Chopin Rising

Leokadia (Szymanska) Szerejko and Helen Bulak
(Original Image and Text, Copyright (c) 2011 Cynthia Shenette; Photograph of the Chopin Statue is in the public domain.) My grandmother's sister, Helen Bulak, visited Poland during the summer of 1937, two short years before the beginning of World War II. While she was there she spent several weeks in Warsaw visiting with my grandfather's brother Feliks Szerejko and his family.

The photo above was taken on Sunday July 4, 1937 in front of the statue of composer Frédéric Chopin in Lazienki Park. The art nouveau style statue was designed by Wacław Szymanowski and occupies a prominent spot in the largest park in Warsaw. Like much of current day Warsaw the statue in the contemporary photograph below is a replica.

The original statue was destroyed on May 31, 1940, blown up by the occupying German forces. The Germans salvaged the resulting scrap and transported it to a German steel mill to be melted and used for the war effort.  After the war a new statue was cast from the original mold and placed at the same site in Lazienki Park.

File:Chopin, Statue in Warsaw. 2005.jpg

Like the statue of Chopin, Feliks and his wife Leokadia, were casualties of World War II. When I look at this photograph I can't help but think to myself, what if? What if life was different for Feliks and Leokadia and for the millions of other people just like them?

While a statue doesn't live or breath, it can serve as symbol for what was and is no more.  Bronze can be recast.  Chopin's statue was given a second chance at life, and like the phoenix it rises from the ashes to begin life anew. 

* Special thanks to Denise Levenick for posting a link to this post from her blog, the Family Curator, for the "Past is Present: Genealogy Photo Challenge for World Photography Day."

Other Posts You Might Like:

Where They Lived: Every Address Tells a Story
Szerejko - Szymanska Wedding Invitation - Amanuensis Monday
Meditation: The Strength of Ordinary Women
Leokadia (Szymanska) and Feliks Szerejko - Wordless Wednesday


Barbara Poole said...

Once again, another beautifully written piece. You obviously did a lot of research on it, it shows. I'm sorry about the tragic ending though.

Family Curator said...

Thank you for posting these photos and for sharing the story of the Chopin Statue. Sad to think how very much was lost during those years, and inspiring to see the new statue. Thank you for sharing your photos for the Past is Present Photo Challenge.

Cynthia Shenette said...

Barbara - Thank you for your comment and your nice compliment. I'm sorry about the tragic ending as well. The really sad thing is that so many family stories ended the same way...

Denise - Thank you for your comment and for hosting the Past is Present Photo Challenge. It is inspiring to see the new statue. I've wanted to write about this photo for some time. World Photography Day and your photo challenge inspired me to finally get it done.

Susan Clark (Nolichucky Roots) said...

Well done - and perfect title. While heartbreaking on the personal level, I find the new statue even more meaningful than the original because of the trauma of WWII.

Kristin said...

I always think about how the people for whom life was about to become a nightmare had no idea what was coming. So very sad. Nice response to the challenge.

Karen said...

Very touching post - brings back memories of my grandmother's stories of WWII in Norway. So sad that the lives of Feliks and Leokadia were lost.