Patrons of our Foundation
Włodzimierz and Maria Światopełk-Czetwertyńskis
Their first meeting took place in June 1870 at a magnificent ball at Hotel Europejski, organized to celebrate the wedding of Count Konstanty Przeździecki and Countess Izabela Plater-Zyberk.
Him: Włodzimierz Światopełk-Czetwertyński: born in 1837 in Volhynia, he was the descendant of one of the oldest aristocratic families. Young and extremely handsome, he prided himself on excellent education and the command of several languages. He had just returned from Siberia, where he had spent eight years in exile for his participation in the January Uprising. He arrived in Warsaw, as he was forbidden to return to his family estate. Thus he found himself penniless in the capital city.
Her: Young and beautiful Countess Maria Uruska, born in 1853 in Warsaw, had inherited a huge fortune from her father Seweryn and another from her grandmother, the wonderfully rich Countess Caboga.
LOVE, COURTSHIP, WEDDING
Maria was definitely the most popular among all the young ladies at the ball. Yet having noticed Włodzimierz, who approached her and asked her to dance, she lost her head. From that instant on, no one else mattered to the beautiful young woman. It was love at first sight: she fell for him and remained invariably enthralled for the subsequent fifty years. Her fascination was reciprocated in every respect: he, too, fell for her, offering her true, youthful love, which survived all vicissitudes of life, until their death.
The following months were a real test of their affection, as the lady’s father, Seweryn Uruski, denied his consent to his daughter’s marriage to a bankrupt duke. Who knows what their fate would have been but for Maria’s grandmother, Countess Caboga, who grew very fond of her granddaughter’s beloved. She managed to convince her son that the young were madly in love and would surely make a great couple. And, she added, she would provide for them herself.
And that is what happened. The young couple, deeply in love and with their heads full of plans for a bright future, exchanged their wedding vows in a most solemn ceremony in Lviv on 10 July 1872. After their subsequent honeymoon, they settled in Milanów in Podlasie region. The handsome estate along with several surrounding villages was the gift of the generous grandma. Yet the real test was only about to begin.
PATRIOT, ACTIVIST, COMMUNITY ORGANIZER
The test was indeed truly difficult, as another period of ruthless Russification commenced in Polish territories. In Podlasie, it entailed i.a. merciless persecution of Uniates (followers of the Greek-Catholic Church), who were forced to join the Orthodox Church.
Włodzimierz and Maria opposed these deplorable actions, offering Uniates both spiritual and financial aid as far as they could. Making use of his family ties in the Tsar’s court and his connections among officials, Duke Czetwertyński strived to achieve a relaxation of the Russification practices in Poland (for instance protesting against separating Chełm Land from the Polish territory). Furthermore, he sought to obtain various concessions for the Uniate population. He facilitated the conversion of persecuted Uniates to Catholicism, donated property for the erection of churches etc.
Soon he won renown as an outstanding activist and a dedicated community organizer. He became the president of one of rare Polish local government organizations, the Land Credit Union, in 1880. Moreover, he chaired Warsaw Charitable Society for many years, inspiring various charity and philanthropic activities. Remembering the experiences from his tempestuous youth, he agreed to become president of the Association of Siberian Deportees, Veterans of 1963, whom he supported with various means. He offered financial aid to the amnestied deportees and fought tirelessly for the return of those still in exile. He chaired these societies until the end of his life.
During a visit of Alexander II of Russia to Warsaw, the then Governor of Warsaw, gen. Albedinsky, introduced Duke Włodzimierz to the tsar, mentioning that the Duke had been in exile. “I do not care,” the tsar replied, “as long as he does not wish to return there…”
An exhibition on the shared endeavours to regain the independence of the Polish and the Czech territory was organized in Prague in 1912. One of the Polish delegations was headed by Duke Czetwertyński, who was enthusiastically welcomed by the Czech. In his speech, he expressed his belief that, despite his advanced age, he would live to see the independence of his country. He was mistaken, albeit by not much.
FROM PARENTS TO CHILDREN
Włodzimierz Światopełk-Czetwertyński passed away in Warsaw on 20 August 1918, less than three months prior to Poland regaining independence. His wife survived him by 13 years – she died in Warsaw on 18 April 1931.
The parents’ virtues were inherited by their children. The couple could be proud of their heirs. They had three sons and three daughters:
renown politician, prominent member of the parliament, speaker of the Sejm in the Second Polish Republic, interned at the Auschwitz and Buchenwald concentration camps during World War II, died in emigration;
president of Warsaw Music Society, co-originator of the International Chopin Piano Competition;
owner of Żołudek estate in Nowogródek Province, excellent landlord, president of the Borderland Union of Landowners; he helped save dozens of Borderlands land estates from bankruptcy. He died a martyr’s death in Auschwitz;
founder of schools for women in Warsaw;
saved thousands of insurgents from being shot by the Nazis during the Warsaw Uprising;
helped numerous homeless during the German occupation.