Bronisław Piłsudski – Timeline


Bronisław Piotr Piłsudski was born on 2 November in Zułów (now Zalavas), in the Vilnius region, to a gentry’s family as the third child and the oldest son of Józef Wincenty Piotr Piłsudski (1833-1902), the Piłsudski variety of the Kościesza coat of arms (reversed), and Maria née Billewicz (1842-1884), the Mogiła coat of arms.

Bronisław Piłsudski’s Lineage
4 lipca

Fire at the manor house in Zułów; the Piłsudski family moved soon to Vilnius.


Bronisław Piłsudski began his education at the I Gymnasium in Vilnius, an elite school oriented in humanities, natural science, and mathematics, in the same class with his brother Józef who was one year younger.

Gymnasium in Vilnius Photo from the collection of the Józef Piłsudski Museum in Sulejówek, (photo by Mirosław Stelmach)

In the spring, the three Piłsudski brothers (including the youngest, Adam) and their friends set up the Spójnia Self-education Club, thus starting and getting involved in illegal activities.

Members of Spójnia; from the left: Władysław Szwengruben, Wacław Busz, Józef Piłsudski, and Bronisław Piłsudski Photo from the collection of the National Museum in Warszawa

During this period, Bronisław began to keep (until 1885) his Diary, which in the future would become a rich source of knowledge about the life of the Piłsudski family and the state of mind of young Bronisław.


Bronisław Piłsudski was not promoted to the 7th grade. This was a very traumatic experience for him despite the fact that in the Russian education system at that time, the final examination in the 6th grade was intended to radically reduce the number of students (sometimes only a few of twenty would pass the exam). Józef passed this exam.


Bronisław changed the school, moving to the II Gymnasium in Vilnius.

For the first time, he fell in love with Zofia Baniewicz who gave him piano lessons. Bronisław himself was very fond of playing the piano and in the future, in exile, he would ask his family to send him notes.

Notes of the composition by the Piłsudskis’ father, Józef Wincenty; from the collection of the National Museum in Warszawa

Valse roumaine, a composition by Józef Wincenty Piłsudski, performed by Alexander Opolski

1 September

Death of Maria Piłsudska, Bronisław’s mother

Maria Piłsudska, née Billewicz by Janina Łaszkiewicz-Mieszczankowska, oil on canvas, from the collection of the Józef Piłsudski Museum in Sulejówek (photo by Maciej Łabudzki)
End of April

At her mother’s insistence, Zofia Baniewicz left for St. Petersburg.


Piłsudski successfully completed the 7th grade of the gymnasium in Vilnius.
He left for St. Petersburg to continue his education and avoid a possible repetition of the negative “selection” on the exam after the 8th grade.

St. Petersburg in the late 19th century
18 September

Bronisław began the 8th grade at the V Classical Gymnasium in St. Petersburg, referred to as Alarchin Gymnasium. He was very happy about moving to St. Petersburg because he found the atmosphere in Vilnius unbearable.


Piłsudski graduated from the gymnasium.

Tenement house where Bronisław Piłsudski rented a room (photo by Danuta Onyszkiewicz)

On 10 August, he enrolled in the Faculty of Law at the Imperial University in St. Petersburg. He became acquainted with a lot of students, including those sympathetic to the revolutionary movement.

End of December

Bronisław Piłsudski spent Christmas in Vilnius; this was his last stay at home. During the Christmas holidays, preparations by the Revolutionary Faction of the Narodnaya Volya for the assassination of Tsar Alexander III were taking place, simultaneously in St. Petersburg and Vilnius.

3 March

After the foiled assassination attempt on the Russian Tsar Alexander III, Bronisław Piłsudski was detained in his apartment, denounced by one of the conspirators, Mikhail N. Kancher, and imprisoned in the Petropavlovsk Fortress. His brother Józef, also detained in connection with the discovery of the conspiracy and interrogated, was administratively ordered to settle in the eastern Siberia, as a criminal penalty.
The detention is presented in more detail by the infographic, constituting a part of the permanent exhibition of the Józef Piłsudski Museum in Sulejówek, in Gallery Ziuk.

Zagadnienie aresztowania przybliża infografika umieszczona na wystawie stałej Muzeum Józefa Piłsudskiego w Sulejówku, w Galerii Ziuk.

