Maria Konopnicka

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Maria Konopnicka
Konopnicka in 1897
Konopnicka in 1897
BornMaria Wasiłowska
(1842-05-23)23 May 1842
Suwałki, Augustów Governorate, Congress Poland, Russian Empire
Died8 October 1910(1910-10-08) (aged 68)
Lwów, Kingdom of Galicia and Lodomeria, Austria-Hungary
Pen name
  • Jan Sawa
  • Marko
  • Jan Waręż
  • OccupationWriter, poet
    Notable worksRota

    Maria Konopnicka (Polish pronunciation: [ˈmarja kɔnɔpˈɲitska] ; née Wasiłowska;[a] 23 May 1842 – 8 October 1910[1]) was a Polish poet, novelist, children's writer, translator, journalist, critic, and activist for women's rights and for Polish independence. She used pseudonyms, including Jan Sawa. She was one of the most important poets of Poland's Positivist period.[2][3]


    Konopnicka was born in Suwałki on 23 May 1842.[4] Her father, Józef Wasiłowski, was a lawyer.[4] She was home-schooled and spent a year (1855–56) at a convent pension of the Sisters of Eucharistic Adoration in Warsaw (Zespół klasztorny sakramentek w Warszawie).[5]

    Konopnicka, by Maria Dulębianka, 1902

    She made her debut as a writer in 1870 with the poem, "W zimowy poranek" ("On a Winter's Morn").[6] She gained popularity after the 1876 publication of her poem, "W górach" ("In the Mountains"), which was praised by future Nobel laureate Henryk Sienkiewicz.[6][7]

    In 1862 she married Jarosław Konopnicki.[4][7] They had six children.[4][8] The marriage was not a happy one,[9] as her husband disapproved of her writing career.[7] In a letter to a friend, she described herself as "having no family" and as being "a bird locked in a cage".[9] Eventually in 1878, in an unofficial separation, she left her husband and moved to Warsaw to pursue writing.[4][9] She took her children with her.[10] She would often travel in Europe; her first major trip was to Italy in 1883.[6] She spent the years 1890–1903 living abroad in Europe.[6][11]

    Birthplace and childhood home of Maria Konopnicka in Suwałki, currently a museum

    Her life has been described as "turbulent", including extramarital romances, deaths, and mental illnesses in the family.[7] She was a friend of a Polish woman poet of the Positivist period, Eliza Orzeszkowa,[12] and of the painter and activist Maria Dulębianka (with whom she lived in a possibly romantic relationship).[13] It has been speculated that she was bisexual or a lesbian (particularly in relation to Dulębianka[7][14]), though this has not been properly researched, and the question is not usually mentioned in biographies of Konopnicka. Konopnicka’s wish was to be buried together with Dulębianka. Both women were laid to rest together at a cemetery in Lviv, Ukraine.[15][16][17][18]

    In addition to being an active writer, she was also a social activist, organizing and participating in protests against the repression of ethnic (primarily Polish) and religious minorities in Prussia.[6] She was also involved in women's-rights activism.[19]

    Her literary work in the 1880s gained wide recognition in Poland.[6] In 1884 she began writing children's literature, and in 1888 she debuted as an adult-prose writer with

    Konopnicka's country home, now a museum, in Żarnowiec

    Cztery nowele (Four Short Stories).[6] Due to the growing popularity of her writings, in 1902 a number of Polish activists decided to reward her by buying her a manor house.[11] It was purchased with funds collected by a number of organizations and activists.[11] As Poland was not an independent country at the time, and as her writings were politically uncongenial to the Prussian and Russian authorities, a location was chosen in the more tolerant Austrian partition of pre-Partition Poland.[11] In 1903 she received a manor in Żarnowiec, where she arrived on 8 September.[11][20] She would spend most springs and summers there, but she would still travel about Europe in fall and winter.[6][11]

    She died in Lwów (now Lviv, Ukraine) on 8 October 1910.[11] She was buried there in the Łyczakowski Cemetery. As per her wish Dulębianka was laid to rest next to her.[4][1]


    Konopnicka, by Maria Dulębianka, 1910

    Konopnicka wrote prose (primarily short stories) as well as poems.[21] One of her most characteristic styles were poems stylized as folk songs.[6] She would try her hand at many genres of literature, such as reportage sketches, narrative memoirs, psychological portrait studies and others.[6]

    A common theme in her works was the oppression and poverty of the peasantry, workers, and Polish Jews.[3][4] Due to her sympathy for Jewish people, she was considered a philosemite.[2] Her works were also highly patriotic and nationalistic.[2][22][23]

    One of her best known works is the long epic in six cantos, Mister Balcer in Brazil (Pan Balcer w Brazylii, 1910), on the Polish emigrants in Brazil.[4][6] Another one was Rota (Oath, 1908) which set to the music by Feliks Nowowiejski two years later became an unofficial anthem of Poland, particularly in the territories of the Prussian Partition.[20][24] This patriotic poem was strongly critical of the Germanization policies and thus described as anti-German.[25]

