September 17, 2007

The Polish School

Each year France and other European countries celebrate what is called “Journées de Patrimoine” (Heritage Days); this year this weekend. There are a lot of manifestations and it means also that the doors to certain buildings, normally closed to public, are opened. I visited among other places “Assemblée Nationale”, the French Parliament buildings. I took too many pictures and have to make some filtering before publishing.

I also visited a more modest but very nice building, situated some 200 meters from where I live; the Polish School of Paris. We were maybe 50 people who attended and we were extremely well guided by a remarkable journalist and historian, whom I already had the privilege to meet a few times (Lucien Maillard). Also some Polish music was played and some Polish poems were read.

I would like to dedicate this post to some of our more or less Polish blogger friends.

The relations between Poland and France have often been very tight, generally in a positive way. (Napoleon is actually still positively mentioned in the Polish national anthem!) I’m not going to go give a history lesson here, but different dramatic events in the often suffering Poland forced thousand of its habitants to leave their country in several waves, especially during the 19th century and many of them came to Paris. Their wish to keep the Polish culture alive lead to a need to create a school.

Frederic Chopin, who lived in Paris with some interruptions between 1831 until his death in 1849 was among the most famous of these Polish immigrants and he gave a number of concerts to collect funds to the school. The funds came however basically from some wealthy Polish aristocratic co-immigrants. The school was created in 1842, used for some time other facilities in the neighbourhood and moved to its present premises in 1874. The school was given by France to Poland in 1927.

Some other names are closely related to this school, which today has several hundred pupils and also offer rooms for Polish university students. Marie Curie (born Sklodowska) was one of these university students. Another Polish personality linked to the school is Adam Mickiewicz, one of the greatest Polish poets, who lived in a neighbour street for many years and even was President of the School Council. (You can see the modest place he and his family shared with other families on one of my photos; the small white ready-to-be-demolished building). The Polish Literature Nobel Prize winner (1980), Czeslaw Milosz, lived for a while in the same street as the school.


Kate said...

What wonderful information! You taught me a great deal about the relationship between the Poles and French. Thank you!

Azer Mantessa said...

my polish hero is Jerzy Dudek ... ehem ehem ... ex-liverpool goalkeeper ... the hero of UEFA Istanbul :-)

yet to hear some polish songs somewhere. thx for the info ... interesting.

Jessica said...

You have created a fantastic blog! Very interesting and informative. I found you when I was looking for info on Paris prisons and you hooked me. Thanks for all the hard work you clearly put into this.

Annie said...

I think it one were traveling to Paris, it would be very wise of them to read through your blog. A visit would be so rich, so full of information and ideas for stops here and there.

Keshi said...

how very interesting!


Olivier said...

j'aime beaucoup la photo du bas avec "l'ange" qui ecrit. Les journées du patrimoine c'est un plaisir pour les bloggeurs et les amateurs d'histoire.

hpy said...

Je comprend qu'Olivier aime l'ange, il est fou de statues!

Cergie said...

Salut Peter !

Je me demandais si tu verrais le clin d'oeil à toi adressé sur mon message aujourd'hui !
J'ai pensé à toi tout au long du match, tu iras voir...
Et pis non, je te le dis : sur le dos des photographes, les premières lettres, trois. Tu vois ce que je veux dire ?

Et bien on ne se serait pas rencontrés ! Je suis allée m'enterrer le matin et l'AM bien sûr, dans un endroit habituellement pas ouvert (le matin aussi pas ouvert au public)

Je t'ai déjà dit je crois que le père de Chopin était français et mieux, vosgien !!!
J'ai toujours été fascinée par Marie Curie et comme j'aime les biographies, j'ai lu la sienne, of course

Bonne journée,suédois à l'heure française... pour le patrimoine !

Ash said...

Interesting photos and info!!

ruth said...

Heritage Days is a nice tradition. I read Marie Curie's biography, and I would love to visit the school just for her.

richard said...