Petropavlovsk Fortress
15–19 April

During the trial in the Senate (all political cases concerning fundamental raison d’état, such as an attempt on the tsar’s life, were tried by Senate), the death sentence was imposed on fifteen defendants, including Bronisław Piłsudski.

23 April

Thanks to the amnesty announced by the tsar, Bronisław Piłsudski’s death sentence was commuted to fifteen years of penal labor and exile to Sakhalin.

8 May

The execution in the Shlisselburg Fortress of five convicts condemned to death, including Alexander Ilyich Ulyanov, the older brother of Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov (later Lenin).

27 May

Bronisław Piłsudski’s deportation began; he set off by train from St. Petersburg via the Butyrka Prison in Moscow to Odessa, where he arrived on 6 June.

9 June - 3 August

From Odessa, he took the “Nizhny Novgorod” ship of the Russian Volunteer Fleet (Dobrovolnyi Flot) carrying 525 prisoners via the Suez Canal, Colombo, Singapore, and Nagasaki to Sakhalin;

on 3 August, the ship arrived at the Alexandrovsk on the west coast of northern Sakhalin.

Bronisław Piłsudski after his arrival into exile, as seen by Edmund Płoski

An excerpt from Edmund Płoski’s memoirs:
I remember the first day when I met him, and his great joy when he heard the first Polish words on Sakhalin. I took him to my apartment. There, like a child, he cried and told with the honesty the story of his exile in all details. He had fell victim to a tragic judicial error, so common in the Russian justice system.
In St. Petersburg, he had numerous Russian friends from his gymnasium days and maintained contacts with them without knowing or being interested in what they were doing. He dreamed of science and his future career in this field. Among his close colleagues, he considered Kancher as one of his dearest friends. What brought Bronisław close to this young man were both the positions of their families and their similar level of culture. Therefore, the two were close friends in St. Petersburg. As a friend, at Kancher’s request, he allowed him to use his room. This was because it had a separate entrance and was isolated from the neighborhood. Kancher justified his request by the need of organizing meetings with friends, lectures, or something similar. Of course, Bronisław was aware that friends’ meetings, lectures, or reading books together were not legal, but he never supposed – and such a thought never entered his head – that terrorist plots or bombs were being prepared there. Yet this was exactly what Kancher’s friends were doing with his personal participation. When the conspiracy was discovered, the participants with bombs in their hands were arrested. Kancher, suffering from depression in prison so common among inexperienced young men, not only betrayed Piłsudski, but what was worse, apparently wanting to save himself, testified what he was suggested, that Piłsudski consciously made his apartment available for this revolutionary work in St. Petersburg and Vilnius. Piłsudski’s denial of these accusations confirmed policemen in the belief that Piłsudski was among the organizers of the coup, and was almost its mastermind. In court, Kancher retracted his testimony, but it did not help anymore. Therefore, while these young men, caught with bombs under their arms on the Nevsky Prospect where the tsar was supposed to be passing by, were each sentenced to 10 years of penal labor, Piłsudski was sentenced to 15 years. On the way to Siberia, they were together in one compartment of the ship. Kancher apologized to Piłsudski for his crime against him and begged for forgiveness, which he received from the tender-hearted Bronisław. He promised Kancher both to forgive him and forget his guilt, and not to complain to his comrades.
He told me about it, but obliged me with a word of honor to keep it a secret. The secrecy, however, did not hold, despite our intention. In our apartment, which was very poor and primitive with bare timber walls, and the floor full of cracks, yet decorated somewhat with the efforts of women, Bronisław cheered up. It seemed to him that freedom was returning; that he was back in the countryside, in the outhouse at his father’s estate, and with his family. In the prison, he seemed much older than his age would indicate, perhaps as a result of the fatigue that was reflected on his face. Here, on the contrary, I saw a young boy, light blond, with fine gentle blue eyes, animated and cheerful. The expression of dull despair I saw on his face in the barracks disappeared almost completely. In a conversation about the future ahead of him, he described images of serenity and hope.

9–12 August

On foot, together with other convicts, Bronisław Piłsudski made his way to the prison in the village of Rykovskoye (now Kirovskoye) in the Timovsk District.

