Monday, September 28, 2009

When the Cossacks first surrounded the house...

How many times do you run across a line like that?

Several, if you are reading The Paderewski Memoirs.

This 1938 collection of the great composer's memoirs was told directly to the author Mary Lawton. Born in 1860 in Poland, to a mother named Polixena and a estate administrator named Jan, Paderewski lived through the tumultuous Polish revolutions and constant war with Mother Russia.

So when he says the Cossacks surrounded the house, they did:

"My country was always torn with revolution. My first childish knowledge of it was revolution, and it was in the revolution of 1863 that my father was taken to prison. It was very sad and terrifying to us, and we cried bitterly together...we could not understand it when our father was taken away from us and we were left alone.

"It was this revolution of '63 and '64 which ruined many thousands of people in Poland. Many were executed or sent to Siberia; their properties were confiscated and given away to Russian functionaries...they had been guilty of some intrigue or some participation in the propaganda against the Russian government. My father supported all that, and whatever he could do, he did.

"Suddenly the house was surrounded by Cossacks, and nobody was permitted to leave before a thorough search was accomplished. There was a large company of the Cossacks, perhaps 150 on horseback. They seemed very big and terrifying to a small boy. They completely encircled our house, and proceeded with the search. I was frightened of course, and could not realize then what was going on, and I wanted to know, to understand; so I approached the tallest of the Cossacks very timidly and asked him about my father.

"But he never answered or even looked at me."

from The Paderewski Memoirs, 1938 edition, as of 9-28-09 on Amazon by Chewybooks

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