Very informative as usual. Now we have another wave of Polish emigres (and other EU joiners). In the UK I am told there are many, even in Scotland, and like a lot of people from the former eastern bloc countries, they are very well educated and willing to work. My old countrymates had better watch out! (And the women are beautiful as well they say!). I have to say I could only have named Chopin from the list of famous names, although I should have known Marie Curie

isabella said...

Nice post, Peter.

I wonder what the school's curriculum looks like - is everything taught in Polish? Do they study Polish history, geography, economy, politics, etc.?

Do they serve Polish food in the canteen ;-)))

And Napoleon's connection to Poland goes even deeper; the Polish cavalrymen were the first unit of the Napoleon's Grande Armée to enter Kremlin during the his invasion of Russia.

And, during Napoleon's stay in Poland, he had a passionate love affair with an 18 years old Polish girl named Maria Walewska.

Peter said...

Thanks, but it's such a small part of the common history!

Sincere thanks! (It would be interesting to know who you are.)

If that is how you feel it, I'm happy. But there is still so much left!

Peter said...


We all have our (more or less) heroes!


I hope that some of our more or less Polish bloggers can give the translation of what the young boy is writing!

Peter said...

C'est vrai qu'il est un peu fou - des statues!

Tu as pensé à moi pendant tout le match!? Je suppose que je dois me sentir honoré!?
Je crois pouvoir deviner les trois lettres!!!
Oui je savais que son père venait de l'est de la France. ... et je n'ai pas lu la biographie de Marie Curie. A faire!
Je me sens très "patriote"!

Peter said...


As I already said to cergie's comments, I really have to read Marie Curi's biography! If you come to see the Polis School, you can't miss me. I'm 200 meters away.

Yes, the Polish immigration was not limited to the ones I referred to. The ones during the 19th century were mostly educated and / or fortuned. We had then a more industrial immigration by the end of the century and in the beginning of the 20th. What we have now is to a large extent in France described as a "Polish plumber" issue. Workers coming in, often on a temporary contract, for lower salaries.

The school belongs to Poland and as I understand a large part of the pupils are following normal French school system, but then joins this school certain days / hours of the week to learn Polish language and culture. I have to check about the canteen, but I believe that it's also Polish.
Polish troops have often been used by the French, not only Napoleon, but in all the wars during the 19th and 20th century. They have often been heroic, sometimes "sacrified"!
Yes Maria W and Napoleon was a great affair. They had an illegimate son who later made carreer in France; he was even foreign minsiter for a while.

Anonymous said...

A very informative and interesting post, Peter. I have enjoyed your posts, some more than others, but this one was my favorite.

Delphinium said...

Bonjour Peter, je passe un peu tard aujourd'hui mais je n'ai rallumé mon ordinateur que cet après-midi. C'était congé aujourd'hui dans certains cantons suisses à cause du Jeûne fédéral. Une fête liée à la tradition religieuse. Toutes les années, le 3ème WE du mois de septembre, on fête le Jeûne fédéral qui est une sorte d'action de grâce pour remercier le bon Dieu de tous ses bienfaits pour notre pays et pour notre monde. La tradition voulait que l'on ne mange en ce jour qu'une tarte aux pruneaux d'où l'idée de jeûne. Le jeûne a lieu le dimanche et certains cantons ont congé encore le lundi du Jeûne. Tout cela pour dire que j'ai eu congé aujourd'hui mais je n'ai pas fait de jeûne parce que j'avais faim. :-)

Je suis une grande fan de Chopin. Si vous connaissez un peu ses "Polonaises" au piano, je trouve que c'est vraiment dans ces morceaux que l'on sent tout l'amour de Chopin pour sa Pologne natale, meurtrie par tant d'évènements tragiques.

Bonne soirée Peter et à bientôt!

krystyna said...