August - December

Piłsudski performed the work assigned to prisoners sentenced to labor (logging, helping in the construction of the Orthodox Church), and was also involved in teaching the children of officials and forced settlers who were ethnic Russians.

Photo of the village of Rykovskoye and the iconostasis of the Rykovskoye Orthodox Church taken by Bronisław Piłsudski; from the collection of the Polish Academy of Arts and Sciences

This was the first time Piłsudski came into contact with the culture of the then called Gilyak people (the proper present name Nivkh), the indigenous people of Sakhalin. As he wrote, “the only morally uncorrupted community on the entire island. […] I got close to these people who were dying out, treated them, vaccinated them for smallpox, taught them to read and write, and was an interpreter and advocate in relation to the authorities.”

The journey of the Gilyak family from the Alexandrovsk District to the Timovsk District and Fishermen, Gilyaks, on the river Bolshaya Aleksandrovka; from Bronisław Piłsudski’s album of photographs of Sakhalin; from the collection of the Polish Academy of Arts and Sciences

5 October

Józef Piłsudski, Bronisław’s younger brother, submitted a written request to the minister of interior for transferring to Sakhalin. The request was denied.


Bronisław started working in the office of the Timovskoye District police station as a clerk.


He met a Russian ethnographer, Lev Yakovlevich Sternberg (1861-1927), exiled to Sakhalin in 1889, who was visiting the village of Rykovskoye. Sternberg inspired Piłsudski to undertake a systematic study of the Nivkh culture.

Russian ethnographer, Lev Yakovlevich Sternberg
1 May

Piłsudski began to write a Sakhalin diary (kept until 20 March 1892) of his work in the garden established together with four other political exiles convicted in the same trial. Together they set up an agricultural cooperative which, however, had a short life.


Probably this year, Bronisław Piłsudski began his systematic work on the vocabulary, tradition, and culture of the Nivkh people.

A song of the Nivkh people

Song of the Nivkh people written in the Russian transcription of their original language by Bronisław Piłsudski and dedicated to him; translated into Russian by Bronisław Piłsudski; Based on the “Izvestiya Instituta nasledija Bronislava Pilsudskogo, No.1, Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk, 1998, p. 111

From Russian ranslated into Polish by Jadwiga Rodowicz-Czechowska and from Polish into English by Piotr Jaskólski

Before my departure from Sakhalin, some Gilyaks came to Rykovsky to bid me farewell (31 January 1899) and some of the women expressed their wish that I write down the songs they dedicated to me. This song was dictated by Pimka’s wife, a quite greedy old woman who judged me in terms of my material possessions. She called it Chvinend tuhus and Chekanu tuhus.

Chvinend tuhus (words caused by grief for you)

You are going to leave for the continent.
You will abandon me and go away.
I love you. Young children and adult women
They are grieving for you.
And you are happy to leave.
I feel sorry, but what can I do?
You will forget me,
You will think and abandon.
I feel sorry, but what can I do?
You were like a father;
When we wanted to eat,
You did everything so that we could
Have food to eat.
You were always like a father.
But if you leave, you will abandon me,
And who is to say that I will be able to eat,
And who will pay for my food?
I keep thinking about myself,
That I feel sorry for you,
While you not even think of me.

Chi kektykhvinynd
Chi eeimund/ machkyn shank/
Chi akhpkhohol’ khisvpin
Ynykhvijnyna/ kerifur
Ian itiawkhnany/ nundnunditkh
Inuty/ ershparanta/ chi nynynykh
Vijkhyihynkra/ natitygyn
Ininda/ natchkhakish
Ininda/ koholimikhish
Chvinefure/ hantokhehrilio

Bronisław worked at the weather station in Rykovskoye, along with another political prisoner, Ivan Petrovich Yuvachev.


At the behest of the authorities, Bronisław Piłsudski undertook botanical research for the museum in Khabarovsk. During his trips to the mountains, he collected plants and established a herbarium.

The art of making herbariums had been known in Europe since the 16th century.
14 May

By the tsar’s decree (issued on the occasion of the coronation of Tsar Nicholas II), Bronisław Piłsudski’s sentence was shortened by 1/3 (Piłsudski’s father unsuccessfully submitted petitions for shortening the sentence also in April 1892 and November 1894).

July - August

Bronisław Piłsudski went to the south of Sakhalin, to the Korsakovo District, to install a weather station, where he met the Ainu people for the first time.

