Older brother

I think every Pole knows the name Pilsudski. The “First Marshall” played a major role in regaining independence by Poland in 1918. But today’s post is going to be about his older brother, Bronislaw. I’m pretty sure many people have never heard about him.

Bronislaw Pilsudski

Bronislaw Piotr Pilsudski (of Pilsudski coat-of-arms) was born on 2nd November 1866 in manor Zułów in Vilnius region, one year before his famous brother, Jozef. Mother made sure they were raised in patriotic spirit and father ran the manor, more or less successfully. Brothers were surrounded by numerous servants and also learnt French and German. Unfortunately in 1874 the manor house burnt completely and the Pilsudski family was forced to move to Vilnius.

Three years later he started attending the secondary school where Polish pupils had to oppose the russification. The only available to them way was an underground education system. With Bronislaw in charge, brothers created a secret organisation, called “Spójnia” (Union) at the meetings of which they read banned books.

In 1884 died Bronislaw’s mother and Russian Ochrana banned “Spójnia” because of her patriotic mission.

A year later Bronslaw moved to St. Petersburg where he passed the exams at the local university. While studying there he got involved with a plot of socialists (Narodnaja Wola) to assassinate Alexander III of Russia. Unfortunately all participants were arrested. Among the plotters was Vladimir Lenin’s brother Alexander Ulyanow (hanged). Bronislaw was sentenced to fifteen years of hard labour on Sakhalin (his brother, Jozef got 5 years in Siberia).

In August 1887 he landed on Sakhalin where he started working as a lumberjack. The next steps of his “career” included working in a barn, as a carpenter and finally a teacher. He started visiting villages of Nivkh people as he found them very interesting. On Sakhalin he met Lev Shternberg, also a prisoner and an early ethnographer of the Nivkh. When Shternberg finished his sentence, he went back to Petersburg, and thanks to him Bronislaw was given a grant to study the peoples of Sakhalin. That’s when he first met with Ainu people and got fascinated by their language and look.

In 1899 Bronislaw was allowed to move to Vladivostok where he became a keeper at local Geographical Society. He was responsible for preparing exhibits for the International Ethnographic Exhibition in Paris and his exhibition took second prize.

In 1902 he was asked to study Ainu culture on Sakhalin. He studied the language, customs, dances… He recorded the Ainu language and took hundreds of photographs. During that time he fell in love with Ainu woman, Chufsanma, a niece of chief Bafunkei, and had two children with her. He also went to Hokkaido, invited by Waclaw Sieroszewski, to study Ainu living there.

Ainu village

In 1905 he left Sakhalin. Unfortunately his family had to stay. He went first to Japan, where he founded the very first Polish-Japanese Society. After that via USA and Europe he came back to his beloved Poland. He settled down in Krakow, at the same address as his brother, Jozef.

Years between 1906 and 1914 were very busy for Bronislaw. He spent those between Lviv, Krakow and Zakopane. He travelled a lot to Austria, France and United Kingdom. He was also exploring Podhale, collecting exhibits for different institutions. His big love, Maria Zarnowska, moved in with him. They called each other husband and wife, even though they weren’t married. With no higher education Bronislaw was unable to secure a position at a university. But he cooperated with many famous explorers and researchers, Benedykt Dybowski, among others. Thanks to their suggestions he wrote a book, “Materials for the Study of the Ainu Language and Folklore”.

When the Great War started, Bronislaw moved to Vienna. He knew that in his condition he wouldn’t be able to fight. In Vienna he worked on Polish Encyclopaedia. In 1915 he moved to Switzerland where he worked for many charities and… Roman Dmowski, a political rival of Jozef Pilsudski.

Portrait of Bronislaw Pilsudski by S.I. Witkiewicz

In 1917 he moved to Paris. On 17th May 1918 his body was found in Seine River. His death was thought to be a suicide. You can visit his grave in Montmorency. If I ever get there, I’ll take a photo and share it with you.

The amount of materials left by Bronislaw is enormous. Only part of it was published while he lived, in French, Japanese, German, Polish and Russian. To save his heritage an international committee was founded in the end of twentieth century which started publishing Pilsudski’s works (The Collected Works of Bronislaw Pilsudski). On Sakhalin there’s Bronislaw Pilsudski’s monument and a mountain named after him. There’s also an institute under his name, publishing annually (Izwiestija Instituta Nasledija Bronisława Piłsudskogo). If you ever go to Sapporo, try to get “Piłsudskiana de Sapporo”.

If it wasn’t for Bronislaw, we wouldn’t know much about Ainu people. Without his records, we wouldn’t know how the language sounded like. There are some Ainu living on Hokkaido, but they are fully assimilated with Japanese. While on Sakhalin, he opened a school for Ainu kids and prepared for the Government an Ainu act, but his ideas were ignored and the Russian-Japanese War didn’t help either.

But first of all, he was Polish. He believed he will go back to his Vilnius, that Poland will be free. He wasn’t a good material for a politician like his brother, he was too… naive, he unsuccessfully tried to unite Polish politicians abroad. He couldn’t believe there were groups who preferred Lithuania to be either German or Russian than Polish. He had an idea of Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth.

He loved and admired his younger brother but his ruined health wouldn’t allow him to fight. He was always saying that everyone serves as they can. He was a scientist. Besides he hated war and anything related to it.

His grandson, Kazuyasu Kimura lives and works in Japan, in Yokohama. He’s married with three daughters.

Categories: Vitae | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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2 thoughts on “Older brother

  1. Thanks Leonard, I don’t know why but your comment landed in spam 😦

  2. great post

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