Hi Peter!
I'm really interesing, what a surprise! thanks for this post!!!
You did it excellent!
My son loves Chopin's music. He's nickname is -Chopin.
If you find little bit time you can find little about him on this site:

"Adam Chlastawa's Biography"

Adam is my son (Kevin's dad).

This is not his site, but there is little bit about him.

Thanks again!
I should write more but I have too busy time this weekend and this week.
Best to you!

Heather said...

Another fascinating post, Peter! It sounds like your's was a very interesting weekend with your tours for Heritage Days.

Peter said...

I'm happy that you found this post, as I have understood your Polish origin! I spent a long moment visiting the site you indicated (you have to put a "www" in front) and listened to your son. I also found him on other sites and listened to a small piece of music he had composed. At last I found his email address, which indicates "chopin..."! Really nice and happy to see that your son is such a qualified musician! I imagine that he plays the "polonaises" for you now and then!

Peter said...


Toujours ravis de vos commentaires! Oui, je connais bien les polonaises. J'ai même essayé de les jouer moi-même, mais je suis resté à un niveau qui ne met en général pas les ouevres à leur vraie valeur.

Yes I had a busy weekend, but not only for the heritage days.

krystyna said...

Thank you Peter! My oldest son's name is Peter too, as I said you few month ago. He is a great man too, probably all Peters are!
I have 2 sons and I am proud of them both. ( all mums are)
I'm not proud of talents or something like this, but only because they are good men.
Study is very expansive in Polan and in USA too. Adam worked - night- 2 years; and study during the days and it cost me nothing. And I am proud because he could to count only for yourself, and he did it. Next 2 years he stoped work, but start to perform.( I was a single, disable and he must to work).
Now I live in USA too, but not with my sons. They heve own family and I like to be close but not too close.
Your imagine is good I love polonaises!
Thank you Peter for remind me my country and not only...

Peter said...

krystyna (again):
I'm so pleased to read this comment from you!! You were clearly one person I had in mind when I visited the school and wrote my post! Best regards to Peter, Adam and their families!

Zhang said...

C'est bien les journées de patrimoine. C'est encore mieux si on en profite. Je les ai ratées. J'ai lu ton poste et c'est très instructif aussi, même plus, comme les infprmations sont très détaillées. Merci.

Peter said...

Merci! Trop de détails, pas assez... Pas facile. (On général je pense faire un peu trôp.)

krystyna said...

The young statue boy is writing:

"Polish youth being wanderer/migrant mannered - to our benefactors".
( My grammar is so bad, you have to correct)

Peace and happiness be always with you!

Peter said...

Thanks Krystyna!

jessica said...

You indicated interested in who I am, so... I'm 22, just out of school, living in a suburb of Washington, D.C. No career to speak of yet but I do have a website, very early in its development, if you're interested: I don't usually leave comments but your blog is great; I thought you should be thanked.

Glenn Standish said...

Dzękuie bardzo!! Thanks for the pics of the Polish School. Sorry for the delay in replying...but sometimes one can be just a little bit TOO busy!!!

JoAnn - NL "My digital eyes" :) said...

Hi Peter,
Thanks you so much!!!
I can tell you that we are going for sure to Paris,9The end of Oktober or begin of November this year) your information will be so helpfull,:)

I answered you Q on my log by publicing a picture AND a map about Naarden, but YES the French were in Naarden to defend the villige around 1673, Look at my blog..

:) JoAnn

Peter said...

I will then immediately go back to your blog! Feel welcome to contact me if you so wish when you come to Paris!

Chuckeroon said...

...I'm glad to see that the "Polish plumber" finally got a look in amongst all the Chopins and other fine types. Britain has much to thank Poland for, and the "plumbers" are welcome here. (sorry I'm a bit "overworked" at the moment..forgive me if I miss a response)

Peter said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Peter said...

Thanks for your comments "in direct" from Poland!

What goes for Britain goes for France - at least in this case!