27 February

The end of Bronisław Piłsudski’s sentence; he registered as a peasant from the village of Rykovskoye in the Timovsk District.


The research group Amurskiy Krai (Region) Research Society (OIAK), a branch of the Imperial Russian Geographical Society, made an unsuccessful effort to hire Piłsudski at the museum in Vladivostok.

20 April

Piłsudski completed his first work in the field of ethnology, entitled “Nużdy i potriebnosti sachalinskich Giliakow” (Location and Needs of the Gilyak People in Sakhalin) which he published in Khabarovsk in the “Bulletin of the Amur Branch of the Imperial Russian Geographical Society” (1898, vol. 4, no. 4).

May - August

Work at the weather station in the village of Rykovskoye; in the summer, Piłsudski’s father again requested that his son be moved to Vladivostok.

November - December

The OIAK Steering Committee commissioned Piłsudski to gather materials on the Nivkh people, paying him 200 rubles for this purpose.


Bronisław Piłsudski was given permission to stay for a year, under police supervision, in Vladivostok, where he moved in mid-March. He worked as a curator at the OIAK (Amur Krai Research Society) Museum, with an annual salary of 600 rubles.

Museum of the Amur Krai Research Society in Vladivostok (photo by Kazuhiko Sawada)

On behalf of the OIAK Museum, Piłsudski prepared materials for the World Exposition in Paris in 1900. Among other things, he presented 158 items related to the Nivkh people of Sakhalin, which he collected during his research work.


Bronisław Piłsudski was awarded a silver medal at the Paris Exposition for his presentation of the Far Eastern collection; the medal has failed to reach him.


He cut his annual salary in half to hire for the remaining amount a worker to take care of the items collected at the museum.


He signed an employment contract with the Statistical Committee of the Primorsky Krai, becoming actively involved in its activities.


Bronisław Piłsudski wrote to Anton Chekhov asking for a copy of his book The Island: A Journey to Sakhalin; the writer sent him the work.

Piłsudski was elected an associate member of the OIAK.


He resigned from his job at the museum.

In the summer, Piłsudski brought from Sakhalin to Vladivostok his brightest student, Indin, a Nivkh boy, to allow him to continue his education.

Indin; from the collection of the Ethnographic Museum in Kraków

The OIAK Museum again employed Piłsudski temporarily with a monthly salary of 50 rubles.


Piłsudski received an official order to go to the southern Sakhalin to collect ethnographic materials. The governor of the Primorsky Krai wrote to the Sakhalin governor, “No objections as to Piłsudski’s behavior, he is employed by the local administration.”

15 April

Bronisław’s father, Józef Piłsudski, died at the age of 69 in St. Petersburg.

Photo of Bronisław’s father, Józef Wincenty Piłsudski; from the collection of the Józef Piłsudski Museum in Sulejówek
5 July

Piłsudski sailed from Vladivostok to Sakhalin on the steam ship “Zeya” owned by the Central Eastern Railway Company, presumably accompanied by Indin who was ill with tuberculosis, and was intended to be treated on his home island.

Piłsudski’s task was to collect ethnographic materials on the Ainu and Orok (now referred to as Uilta) peoples; he was issued a travel permit, 1,000 rubles for trip-related expenses, and 50 rubles for prepayments to purchase items for the OIAK Steering Committee, a camera, and an Edison phonograph.

Edison phonograph (photo by Alicja Firynowicz)
SAKHALIN – check the localities on the map
11 July

Piłsudski arrived in Korsakov (former Japanese name was Ōdomari).

13 July

Piłsudski visited the village of Siyantsy (former Japanese name: Ochiai, now Dolinsk).

16 July - 6 August

He stayed on the west coast in Mauka District (former Japanese name: Maoka, now Kholmsk), carried out a census of the Ainu people and recorded Ainu songs with a phonograph.


Piłsudski sailed to Korsakov via Hakodate where he stayed for three weeks at the villa of George Denbigh (Dembi in Russian), an entrepreneur undertaking businesses in Mauka on Sakhalin); he toured the town and the surrounding area guided by his host’s son and a married couple, Mr. and Mrs. Moritaka. It was his first stay in Japan.

30 August

Piłsudski returned from Hakodate to Korsakov.