    Konopnicka's grave in Lwów

    Her most famous children's literature work is the 1896 O krasonoludkach i sierotce Marysi (Little Orphan Mary and the Gnomes).[23] Her children literature works were well received, as compared to many other works of the period.[6]

    Maria Konopnicka also composed a poem about the execution of the Irish patriot, Robert Emmet. Emmet was executed by the British authorities in Dublin in 1803, but Konopnicka published her poem on the topic in 1908.[26]

    She was also a translator. Her translated works include Ada Negri's Fatalita and Tempeste, published in Poland in 1901.[27]


    • In 1922, the Maria Konopnicka Special Education School Complex was established in Pabianice.
    • Poczta Polska featured her on a postage stamp in 1952.* [28]
    • Kononpnicka mansion in Żarnowiec was converted into a museum, opened in 1957, the Maria Konopnicka Museum in Żarnowiec (Muzeum Marii Konopnickiej w Żarnowcu).[11][20] Another museum, the Maria Konopnicka Museum in Suwałki, was opened in 1973.[29]
    • A number of schools and other institutions, including several streets and plazas, bear her name in Poland. Polish Merchant Navy ship MS Maria Konopnicka was also named after her. Several plaques and monuments to her have been constructed. One of the most recent ones is a monument to her built in Suwałki in 2010.[30] A crater on Venus was named after her in 1994.[31]
    • In Warsaw, in 2010 on the centenary of the poet's death, an International Maria Konopnicka Prize was created in recognition of organic work .

    Selected works[edit]


    • Linie i dźwięki (Lines and Sounds, 1897)
    • Śpiewnik historyczny (Historical Music Book, 1904)
    • Głosy ciszy (Sounds of Silence, 1906)
    • Z liryk i obrazków (Lyrics and Pictures, 1909)
    • Pan Balcer w Brazylii (Mister Balcer in Brazil, 1910)


    • Cztery nowele (Four Short Stories, 1888)
    • Moi znajomi (People I Know, 1890)
    • Na drodze (On the Way, 1893)
    • Ludzie i rzeczy (People and Things, 1898)
    • Mendel Gdański


    • Śpiewnik dla dzieci (Songbook for Children).
    • O Janku Wędrowniczku (About Johnnie the Wanderer).
    • O krasnoludkach i sierotce Marysi (About the Dwarfs and Little Orphan Mary).
    • Na jagody (Picking Blueberries).


    • Rota (Oath, 1908).
    • Stefek Burczymucha.
    • Wolny najmita (The Free Day-Labourer).


