Paderewski: The Politician

If you are lucky, you have met Jenna Rovenstine in our Tasting Room.  Besides being genuinely friendly, kind, and fun to talk wine with, she is incredibly informed in all things Paderewski.  Growing up in Paso Robles, Jenna always knew about “Paddy,” as he is a local legend in this neck of the woods, but her interest in this man reached new heights when she and her family started working for Epoch.  Passionate about history, Jenna declared this subject her major at Cal Poly.  Her growing admiration for Paderewski coupled with Epoch’s fervent commitment to preserving this man’s legacy inspired Jenna to make Paderewski (as well as the York family) the focus of her senior project.  Serving as Epoch’s resident Historian, Jenna has written two awesome blog posts for you about Ignacy Jan Paderewski, the Polish Statesman and namesake of our Paderewski Vineyard that he once owned.  Enjoy! – Lindsey Armstrong

Paderewski: The Politician

By Jenna Rovenstine

As the 19th century passed into the 20th century and Paderewski’s international fame grew, so too did his political prestige. This was especially elevated when his beloved Poland became ensnared in World War I.  At the onset of the Great War, Poland and her people were again pulled into many different directions.  Many Poles were pressed into the military ranks of Austria, Germany (the former Prussia, unified in 1871) and Russia. Many Poles had to fight against one another in a war that they did not wish to fight in. To make matters worse, all the fighting on the Eastern Front took place on Polish soil, even further damaging their morale.

Despite his newfound joy in Paso Robles, duty called him away as war broke out in Europe and his beloved Poland was thrown into turmoil once again. Between the years of 1915-1918; Paderewski gave over 300 lecture-recitals and speeches in hopes of gaining international support for Polish war causalities. He also appeared at rallies around the world in support of Polish independence. Working alongside successive U.S. Presidents Woodrow Wilson and Herbert Hoover, he was able to raise millions of dollars in aid for Poland. He became an active member and spokesman of the Polish National Committee in Paris, which became known as the main representative body intent on creating an independent Poland.  He founded many political and social organizations, one of which was the Polish Relief Fund in London.

By the end of the war in November of 1918, despite the mass destruction and devastation that enveloped the European nations and their populations, things began looking up for Poland. This was because at the end of the war, both the Central Powers (Germany, Austria-Hungary, Bulgaria and the Ottoman Empire) and Russia collapsed, paving the way for Poland to declare her independence.  During this same time, Paderewski played an essential role in gaining the inclusion of independent Poland as Point 13 in the Fourteen Points, which were the proposed peace terms drafted by U.S. President Woodrow Wilson at the end of WWI.  He was also very instrumental in the Greater Poland Uprising in which the Polish city of Poznan forged a successful military uprising against Germany at the close of the war.

On November 11th, 1918, General Józef Pilsudski, declared the founding of the Second Republic of Poland, with himself the head Chief of State. He then appointed Paderewski the Prime Minister of Poland (also known as the Premier of Poland) and Minister of Foreign Affairs in January of the next year. On June 28th, 1919, Paderewski signed the Treaty of Versailles on behalf of Poland at the Paris Peace Conference, which was held at the Palace of Versailles in the Great Hall of Mirrors.  Although Paderewski had worked long and hard to free his homeland and her people, he was a reluctant politician. He was a humble man who thought that Poland deserved someone better than himself to lead her. But he had heart and he had conviction and, as he did with everything else he tried his hand at, Paderewski gave his new political office his ultimate best.

Poland was once again a unified nation, but it was a nation with many problems to fix.  Within a few months of taking office, Paderewski spoke to the first truly sovereign Polish parliament since the 18th century, succeeded in making the Allied Powers accept the new Polish government, and began the difficult task of getting the three long divided parts of the country to work together.  There were many things that stood in the way such as the fact that there were different currencies, legal systems and governments that would somehow have to be unified. World War I, as a whole, which stretched out through fifty-one months, took over twenty million European lives and wounded twenty-one million. Throughout Europe, six million acres of forests were left in ruins and over eleven million acres of farmland destroyed. Villages, towns and homes were also casualties in the destruction, as were millions of farm animals that were either slaughtered or stolen. The German military destroyed 940 railways and 7,500 bridges. Diseases such as influenza and typhoid along with starvation ran rampant throughout the war-torn countries. Poland was no different.  It was a daunting task that, as mentioned before, Paderewski was nervous about taking on.  He did not want to fail his country. As his father had before him, Paderewski had dreamed of the unification of his homeland his entire life. And now it was becoming a reality, in which he was playing an instrumental part. As the Prime Minister of Poland, Paderewski was forced to set aside his music for the time being.

