Poland is proud to be the homeland of many great people who have been an inspiration to the rest of the world or who have pushed our understanding of the world to a higher level. Just to mention some: Nicolaus Copernicus, Marie Curie-Skłodowska, Pope John Paul II, Joseph Conrad, Irena Sendler, Wisława Szymborska, Lech Wałęsa, Ryszard Kapuściński, Krzysztof Penderecki or Ludwik Zamenhof. But if you ask people abroad to name the first famous Pole that comes to their mind, one of the most popular answers would undoubtedly be Fryderyk Chopin.
Once upon a time a man went to the church in Brochów near Warsaw, carrying a baby boy whom he wanted to register. The man was Nicolas Chopin, who lived in the nearby village of Żelazowa Wola, and on the very same day, April 23rd 1810, his son was baptized and got the names Fryderyk Franciszek. And this is more or less all we know for sure. As far as the birth date of the great composer is concerned, people have been trying to figure it out ever since. Not only does the exact day raise controversy; we cannot even be sure whether Fryderyk Chopin was born in 1810 or in 1809!
How come? Conspiracy? Political reasons? Most probably there’s no secret reason behind this. In those times people didn’t pay much attention to birth dates and the state didn’t have detailed registers of citizens. No one expected that the baby in question would turn out to be a genius, so there was no reason to make extra sure the date we get is correct.
Chopin himself used to give March 1st 1810 as his date of birth. Why? That date was inscribed on a watch that he got as a present when he was about ten years old.Yet long after his death the date that appeared in different biographies used to be either March 1st or 2nd 1809. It was his friends and family who claimed it had been the true date.
A new light was shed to the problem at the end of the 19th century, when important documents were found in Brochów, including the baptism certificate of Fryderyk Chopin. According to the documents in question, Chopin wasn’t born in 1809, nor was he born in March. The date that can be found there is February 22nd 1810!
Nowadays it is believed that on the day of baptism Nicolas had given the wrong date to the priest. Why? We can only try to guess. Maybe it was just a mistake. Maybe he had his reasons not to reveal the actual birth date. Or maybe he simply didn’t pay much attention to such details as birth dates, which was not uncommon in those times. What we do know is that the Chopins used to celebrate Fryderyk’s birthday on March 1st. And Nicolas had no idea how many people would try to investigate the reasons behind his mistake later on!
But bearing in mind the greatness of Chopin’s talent, we believe he deserves a long, long birthday. So why not start celebrating on February 22nd and make it last until March 1st?
Should you be visiting Warsaw, don’t miss the opportunity to learn more about the great Polish composer. Book the eight-hour-long Chopin’s Warsaw and Masovia tour and visit the most important places connected to his life and art.