Change in Hours for Wreaths Across America

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Background of Ignacy Jan Paderewski


Ignacy Jan Paderewski grave

Ignacy Jan Paderewski (1860-1941), Polish pianist, composer, and statesman, was born on Nov. 18, 1860, at Kurylowka, Russian Podolia. He studied music in Warsaw, Berlin, and Vienna. He made his first public appearance in Vienna in 1887, in Paris in 1889, and in London in 1890. His brilliant playing created a furor which went to extravagant lengths, and his triumphs were repeated in America in 1891.

In 1889, Paderewski married Baroness de Rosen, and after 1900 appeared very little in public until 1920.

For the next three years, from 1920 to 1923, he gave recitals in England, America, and throughout the European continent. Paderewski's success as a pianist all over the world never caused him to forget his own country. In 1910 on the 500th anniversary of the victory of Grunwald over the Teutonic Knights, he presented a memorial, which was unveiled at Krakow, a city in Southern Poland.

When World War I broke out in 1914, Paderewski dedicated his heart and soul to his country's service. In 1915 he went to the United States, where he remained nearly four years, giving numerous concerts and championing the cause of Poland. He collected enormous sums of money and created a powerful pro-Polish movement in the United States. The value of his propagandist work was realized on Jan. 22, 1917, when President Woodrow Wilson alluded to a "united, independent, and autonomous Poland." Up to 1918 Paderewski guided the political and military destinies of four million Poles in the United States.

After the victory of the Allies in World War I, Paderewski visited London and proceeded to Poland by sea in the company of a British mission, disembarking at Danzig on Dec. 24, 1918. After reaching Warsaw, he declared himself independent of all political parties. And, after difficult negotiations succeeded on Jan. 17, 1919, in forming a coalition government, he became prime minister and minister of foreign affairs. Paderewski went to Paris on April 6, 1919, as Poland's first delegate to the Paris Peace Conference.

On two different occasions, the Polish parliament renewed its vote of confidence in him and expressed the gratitude of the country. However, realizing that forming a national union and attaining peace with the Soviet government were impossibilities, Paderewski resigned his government offices on Nov. 27, 1919.

Paderewski abandoned his political career in February 1921 and retired to his California estate, soon after resuming his musical career. Later he established his home at Morges, Switzerland.

When Germany attacked Poland in 1939 and President I. Mesciki hastened to Romania, Paderewski was asked to succeed him, but declined because of ill health. In January 1940, he became president of the new Polish Parliament-in-Exile. In December 1940, he went to the United States and died in New York City on June 29, 1941.

Upon receiving word of Paderewski's death, President Franklin D. Roosevelt called the State Department and asked that the department inform Paderewski's family and officials of the Polish embassy that Paderewski's body could be given a temporary resting place in the vault of the Mast of the USS Maine Monument in Arlington National Cemetery. President Roosevelt said, "He may lie there until Poland is free."

Paderewski's body was brought to Washington from New York to lie in state at the Polish embassy on 16th Street, N.W., the embassy then being under control of the Polish Government-in-Exile. After lying in state at the embassy, Paderewski's body was taken to Arlington National Cemetery for entombment in the vault of the Mast of the USS Maine Monument in Section 24 of the cemetery.

Paderewski was not eligible for below-ground interment in Arlington National Cemetery or in any other national cemetery. He was not eligible because he never served in the armed forces of the United States or any nations allied with the United States in World War I or World War II.

On June 26, 1992, Paderewski's remains were moved from the USS Maine Memorial at Arlington National Cemetery to lie in state for public viewing at Fort Myer Memorial Chapel. After a one-hour memorial service on June 27, 1992, the remains were carried through the cemetery to the main gate on a horse-drawn caisson accompanied by a U.S. military honor guard. The delegation accompanied the return of the remains on a flight from Andrews Air Force Base to Warsaw.

The ceremonies in Poland, coordinated with his Eminence Cardinal Josef Glemp, the Primate of Poland, included a welcoming ceremony at Warsaw Airport and a procession to the Royal Castle where Paderewski's remains lay in state for public viewing. Paderewski's remains were transferred to Poznan for additional ceremonies through July 3, 1992. The remains were then returned to the Church of Holy Cross in Warsaw on July 4. On July 5, the funeral procession ended at St. John Cathedral. After a requiem mass, Paderewski's remains were placed in a crypt at the Cathedral.

Although his remains are interred in Poland, his heart is encased in a bronze sculpture in the Shrine of the Czestochowa in the predominantly Polish-American community of Doylestown, Pa. Following Paderewski's wishes, his heart will be interred forever in the United States.