As the leader of a rebuilding nation and chief delegate of Poland to the Paris Peace Conference, he definitely had his hands full and unfortunately his fair share of criticism. As the months wore on and Paderewski appealed to the Paris Peace Conference board for Poland’s terms, of which only the recognition of their independence was given, factions within the different political parties blamed Paderewski for not attaining the other terms.  Only small portions of Poland’s frontiers were returned, and Poland did not obtain full control of the port city of Danzig.  But Paderewski knew if they refused to sign the peace treaty, Poland would lose the support of the Allies and then would have to negotiate directly with Germany on their own, which could lead to danger of repression once again.  Paderewski was also criticized for the overseas support he garnered, especially from the United States, President Woodrow Wilson, and Herbert Hoover, then administrator of the American Food Mission, which sent food, clothing and medicine, and also advisors that helped Poland rebuild. Many accused Paderewski of being a poor financial manager as well. Paderewski and Madame Paderewska were criticized for moving into the royal castle, which had always been seen as the royal residence and the seat of government. This led many to believe that Paderewski viewed himself as king.

The requests for Paderewski’s resignation grew as both the political parties and the people grew discontented.  They were growing impatient; it was taking too much time to put Poland back together again. With this impatience, Poland’s politicians and citizens did not realize that Paderewski was doing all that he could to keep Poland from falling apart once again, and that rebuilding a nation does in fact take time, years in fact. The attacks became more personal when both the politicians and the media began criticizing his wife, who they said was running the government single-handedly when it was discovered that she would intercept harsh messages and interrupt cabinet meetings to spare her husband’s feelings. And hurt his feelings it did. Paderewski could deal with his own personal criticism. As a musician in the public eye, he was used to it. It was the criticism of his wife that hurt him the most. Paderewski did not belong to any particular political party before or after he was elected to office. At the time this was seen as an advantage because he was seen as a neutral force with an open mind and an objective viewpoint. But as his criticism grew, this became a disadvantage, because this meant he had no party to offer support and a rebuttal. It was soon apparent that Paderewski did not have the majority backing him. He knew that such negative criticisms and accusations could potentially hurt Poland’s opportunity for a democratic government. So with a heavy heart, Paderewski resigned his position as Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs on December 4th, 1919. But he did not leave the political scene. He stepped right away into the role of ambassador to the League of Nations, a position he held until 1922.

By 1922, Paderewski was exhausted.  Life as a politician had taken its toll. His personal finances had also taken a hit. What many of his critics did not realize is that Paderewski had exhausted his personal fortune helping those of his fellow countrymen in need as well as financing Poland’s rebuilding. He had been away from his music for too long. Not only did he wish to resume playing put his public wished him to as well. So Paderewski began playing international concerts once again. His first concert back in the United States was held at Carnegie Hall, and was met with tremendous success. The next twelve years, saw Paderewski and Madame Paderewska traveling around the world, from their home in Switzerland to the California Central Coast, back to their ranches and the small town that held their hearts. In 1934 sadness struck when Madame Paderewska passed away after a long bout with illness at their home in Switzerland. After appearing in the 1937 motion picture “Moonlight Sonata,” in which he portrayed himself and performed works by Beethoven, Chopin, Liszt and his own Menuet as well as performing a forty-minute concert on the radio that was broadcast live around the world in 1938, Paderewski performed his last concert tour of the United States in 1939. He sailed for Europe at the end of May of that year, believing one day that he would return to the United States, specifically California, with the hope of retiring to his beloved Rancho San Ignacio.

But life had other plans for him. At the outbreak of World War II, Paderewski again entered the world of politics. From his home in Switzerland he orchestrated anti-Nazi campaigns. In 1940 he accepted the position to become the President of the Polish National Council, which was the exiled Polish Parliament that settled, first in France and then in London due to the Nazi invasion of France.  Paderewski stayed in Europe until he was forced to flee via France, Spain and Portugal. He reached New York in November of 1940 and continued to be outspoken against Hitler and the Nazi regime, often giving speeches before public crowds as well as over the radio. This new fight for Poland’s freedom seemed to take its toll on the eighty-year-old Paderewski.  He became increasingly frail and tired.  He came down with pneumonia, which he succumbed to on June 29th, 1941.

Ignacy Jan Paderewski’s death marked the end of an era. His battle for Poland was over. But he had fought gallantly and to the very end to see his country free of domination, although his countrymen had to wait 51 more years for this to come true. Paderewski’s body received a state burial at Arlington Cemetery in Washington D.C. at the request of President Roosevelt, where it rested unmarked. When President John F. Kennedy discovered that Paderewski’s body had been laid to rest here, he ordered a marker to be placed at the crypt to acknowledge this great statesman and patriot. In June of 1992, Paderewski’s body was returned to a free Poland, and his body received a hero’s welcome. Many heads of state attended the funeral and reburial. At Paderewski’s request, his heart remained in America, figuratively and literally. It now rests at the national shrine of Our Lady of Czestochowa in Pennsylvania. Ignacy Jan Paderewski dedicated his heart and soul to music and to the service of his country. To this day his music and his legacy live on.