Bronisław Edward Sydow
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May 4, 1886 Szamotuły - May 29, 1952 Warszawa
Bronisław Edward Florian Sydow, Polish patriot, Economist, Consul for Honduras and Paraguay in Poland, and a Distinguished Scholar of the life and works of Fryderyk Franciszek Chopin. Between 1905 and 1920 he traveled to New York City and then to various locations in South America, becoming a successful businessman in Chile. He returned to his home country in 1920, initially settling in Sopot, Poland.
At the start of WWII, he obtained the positions of Consul of Honduras and Paraguay in Poland and began issuing many visas, consequently saving many lives. Because of these efforts, he was captured by the Nazis and imprisoned in Warsaw's brutal Pawiak Prison, destined for Auschwitz. He was later released because of the heroic actions of a Polish doctor at the prison who claimed that Bronisław's illness symptoms indicated he had typhus (he did not). He was sent home to die, but recovered.
With an astounding affinity for languages, Bronisław was fluent or semi-fluent in more than 15 languages, including Polish, English, Spanish, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Russian, Swedish, Latin, Classical Greek, Finnish, Chilean Indian dialects and the knowledge of 20 German dialects. His upbringing included a wide knowledge of the arts, and he was even a temporary music critic for the New York Herald Tribune when he lived in New York City. Upon the famed Polish pianist Ignacy Jan Paderewski's visit to New York City, Bronisław became his personal translator.
Bronisław E. Sydow was a major contributor to historic references regarding Chopin. Because of his devotion to his country and Chopin, he was driven to preserve as much as possible before, during and after WWII, with ever heightening concern about the destruction of anything associated with Chopin. As he collected documents of Chopin's correspondence, portraits and bibliographic interest, he accessed libraries, museums, and individuals in and around Warsaw, Kraków and other locations. He did so at tremendous risk.
One of his greatest and most daring accomplishments towards the preservation of knowledge about Chopin was the collection and binding of a two-volume set of Chopin's Correspondence, Korespondencia Fryderyka Chopina. This was the largest and most complete set of correspondence at that time. It was later published in 1955. Originally in Polish, Sydow translated the Korespondencia into Spanish and collaborated with Denise Chainaye and Suzanne Chainaye on the French edition and with Sir Arthur Hedley on a revised English version.
During the WWII years in Poland, Bronisław organized and attended clandestine classical concerts against Hitler's orders. These orders were activated throughout the entire occupied Polish territory through Hitler's brutal Chief Nazi General Governor, Hans Frank.
During the 1944 bombing of the Church of the Holy Cross in Warsaw, the casket containing Chopin's heart was removed from the pillar of the Church for safe keeping during the War. There was a ceremony where the murderous Nazi General Erich Von dem Bach awarded the casket with the heart to three custodians. One of those custodians was Bronisław Sydow.
Before WWII Bronisław was a founding member of the Instytut Fryderyka Chopina in Warsaw. Since 1945 he was Secretary General and Member of the Board of the Instytut Fryderyka Chopina.
On October 17, 1945 (the 96th anniversary of Chopin's death) he organized a remarkable return of Chopin's heart from the suburb of Milanówek, to Chopin's birthplace in Zelazowa Wola, to its rightful place at Warsaw's Church of the Holy Cross (see YouTube video Serce Chopina here)
He was the initiator of the Chopin Summer Festival in Duszniki Zdrój, which was started in 1946 and continues every summer to this day, hosting major musicians.
He was also one of the most active organisers of exhibitions devoted to Chopin's life and works.
He published many articles (see link) concerning mainly biographical facts and problems such as the issue of Chopin's real date of birth, March 1, 1810.
He was co-author with Mieczysław Idzikowski, of the book Portrait of Chopin,
comprising a collection of all known portraits of Chopin bfore WWII.
He was the author of the first Polish Chopin Bibliography with 11,527 entries (Bibliografia F.F. Chopina, Warszawa 1949, supl. 1954), preserving knowledge of books on Chopin that were destroyed during the war.
As an aside, Bronisław and his extended family continued their friendships with many major Polish musicians of the day. One of Bronisław's close friends included the legendary Polish pianist, Arthur Rubinstein. They often crossed paths during his travels to New York City, South America and Poland.