10 or 12 September

Piłsudski had an informal meeting with the governor of Sakhalin, M.N. Lyapunov. They discussed the possibility of conducting a census of indigenous peoples in the areas where he was carrying out his ethnographic research. Piłsudski appeared to be an ideal person to conduct the census due to his knowledge of both the Nivkh and Ainu languages.

Second half of September

Piłsudski visited villages of Otosan (Odasamu, now Firsovo) and Seraroko (Syeraroko, Shirer in Japanese, now Vzmorye) and participated in the Bear Festival (iomante) for the first time.

Picture showing the Bear Festival

It was probably then that he first met Chūsamma, his future partner and the mother of his two children.

14–24 November

Piłsudski visited villages of Siyantsy and Otosan and organized literacy schools in both villages (formally opened in the winter). In the first school, the teacher was the 18-year-old Indin and in the second – 27-year-old Taronji (Tarōji Sentoku).

Taronji Sentoku.
24 November

Bronisław Piłsudski stayed in the village of Rure (Rorei in Japanese) on the east coast where he recorded oral tales, songs, and legends, and made the first recordings of hauki (songs about heroes).


Piłsudski moved to the village of Ai (Aihama in Japanese), which was later consolidated with other villages into Shirahama, and spent the winter there, living in a Russian style log hut owned by Bafunke (Aikichi Kimura), a well known personality among Sakhalin’s Ainu people. Bafunke’s house henceforth became a permanent base for the ethnographer; Chūsamma, the daughter of Sirekua, Bafunke’s older brother, often stayed there.

Third from the right Chūsamma holding Sukezō in her arms (1904, in front of Bafunke’s house); from the collection of the Archives of Modern Records in Warszawa

At the beginning of the year, Bronisław Piłsudski received a telegram from Sternberg who asked him to continue his research in southern Sakhalin. Piłsudski received funding for this purpose from the Russian Committee for Research on Central and East Asia. The first subsidy was 700 rubles for the year 1903, the second was 750 rubles for 1904, and the third was 1,000 rubles for 1905. The research was interrupted in June 1905.

1 February - 29 April

Piłsudski stayed in the Ai village for three months, where he intensively studied the Ainu language; during this period, he spent half a month (15 February – 1 March) in the Rure village, where he translated legends and hauki. It was probably then that he fell in love with Bafunke’s niece, Chūsamma. In literature, she is sometimes mistakenly called Shinkinchō by Japanese authors.

February - April

Health condition of Indin, who suffered from tuberculosis, deteriorated significantly and the young man died in a hospital in Korsakov.

24 April

Bronisław Piłsudski drafted a report on the activities of literacy schools in villages of Siyantsy and Otosan during the winter of 1902/1903.

30 April - 16 May

Piłsudski sailed along the east coast toward the south, visiting Obusaki (Fusaki), Ochkhohpoka (Ochkhikai, now Rusnoye), Tunaycha (Tonnai, now Okhotskoye), Airupo (Airō, now Svobodnaya) along the way. In the village of Tunaycha, he made recordings of hauki and oina (songs about gods) performed by Yasunosuke Yamabe and others.

Photographs of Ainu people; from the collection of the Ethnographic Museum in Kraków


For research purposes, Piłsudski sets off towards Hakodate on Hokkaido in the company of the Japanese translator, Tarōji Sentoku; his main piece of equipment was an Edison phonograph.

Around 8-10 July

Piłsudski arrived at the port of Hakodate where the research team of the Imperial Russian Geographical Society was formed (Wacław Sieroszewski – team leader, Bronisław Piłsudski – team member, Sentoku – translator) and prepared a research plan.

Photo of Wacław Sieroszewski
Around 2 August

Piłsudski helped the Ainu people that he met in Hakodate, cheated by a Japanese man, to return home to Shiraoi, supporting them with the money that was intended for his research. These were Shpanram Nomura (Shiran Nomurart) from Shiraoi with his family. As the result, the research team first visited the Shiraoi village, east of Hakodate, rather than northeast and north of the island, as they originally intended.


On the “Higomaru” ship, the team reached the port of Muroran, from where they traveled by rail to Shiraoi and then to the village of the Ainu people. They lived in Shpanram’s house as his guests until the end of August, conducting their research. A detailed description of the stay in Shiraoi and of the life and culture of the Ainu people would later be included by Wacław Sieroszewski in his book Among the Hairy People (Warszawa 1938).

