- May 3, 2013
Maria Tomaszewska-Nałęcz: We should love our Fatherland
The Constitution of May 3 evokes strong feelings of proud in hearts all of the Poles, both those who have never left their homeland and those who have been living thousands kilometres away from the Polish boarders. While celebrating the May 3rd Constitution Day, we need to emphasize that this constitution was masterminded by the brave people, who were immensely committed to Poland.
It is also worth remembering about the lives of the descendents of Stanisław Małachowski, who was one of the major authors of the Constitution of May 3. In spite of the fact that the lives of members of the Małachowski family, who after the partitions of Poland became the citizens of the Russian Empire, abounded with dramatic moments, they remained genuine patriots, faithful to the Polish national ideas: God, Honour, Fatherland. We are talking to Maria Tomaszewska-Nałęcz, the descendant of the aforementioned famous Polish noble family, who was born in Moscow and has lived there for many years.
Precisely 222 years have passed since Count Małachowski signed the Constitution of May 3. Have the memoirs of Stanisław, called by his contemporaries Arystedes, preserved in your family archives?
There have been only snatches of these memoirs… The time, the October Revolution and the Stalinist repressions affected badly our family and in our ancestral archive appeared numerous lapses. Fortunately, not everything disappeared into thin air. We succeeded in preserving the information about the life of our family in the second half of the 19th century. My great grandfather, Zygmunt Adam Nałęcz-Małachowski, settled in Vitebsk Governorate. His elder son, Adam Adolf, was admitted to the Imperial Academy of Arts in Petersburg, became an architect and a pioneer in balloon flights. The edifice of the Summer Theatre in Astrakhan, which was designed and built by Adam Adolf, preserved almost 100 years until it was damaged in the blaze in 1976. The younger son studied at the Technical University.
The newspapers of Petersburg and Moscow used to describe with delight “the steam engine of Małachowski”.
The journalists of that time meant the steam engine designed by my great grandfather, Bronisław. As I have already mentioned, he studied at the Technical University, became an engineer, the chief of the department of “Somowa” firm, which was mainly devoted to the study and the construction of the new steam engines. Such an engine could go at speed up to 125 km/h, which was regarded as being incredibly fast at that time. Owing to this invention, the journey Moscow-Petersburg lasted merely 6 hours. Only a few years ago appeared new trains which are able to go at a bit higher speed, enabling to rich the final destination within 4 hours. Soon after the revolution, my great grandfather moved from Nizhny Novgorod to Moscow, where he became the head of department devoted to the construction of steam engines of the Russian Technical Plants. He also lectured at the Moscow Technical University.
What happened to the famous engineer and inventor Bronisław after the revolution?
As far as I am concerned, he was groundlessly accused of acting to the detriment of the USSR, then sentenced and imprisoned in Solovki [the Solovetsky Islands]. After having been released from prison, he was not allowed to return to Leningrad. He died in 1934. His son, my grandfather, who was named after him and was also known as a famous architect and an author of satirical drawings, was 1937 accused of espionage to the benefit of Poland and executed by firing squad.
Perhaps he did spy indeed?
I am absolutely convinced that he would not dabble in spying. As I have mentioned, he was an architect, a painter and also a close friend of a well-known Russian writer, Aleksey Tolstoy, and the first illustrator of his book for children entitled “The golden key”. After his death, the next editions of the book included his drawings, yet afterwards his name disappeared and eventually his works were substituted by ones of other painters.
And did your grandmother manage to survive?
Yes, she did, but at the cost of repressions and harassment. As the wife of “the enemy of the state” and the Polish spy, she was condemned, “sentenced” to the loneliness and humiliation.
What do you mean?
It was the husband of my grandmother’s sister, the famous painter Altmann, the worker of Mariinsky Theatre in Leningrad, who managed to convince the authorities to allow my grandmother to return from the exile. She spend The World War II alongside her children (my mother and my uncle) in Perm. 1948 she got arrested and imprisoned. Despite the attempts of my family, she remained in prison and died in her cell. Her sister, Maria née Ternawcewa, took over the upbringing of my mother and her brother. The family of my father, the Tomaszewskis, stayed in Leningrad, which was besieged by the Germans.
The conditions, under which the civilians had to survive, are hardly ever revealed…
The family of Tomaszewski managed to survive the siege due to an incredible serendipity. Before the siege of the German army, they had visited Crimea. Trying to avoid the Blitzkrieg, they sent to Leningrad some small parcels containing coffee, flour and sugar, which were successfully delivered to the city soon before the siege. My grandmother shared it into tiny portions, adding it to the frugal food rations that they were given as the citizens of Leningrad. My grandparents even managed to help a poet, Anna Achmatowa, whom they befriended. And yet, as far as I am concerned, my grandfather Tomaszewski avoided death because of famine and exhaustion. I can also recall horrifying stories about my aunt, who was objected as a potential victim of hunting, as she was of powerful build. There has been not much talk about this, but the acts of cannibalism, which occurred frequently in Leningrad, were an open secret.
What about your parents?
My mother graduated from The Vaganowa Russian Ballet Academy, afterwards she also danced in the Mikhailovsky Theatre in Leningrad as well. Later, my parents moved to Moscow, where 1952 my mum gave birth to a daughter, that is me, Maria Tomaszewska. She also graduated from the Russian Academy of Theatre Arts and started to work as a lecturer at the Moscow State Academy of Choreography. Eventually, after a long period of time, she succeeded in striving for convincing the authorities of the social and political rehabilitation of my grandparents. It occurred in the times of Chruszczow. My father gave lectures at the Literature University and, as he a member of the Academy of Arts in Florence, he frequently visited Italy.
