively participated in the social life of the town and was elected town councillor in 1902. He also served as Vice-Chairman of the Board of the Red Cross in Liepājā and president of the Liepājā branch of the Russian Imperial Technical Society. He died in Warsaw.
Liepājā. Port on old postcard (1900)POLONIKA The National Institute of Polish Cultural Heritage Abroad
Maria Znamierowska-Prüfferowa (1898–1990), was an ethnographer, professor at the Nicolaus Copernicus University in Toruń, and the creator and long-serving director of the Ethnographic Museum in Toruń, which was given her name after her death. She graduated from the School of Commerce in Liepājā in 1915.
In the nineteenth century Poland had disappeared from the maps of Europe, and until the middle of the century there were practically no Poles among the inhabitants of Liepājā. The situation changed after the defeat of the January Uprising in 1863, when the tsarist repressions forced many Poles to leave their homeland. Liepājā became one of the places where they settled.
Emil Młynarski (1870–1935), was a conductor, violinist and composer, co-founder and director of the Warsaw Philharmonic (1901–1905), director of the Warsaw Conservatoire, and in the years 1919–1929 director of the Warsaw Opera House. Młynarski’s family were associated with Liepājā for a certain period of time. Due to his frequent appearances in Liepājā (between 1882 and 1893 he performed there at least 15 times), the press described the young virtuoso as “Liepaja’s child”, emphasizing the artist’s ties with this town.
Stanisław Grabowski (1901–1957), was a painter, graphic artist and ceramicist. He was born in Liepājā, where his father Witold Grabowski was a customs officer, social activist and city councillor. The family tradition preserved the memory of Stanisław’s great-grandmother, opera singer Konstancja Gładkowska, and her friendship with Frédéric Chopin. Stanisław Grabowski attended the School of Commerce in Liepājā, where his first drawing teacher was Kajetan Szklerys. In 1914 Grabowski’s family moved to Rybinsk on the Volga River, where he got drawing lessons from Mikhail Shcheglov. In 1918 he moved to Warsaw and studied painting at the School of Fine Arts. In 1926 he went to Paris, where he was taught by Fernand Léger and Amédée Ozenfant at Académie Moderne. Stanisław Grabowski’s main artistic interest was landscape, but he also painted still lifes and interior scenes. He exhibited his works in Paris galleries, and had exhibitions in London and New York. Grabowski’s works can be found, among others, in the National Museum in Warsaw and the Museum of Art in Łódź.
Aleksander Około-Kułak [Poles in Liepājā] (1942)POLONIKA The National Institute of Polish Cultural Heritage Abroad
Aleksander Około-Kułak (1906–1989), was a composer. He was born in Liepājā, son of Antoni and Aleksandra née Bielikiewicz. His tango for voice and piano, Smutno (I’m sad), was released in 12 languages throughout the 1930s, bringing him recognition all over Europe.
In 1944 he and his family left Liepājā, stayed in Paris for several years and then settled in the USA.
At the end of the 19th century Liepājā was one of the most important commercial and industrial centres of the Russian Empire. It is worth mentioning that Polish engineers played an important role in creating the conditions for this unprecedented economic development. Names such as Heydatel, Mac-Donald, Bloch or Gałęzowski are practically unknown in today’s Liepājā, but the material heritage of their activities has survived.
Anna Ostrowska (1891–1970), was an educator. She graduated from the private school of A. Jastrzębska in Riga, in the years 1908–1915 she was a teacher in schools for the lower classes run by the “Oświata” Society in Riga. From September 1920 she was a teacher at the Polish Primary School No. 1 in Liepājā, and between 1945 and 1948 she was the principal of the Polish school in Liepājā. When the school was closed by the Soviet authorities, she moved to Poland and settled in Gdynia.
Bolesława Zdanowska (1908–1982), was a photographer and educator. She was born in Liepājā, and was a daughter of Janina and Bolesław Tałłat-Kiełpsz. She first learned the profession at her parents’ photographic studio, which operated in Liepājā between 1909 and 1926, and then she studied under Jan Bułhak in Vilnius. From 1934 she and her husband Edmund Zdanowski ran a well-known and respected photographic studio in Vilnius. After the war they founded one of the first photography schools in Poland – currently the School of Fine Arts in Gdynia-Orłowo.
Franciszek Adamanis (1900–1962), born in Liepājā, was a chemist, pharmacist and author of academic textbooks. In the years 1938–1962 (except during World War II) he was the head of the Department of Pharmaceutical Chemistry and then dean and deputy rector of the Medical Academy in Poznań.
In 1992 the library of the Faculty of Pharmacy was named after Professor F. Adamanis.
Stanisław Hejmowski (1900–1969), was a lawyer. He was born in Liepājā, and his father, Konstanty, was a lawyer, social activist and city councillor. He finished secondary school in Liepājā, and after 1918 he settled in Poland. He was the counsel for the defense in the show trials following the June 1956 workers’ protests in Poznań, and in the trials of several members of the anti-communist underground movement. He was persecuted by the authorities of communist Poland and disbarred. In 2006, on the 50th anniversary of the June 1956 protests, one of the streets in Poznań was named after him.
Gabriel Narutowicz (1865–1922), was a civil engineer, professor at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich; after 1918 he was the Minister of Public Works, Minister of Foreign Affairs and the first President of the Republic of Poland. He finished secondary school in Liepājā (1883).
Liepājā. Spa Park (1900)POLONIKA The National Institute of Polish Cultural Heritage Abroad
After World War I and the subsequent restoration of Poland’s independence, many Polish families left Liepājā and settled in Poland. Out of the 7-8 thousand Poles living in the city before 1914, about 2.5 thousand lived in the town in the interwar period. Nevertheless, it was a time of great development of the social and cultural life of the Polish colony: several Polish social organizations were active in the city, there were two Polish schools (until 1929, when one of them closed), and until mid-1931 Liepājā was the site of a Polish consulate.
The outbreak of World War II and the occupation of Latvia by the Red Army brought an end to Polish social life in the city. Currently, there are about 800 inhabitants of Polish origin living in Liepājā. The Polish Society “Wanda” plays an active role among the social organizations operating in the city.
based on a book and exhibition by Marek Głuszko „Polacy w Lipawie. Historia znana, nieznana, zapomniana”, edited by POLONIKA The National Institute of Polish Cultural Heritage Abroad Warsaw 2018
editor: Anna Ekielska
Copyright © Marek Głuszko, 2018
Copyright © Narodowy Instytut Polskiego Dziedzictwa Kulturowego za Granicą POLONIKA, 2018
The Ministry of Culture and National Heritage