Patti McGill Peterson Center for International and Intercultural Studies
Although it was just during the last academic year that I learned how to read scores and started to play a piano, it has been many years of my life that I have developed a connection with Mr. Frederic Chopin. He has always seemed to me to be one of the more exciting national heroes of Poland but also "normal" with his chronic coughing and wick body, and of course, strong mind. For all these years I dreamt of seeing the places that shaped his career. As a Pole from Poznań - I could explore our Music Museum and trace him in my own city, and then when I was in the elementary school my Father took me to Warsaw where I could see more about Chopin. For many reasons however, I was never able to explore the French aspects of his life.
This changed thanks to support and generosity of Ms. Francine Stone and the enrichment grant I was awarded in the Spring of 2010. I was accepted to the Global Francophone Cultures Program which took me to France and with the help of Ms. Stone I was able to follow my dream. Coincidentally, my program started at the same time when the world was celebrating Chopin's 200 Anniversary of birth - this made my experience even more unique. Please let me share with you some of the places that I have seen:
Warsaw, a capital of Poland: here The Chopin Family moved after Frederic was born on March 1st, 1810 in Żelazowa Wola; - here he spent the first 20 years of his life. He grew up in the historic Old City, gave his first concert in today's Presidential Palace, drank his favorite coffee at Miodowa Street, and played on Sunday's service in The Wizytek's Church. This was where he composed his first music, fell in love for the first time, made friendships and gained skills. In St. Cross Church his heart is buried. As Chopin wrote, "Warsaw - here each place has for me 1000 memories."
Poznań, the first capital of Poland, is where Chopin gave one of his 30 public concerts that is believed to be portrayed by a painter Henryk Siemiradzki. In Poznań's countryside are some of the mansions he had spend his summers, one of them is Antonin. Poznań today, hosts the cast of Chopin's hand. Polish musicians also come to Poznań to study music at the Music Academy. Visitors of the Museum of Music can also view personal belongings of Chopin.
Paris, the capital of France, is the place where Chopin arrived in his twenties to become a world-renown pianist and composer. Here he engaged in the biggest romance of his life, with a writer and feminist, George Sand. It was at her mansion in Nohant that Chopin composed his most famous works. He died on October 17th, 1849 and was buried at the Père Lachaise Cemetery.
It was a rainy day in February when, after wandering around for 40 minutes at the Père Lachaise Cemetery making my trousers dirty in mud (what was especially bad since we had scheduled visit to the Opéra-Bastille that night) that I finally found his grave. Before that day I had already explored his houses, and the streets and places where he lived in Paris and then again with even more time in March and May. I had the chance to hear concerts of his music, and over the summer I spent hours and days in the libraries and museums reading, watching, and talking with experts about Chopin's life. It was at this moment, the most mysterious and important from the entire trip -- the moment when after all these years of fascination and time spend on research when I stood over his grave that I was able to say on his grave "Dziękuję!" - what in Polish means "Thank You."
Ms. Stone - Thank You once again for giving me this moment!