Were the Polish aristocrats discriminated against in the Soviet Russia?
I have never experienced the discrimination either on the grounds that my ancestors originated from Poland or that they belonged to the Polish aristocracy. I must admit though, that we never announced our origins in public, but all our friends and acquaintances knew about it. One thing I know is that the father of Katarzyna Andrzejewska (who later became wife of Bronisław, the inventor of the steam engine), participated in one of the Polish uprisings, for which he was punished by forcing him to change his surname from Andrzejewski to Andrejewski.
In the contemporary times many people are on the lookout for their noble family roots and are willing to regain the titles and estates.
I have never been much concerned about the titles. Besides, I am Małachowska only on the distaff side, and, as far as I know, there have been also some courtiers on the spear side. At any rate, we do not have any documents at our disposal that would acknowledge our nobility and I do not want to waste my time and strengths, which I would need to have in order to find them.
I know that the descendants of the Małachowskis settled also in Sweden?
Unfortunately, it is only a history now, an interesting, adventurous one, but still a history. Yet, that is truth, that they used to live in Sweden. Katarzyna née Andrzejewska Małachowska, the wife of Bronisław, attempted to escape the October Revoultion. She was smuggled underneath the straw in a farmer’s cart, which managed to travel through the frozen Gulf of Finland. Afterwards, she ended up in Germany, where she was joined by her son, Lew, alongside his wife, who soon gave birth to two children – Adelajda and Jerzy. They lived in poverty, but eventually they managed to save up some money. But as the Nazis came to power, they had to leave their property. They tried to survive by adding the particle “von” to their surname, thereby giving proof of their nobility. In the end, they left everything and emigrated to Sweden, where the sister of Katarzyna, Adelajda Andrzejewska-Skołłądź, the famous opera singer and primadonna, had been living. She took in the escapees from Berlin. In Sweden their life took turn for the better. Lew, who was a talented caricaturist, was employed in some newspaper agencies and his son became a businessman (the latter did not have children, died at the age of 65), whereas his daughter, Adelajda, worked as a stewardess in the Sweden Airlines SAS. She married an American and has been living in the US.
What about you?
I have been living in Moscow, graduated once from the Philology Department at the Moscow University. I have lectured on Latin, Greek, antic literature and I am also an author of several articles concerning the antic times. My husband, Jerzy Adamow, is a writer and our daughter works as a translator.
Poland and Russia have so much in common and yet they are both so deeply divided by the differences, like no other countries in the world…
Only the Russian politicians and businessmen, who do the business with Poland, are interested in this country. The rest of Russians does not appear to have a clue that such country exists, which is a pity!
Bertold Brecht put these famous words in the mouth of his protagonists: “Unhappy is the land that needs a hero”…
I agree with Brecht, but we need to understand, what a patriotism really is. I am deeply outraged at the slogans advocated by the politicians and nationalists: “we are the best, others are nothing but the silt!”. It is entirely different when we truly love our Fatherland and our nation.
Have you ever experienced a temptation to take a train or a plane to visit Poland?
Obviously, I have. Such a journey remains my dream. My daughter has already been to Poland. Maybe one day I will go too…
The profile of Stanisław Małachowski
Stanisław Małachowski of the Nałęcz coat-of-arms (born on August 24, 1736 in Końskie; died on December 28, 1809 in Warsaw) – Polish politician, Deputy, Marshall of the Confederation of Crown of the Kingdom of Poland, Marshal of the Four-Year Sejm (1788–1792), Crown Grand Referendary, Crown and Lithuanian Steward (1779), Prefect of Wąwolnica and Sącz Land (1755-1784). Cracovian deputy in 1758, deputy of the Royal elections in Poland of 1764, during which he demanded both a more detailed description of the range of authority of the hetmans and restriction of liberum veto. He was in favour of election of Stanisław August Poniatowski. He also served as the member of Radom Confederation of 1767 and the deputy of Cracovian General Sejm of 1766. 1774 he was designated as the Marshall of the Crown Tribunal, whose previous efficiency and fame of honesty were successfully restored by him. Owing to this, he became known as the Polish Arystedes. Furthermore, he was the member of the Polish government’s Permanent Council (1776–1780) and the recipient of the Order of Saint Stanislaus (1782). The same year he was also awarded by the King Poniatowski the Order of the White Eagle. The deputy of Sandomierz of the Four-Year Sejm (1788–1792), selected to be its Marshall, he conducted the transformation of the Sejm into Confederation and became the Marshall of the Crown Confederation. As one of the leaders of the Patriotic Party, alongside Ignacy Potocki and Hugon Kołłątaj, he also co-authored the May Constitution of Poland, which was adopted on May 3, 1791. He lived in the Czapski-Raczyński Palace in Warsaw (at Krakowskie Przedmieście, today’s seat of the Academy of Arts), where the text of the May Constitution was being edited during the secret gatherings. Małachowski also passed the Sejm Session on 3rd May 1791 and signed the aforementioned Constitution.
Tłumaczenie by Joanna Mirek w ramach praktyk w Europejskiej Fundacji Praw Człowieka, www.efhr.eu. Translated by Joanna Mirek within the framework of a traineeship programme of the European Foundation of Human Rights, www.efhr.eu.