Title page of Sieroszewski’s book
The end of August

The research team traveled to Biratori (or Piratori) by rail to Hayakita where they hired a guide and several horses. They traveled through the virgin forests of Hidaka region on horseback, stopping for a night in Mukawa. The distance to Biratori was 60 kilometers in total – 30 kilometers from Shiraoi to Mukawa and another 30 kilometers from Mukawa to Biratori. In Mukawa, at the behest of the British Pastor John Batchelor (1854-1944) of Sapporo, they were met by Ainu Protestants who, influenced by Batchelor, joined the Presbyterian Church.

Map of Hokkaido
Early September

After arriving in Biratori, they stayed there for about a week. At the behest of the Russian consul in Hakodate, the team interrupted its research due to the increasingly deteriorating Japanese-Russian relations.

Around 10 September

The research team traveled to Sapporo.

12–15 September

The team resides in Sapporo for about 2-3 days. Piłsudski stayed at the home of the missionary John Batchelor who noted this fact in a chapter of his autobiography in the article “A Rare Visitor is Coming.”

15 September

The team left Sapporo; Piłsudski and Sentoku went to Hakodate.

19 September

The research team of the Imperial Russian Geographical Society disbanded; Piłsudski and Sentoku stayed in Japan for about 2 more weeks and then returned to Korsakov in Sakhalin.

28 September

Unofficially, the governor of Alexandrovsk, Mikhail N. Lapunov asked for conducting a study on the current situation of the Ainu people in the Korsakov District and preparing a project to improve the legislation on the governance of natives.

Mikhail Nikolayevich Lyapunov
29 September

Return to the base in the Ai village.

The end of September

The wedding ceremony of Bronisław Piłsudski and Chūsamma initiated by Bafunke, Chūsamma’s uncle.

14 October - 29 November

Stay in Korsakovo, collecting donations, school supplies, and books for the literacy school starting its operation in Naibuchi. Von Bunge, the acting governor, supported the project with 200 rubles. Piłsudski arrived in Naibuchi on 29 November.

2 December

Tarōji Sentoku worked as a teacher at the boarding school; Piłsudski was also engaged in teaching which involved writing statements in Ainu language by using the Cyrillic alphabet. This is how the written Ainu language was created. It was the transcript of the Ainu language used by Sentoku and other Ainu people when exchanging correspondence with Piłsudski during his stay in Japan in 1906.

18–20 December

In the village of Ai, Piłsudski and his students watched a fox sacrifice ritual (literally “sending back the spirit” – iomante), prepared together with Bafunke.

21 January

The Imperial Russian Geographical Society awarded Bronisław Piłsudski a silver medal for extraordinary contributions to scientific research.

Collections of Piłsudski and Sieroszewski are now kept, among other locations, at the Museum of Anthropology and Ethnography of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Kunstkamera.

8 February

At the outbreak of the Russo-Japanese War, the school and dormitory in Naibuchi was closed.

12 February

Chūsamma gave birth to Piłsudski’s first child, his son Sukezō Kimura.

31 marca – 13 listopada

Piłsudski resumed the expedition to northern Sakhalin that had been interrupted in June of the previous year (despite the ongoing war). He set out by a dog sled from the Ai village and headed north along the east coast to reach the northernmost village of Nayoro (Nairo in Japanese, now Gastello); the next day, on 5 April, he arrived at the Tikhmenevsk (Shisuka in Japanese, now Poronaysk) guardhouse in the Lake Tarayka area.

Dog sled Photo from the collection of the Druskininkai City Museum (www.druskininkumuziejus.lt)
6 April 6 - 12 June

Piłsudski stopped in the vicinity of Tarayka and conducted research among the Ainu and Orok peoples. He also stayed in the Nayoro village (22 April – 4 May and 22 May – 1 June).

8–30 July

Józef Piłsudski, Bronisław’s younger brother, stayed in Tokyo together with Tytus Filipowicz as part of the secret operation “Evening”. Józef intended to organize military units, searching in the Russian army for Poles who became prisoners in the Russo-Japanese War to send them to the Manchurian front; he discussed this project unsuccessfully with the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs and General Staff.