    1. ^ Sometimes transliterated as Wasilowska


    1. ^ a b "". Retrieved 2019-07-11.
    2. ^ a b c Yitzhak Zuckerman (1993). A surplus of memory: chronicle of the Warshaw Ghetto uprising. University of California Press. p. 501. ISBN 978-0-520-91259-5. Retrieved 14 May 2013.
    3. ^ a b Richard Frucht (2005). Eastern Europe: an introduction to the people, lands, and culture. ABC-CLIO. p. 49. ISBN 978-1-57607-800-6. Retrieved 14 May 2013.
    4. ^ a b c d e f g h Stanley S. Sokol (1992). The Polish Biographical Dictionary: Profiles of Nearly 900 Poles who Have Made Lasting Contributions to World Civilization. Bolchazy-Carducci Publishers. p. 197. ISBN 978-0-86516-245-7. Retrieved 13 May 2013.
    5. ^ Zofia Bogusławska (1961). Literatura okresu pozytywizmu i realizmu krytycznego: antologia i opracowanie dla klasy X. Państwowe Zaklady Wydawn. Szkolnych. p. 183. Retrieved 14 May 2013.
    6. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Marek Adamiec (1910-10-08). "Maria Konopnicka". Retrieved 2013-05-14.
    7. ^ a b c d e Anita Kłos. "On Maria Konopicka's Translation of Ada Negri's Fatalita and Tempeste". In Magda Heydel (ed.). Przekładaniec, 2 (2010) vol 24 – English Version. Wydawnictwo UJ. p. 112. ISBN 978-83-233-8669-8. Retrieved 14 May 2013.
    8. ^ Maria Szypowska (1990). Konopnicka jakiej nie znamy. Wydawn. Spółdzielcze. p. 82. ISBN 978-83-209-0761-2. Retrieved 14 May 2013.
    9. ^ a b c Maria Konopnicka (1971). Korespondencja. Zakład Narodowy im. Ossolińskich. p. 391. Retrieved 14 May 2013.
    10. ^ Jan Baculewski (1978). Maria Konopnicka: materiały. Wydawn. Szkolne i Pedagogiczne. p. 406. Retrieved 14 May 2013.
    11. ^ a b c d e f g h "Muzeum Marii Konopnickiej w Żarnowcu – Historia Muzeum". Retrieved 2013-05-14.
    12. ^ Keely Stauter-Halsted (2004). The Nation In The Village: The Genesis Of Peasant National Identity In Austrian Poland, 1848–1914. Cornell University Press. p. 112. ISBN 978-0-8014-8996-9. Retrieved 14 May 2013.
    13. ^ Ahmet Ersoy; Macie J. Gorny; Vangelis Kechriotis (30 October 2010). Modernism: The Creation of Nation States. Central European University Press. p. 131. ISBN 978-963-7326-61-5. Retrieved 14 May 2013.
    14. ^ Czas kultury. Obserwator. 2008. p. 174. Retrieved 14 May 2013.
    15. ^ Maria Szyszkowska; Remigiusz Grzela (2001). Rozmowy z Marią Szyszkowską: 1997–2001. Matrix. p. 39. ISBN 978-83-914145-1-4. Retrieved 14 May 2013.
    16. ^ "Wielcy i niezapomniani: Maria Konopnicka – Artykuły". 2006-11-16. Retrieved 2013-05-14.
    17. ^ Marzena Chińcz (2006). Lesbijki w życiu społeczno-politycznym. Fundacja Lorga. p. 36. ISBN 978-83-923554-0-3. Retrieved 14 May 2013.
    18. ^ Wojciech Wencel (12 October 2008). "Wencel gordyjski – Homo wiadomo – WPROST". Retrieved 2013-05-14.
    19. ^ Sylvia Paletschek; Bianka Pietrow-Ennker (2004). Women's emancipation movements in the nineteenth century: a European perspective. Stanford University Press. p. 214. ISBN 978-0-8047-6707-1. Retrieved 15 May 2013.
    20. ^ a b c Longina Jakubowska (2012). Patrons of History: Nobility, Capital and Political Transitions in Poland. Ashgate Publishing, Ltd. p. 141. ISBN 978-1-4094-5663-6. Retrieved 14 May 2013.
    21. ^ Stephen Cushman; Clare Cavanagh; Jahan Ramazani; Paul Rouzer (26 August 2012). The Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics: Fourth Edition. Princeton University Press. p. 1075. ISBN 978-1-4008-4142-4. Retrieved 14 May 2013.
    22. ^ Mieczyslaw B. Biskupski (2000). The history of Poland. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 34. ISBN 978-0-313-30571-9. Retrieved 14 May 2013.
    23. ^ a b Anita Kłos. "On Maria Konopicka's Translation of Ada Negri's Fatalita and Tempeste". In Magda Heydel (ed.). Przekładaniec, 2 (2010) vol 24 – English Version. Wydawnictwo UJ. p. 113. ISBN 978-83-233-8669-8. Retrieved 14 May 2013.
    24. ^ Ilya Prizel (13 August 1998). National Identity and Foreign Policy: Nationalism and Leadership in Poland, Russia and Ukraine. Cambridge University Press. p. 113. ISBN 978-0-521-57697-0. Retrieved 14 May 2013.
    25. ^ Tomasz Kamusella (2007). Silesia and Central European Nationalismus: the emergence of national and ethnic groups in Prussian Silesia and Austrian Silesia, 1848–1918. Purdue University Press. p. 170. ISBN 978-1-55753-371-5. Retrieved 14 May 2013.
    26. ^ Gerry Oates (2003). "Maria Konopnicka agus Robert Emmet". Seanchas Ardmhacha: Journal of the Armagh Diocesan Historical Society. 19 (2): 136–139. JSTOR 25746924.
    27. ^ Anita Kłos. "On Maria Konopicka's Translation of Ada Negri's Fatalita and Tempeste". In Magda Heydel (ed.). Przekładaniec, 2 (2010) vol 24 – English Version. Wydawnictwo UJ. p. 110. ISBN 978-83-233-8669-8. Retrieved 14 May 2013.
    28. ^ Bigalke, Jay, ed. (August 2020). Scott Standard Postage Stamp Catalog. Vol. B. Sidney, Ohio: Scott Publishing Co. p. 23. ISBN 978-0-89487-593-9.
    29. ^ "Muzeum im. Marii Konopnickiej w Suwałkach". Archived from the original on 2008-05-07. Retrieved 2013-05-14.
    30. ^ "Suwałki: odsłonięto pomnik Marii Konopnickiej". 2010-10-08. Archived from the original on 2013-04-13. Retrieved 2013-05-14.
    31. ^ "Planetary Names: Crater, craters: Konopnicka on Venus". Retrieved 2013-05-14.

    Further reading[edit]

    • Brodzka, Alina. Maria Konopnicka, "Wiedza Powszechna", Warszawa, 1975.
    • Baculewski, Jan. Śladami życia i twórczości Marii Konopnickiej, Ludowa Spółdzielnia Wydawnicza, Warszawa, 1966.
    • G. Borkowska, Ruchliwa fala (Maria Konopnicka i kwestia kobieca), [in:] Maria Konopnicka. Głosy o życiu i pisarstwie w 150-lecie urodzin. Warszawa 1992

    External links[edit]