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 Władysław Syrokomla

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Władysław Syrokomla

  • Original Name Ludwik Władysław Franciszek Kondratowicz
  • Birth 29 Sep 1823 Russia
  • Death 15 Sep 1862 Vilnius, Lithuania
  • Burial Vilnius, Vilnius City Municipality, Vilnius, Lithuania
  • Memorial ID 3982

Poet, Writer and Translator. Using the pen name Władysław Syrokomla, he was considered a romantic poet. Ludwik Władysław Franciszek Kondratowicz' pen name was chosen from his family's coat of arm. He was born in the village of Smolków, Belarus to parents of impoverished nobility, Aleksander Kajetan Kondratowicz and his wife Wiktoria Złotkowska. Often referred to as a "Polish Poet", he was actually of Lithuanian ethnicity, yet many claimed him as a Russian poet. In doing research, his name is widely listed with the Polish Poets. His birthplace was part of the Russia Empire, but since then, it has been part of Poland-Lithuania Commonwealth, under the USSR and now the independent country of Belarus. Of course, the country's borderlines changed greatly over the years. In 1833 he entered the Dominican School in Nesvizh but had to leave for financial problems. For the rest of his life, he fought the fact that he was not well-educated and, including his parents, his family was always in financial crisis depending on him to be their provider. His first employment was a farm hand for an aristocratic family. It was there that he saw firsthand the barbarous treatment of lowly peasants by the aristocratic ruling class. Between 1841 and 1844, he worked as a clerk in a land manager's office owned by an aristocratic family. On April 16, 1844 in Niaśviž he married Paulina Mitraszewska; the couple had four children but three had died young by 1853. Using his pen name of Wladyslaw Syrokomia, he published the first of his poems, "Pocztylion" or in English, "The Postman" the same year of his marriage. The family moved from place to place before settling in a village near Vilinius. In 1861, he became one of the editors of the largest and most prestigious Polish-language daily newspaper published in the Vilnius area. While editor, he traveled about the country visiting museums and showing an interest in antique collections. All of his travels were reflected in articles published in journals or books, as well as in some of his poems. He also showed a sincere concern for the protection of monuments of the past and had an interest in archaeology. In an attempt to instill in his readers a sense of responsibility for the preservation their cultural heritage, he appealed to the editor-in-chief of the newspaper to introduce a column devoted to cases of destruction of historical buildings and sites in the Lithuanian part of the former Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. As an amateur archaeologist, he was highly respected by his contemporary antiquarians. Even today, his publications and field research are highly valued in Belarusian writings on archaeology. While traveling to Warsaw Poland, he was arrest by the Russian Guard for taking part in an Anti-Czarist demonstration; he was sentenced to house arrest in his manor. Sadly, he died the next year just two weeks before his 39th birthday. Most of his poems were about the hard life of peasants under the rule of the aristocrats: "Magier" written in 1855 was based on an epic in Lithuania history; "John the Grave Digger" in 1856; "The Liberation of the Peasants" in 1859; "Melodies from a Madhouse", which was written at the time of his house arrest in 1862; "Daughters" and "Philip of Konopi", a sort of Polish Don Quixote in poetry. Although he usually wrote poems in Polish, he did use the local vernacular at times writing in his native Belarusian. He also wrote several dramas and "The History of Polish Literature" Volume 1 and 2. He translated various Russian, French, Ukrainian, German and Latin poets' works into Polish, which was a "great service" for educational system of his country. His works were greatly influenced by romantic poet Adam Bernard Mickiewicz. During his funeral, the Lithuanian poet Jakub Dakusza emphasized that while Syrokomla was influenced by Polish culture, he was a Lithuanian poet, closest to Lithuania only after Adam Mickiewicz. He has a memorial at St John's Church that features the musical instrument called a hurdy-gurdy. The composer Tchaikovsky adapted one of his works expressing a sympathetic view of the then-unliberated peasants into a song entitled "The Coral Beads"; the aristocrats worn proudly necklaces of coral beads. In honor of both his pen name and birth name, there are streets named for each in the residential section of Warsaw, Poland. In Vilnius, a Polish-language school of the Polish minority in Lithuania is named in honor of him. After his death, his poems were translated into Russian for others to enjoy them; translations into English are rarely found.

Bio by: Linda Davis





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  • Maintained by: Find A Grave
  • Added: 11 Nov 1998
  • Find A Grave Memorial 3982
  • Find A Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for Władysław Syrokomla (29 Sep 1823–15 Sep 1862), Find A Grave Memorial no. 3982, citing Rasos Cemetery, Vilnius, Vilnius City Municipality, Vilnius, Lithuania ; Maintained by Find A Grave .