13 June - 7 October

Bronisław Piłsudski continued his research; he traveled by boat from Tikhmenevsk up the Poronay River, and then by land to areas in the upper reaches of the Tym River, and visited the Nivkh settlements located in the nearby river valley, where he conducted research (13 July – 9 August). He also stopped in the village of Onor in the Timovsk District, inhabited by Russians (24 June – 8 July and 2-25 September), and in Rykovskoye village (10 August – 1 September).


In Rykovskoye, he drafted a report on the activities of the literacy school in Naibuchi in the 1903/1904 season.

One of the gifts given by the Japanese consulate to the schools founded by Bronisław was the so-called brick tea.

Brick Tea
28–29 September

In the lower reaches of the Poronay River, he experienced a violent typhoon; the swollen river capsized the boat, but Piłsudski avoided death.

7 October

Piłsudski stayed in the village of Nayoro. Because of the war, his plans to participate in the Bear Festival and opening the literacy school for the Ainu children of Nayoro and the Orok (Uilta) children of Tikhmenevsk did not come to fruition.

13 November

Bronisław Piłsudski returned to his family in the village of Ai.

16 November

He left for Korsakov where he was working intensively. Due to the difficult economic situation – hunger and price hikes – he decided not to carry out the research he planned on the west coast. Probably then he decided to leave Sakhalin and settle on the mainland.

The end of November

Piłsudski visited Otosan and Seraroko, and attended the Bear Festival there.

27 January - 9 February

Piłsudski visited Siyantsy, Naibuchi, Ai, and Otosan.

10–23 February

Piłsudski’s last stay in Korsakov; in view of the approaching war and in anticipation of the Japanese invasion, he put things in order: shipped the collected ethnographic materials and secured them properly, translated the recorded texts, collected statistical data, paid the manufacturers for the materials, etc.

At the same time, violent unrest was already underway in Russia, leading to the revolution across the country, including in the Russian Far East.

23–26 February

Piłsudski stayed in Vladimirovka (Toyohara in Japanese, now Yuzhno Sakhalinsk) struggling to get food for the trip.

5 March

In the village, he met with his wife Chūsamma and son Sukezō; presumably he bid them farewell, planning to return and take his family with him in the future.

6 March

In the Otosan village, a shaman who was Piłsudski’s friend, performed a parting ritual for him.

10–28 March

With problems, Bronisław Piłsudski arrived in the Onor village, where he finished the “Draft Principles of the Existence and Governance of the Ainu of the Sakhalin Island” commissioned by the Governor Mikhail N. Lyapunov. This was a novel concept of self-government of ethnic minorities.

13 April - 12 May

Piłsudski stayed in the village of Rykovskoye; he completed writing the following works: “Some Information on Individual Ainu Settlements on the Sakhalin Island” and a modification of the “Draft Principles of the Existence and Governance of the Ainu on the Sakhalin Island”, which he submitted to Governor Lyapunov, as well as a report on literacy education, carried out in the winter of 1904/1905.

30 April

The final end of serving a sentence depriving Piłsudski of his civil rights – he was allowed to settle anywhere in the Russian Empire, excluding the capital; he could also return to his home country.

12–30 May

Piłsudski stayed in the village of Derbinskoye (now Tymovskoye).

11 June

Piłsudski left Sakhalin on a ship departing from the port of Alexandrovsk.

12 June

Piłsudski arrived in Nikolaevsk at the mouth of the Amur River, and stayed there for about 10 days. On his way to Khabarovsk, he visited Mariinskoye (inhabited by Olcha / Mangun people) and gathered information about the Ainu living in the Amur River region.

The early July

He arrived in Khabarovsk.

14 July

Piłsudski completed the report on the current situation, written for V. Radlov, the Chairman of the Russian Committee for Central and East Asian Studies.

Early August

He returned to Vladivostok.

5 and 12 August

Piłsudski (as an associate member of the OIAK) gave two lectures on the results of his research in Sakhalin carried under the auspices of the OIAK.

5 September

A peace treaty between Japan and Russia was signed in Portsmouth.

Middle of September

Piłsudski planned to return to Europe with his family by rail and made efforts to get tickets, which he did not receive. After the land transport system collapsed, he changed his plans and wanted to return by ship. He visited the Ai village (already under Japanese occupation) and met with his family, Chūsamma and Sukezō. However, Chūsamma’s family did not agree to Piłsudski’s wife and his son leaving; as a result, Bronisław separated from his family forever – as it would turn out.

Early October

Piłsudski visited Kobe, where he provided help in the office of Nicholas Russel (Nikolai Sudzilovsky).

Photo of Nikolai Russel (Sudzilovsky)

Piłsudski returned to Nikolayevsk on the Amur River. Commissioned by the OIAK, he collected materials on the Nanai people in the village of Troitskoye in the Amur River basin.

Nanai family in traditional clothes
5 November

At the meeting of residents of the city of Khabarovsk, Piłsudski delivered a speech, proposed the establishment of a “civic office”, and donated 100 rubles for this purpose.

8 December

Piłsudski’s daughter, Kyo Kimura (who changed her name to Ōtani after marriage), was born in the Ai village.

18 December

Bronisław Piłsudski sailed from Vladivostok toward Japan, leaving Russia forever.

Early January

Piłsudski arrived in Tokyo.

Around 6 January

Bronisław Piłsudski gave an interview to the reporter of “Hōchi Shimbun” newspaper (in article: “Two Rare Visitors from Vladivostok; ”Hōchi Shimbun”, 7 January); reprinted in: “The Hokkaido Times”, 10 January. He lived in the Central Hotel in Tsukiji.

The last decade of January - the first decade of July

Piłsudski lived on the second floor at the back of Hakodateya in Owarichō, in the Kyōbashi district. While in Tokyo, he maintained close contacts with researchers studying the life of the Ainu people, socialists, women’s rights activists, artists, and Chinese revolutionaries associated with Minpōsha, such as Huang Xing and Song Jiaoren, as well as with refugees from Russia. He wrote articles: “Russian Anthropologists” (“Tōkyō Asahi Shimbun”, 8 February), “Research on Japanese Women” (“Hōchi Shimbun”, 9 March), and “Foreigners’ Research on Japanese Women” (“Hokkai Times”, 20 March).

Together with Shimei Futabatei, he established the Polish-Japanese Association with the goal of popularizing the knowledge of Polish literature in Japan.

Around 18 June

Commemorative photo with Shimei Futabatei at the Nakaguro Photo Studio in Hongō

Commemorative photo with Shimei Futabatei at the Nakaguro photo studio in Hongō; from the collection of the National Archives in Kraków, record group [Bronisław Piłsudski], ref. no. 29/645/0/-/435

Piłsudski received 500-600 rubles, transferred by his relatives by telegraph via Paris to Nagasaki, for his return trip to Poland. However, he could not collect the money in Nagasaki and eventually, was able to get it in Kraków, at the place it was originally sent from.


Piłsudski left Tokyo and went to Nagasaki, where he lived in the house of Chikatomo Shiga (an employee of the Russian consulate) in the Inasa district.

10 July

The first article on the Ainu people, “The Situation of the Ainu People on Sakhalin” (Part 1), was published in Japanese (translated by Masaru Ueda) by the monthly magazine “World” (“Sekai”, no. 26) of the Keikanippōsha Publishing House; it was the first part of the publication titled “Some Information on Individual Ainu Settlements on the Sakhalin Island.”

30 July 30 - around 16 August

Bronisław Piłsudski left Nagasaki; he departed on the “Dakota” ship owned by the American Great Northern Steamship Company, sailed through Kobe, Yokohama, and across the Pacific Ocean straight to Seattle. On the ship, he worked extensively; he published the second part of “The Situation of the Ainu People on Sakhalin” (“Sekai”, no. 27).

Around 16 August - around 21 October

After “Dakota” arrived in Seattle, Piłsudski continued his journey by the transcontinental railroad to the east of the United States and arrived in New York City via Chicago, from where he reached Europe via the Atlantic Ocean; then he arrived in Kraków via London and Paris.

Around 21 October

Piłsudski arrived in Kraków and then left for Zakopane, where his younger brother Józef was staying; this was their first meeting in nineteen years.

Excerpt from Józef’s letter to Bronisław staying in Paris:

Dear Broniś! Finally! At last you are so close to me – when you will read this letter, I no longer have any patience. […] Address, Zakopane, Nowatorska Hyc Olesiak Piłsudska and the other address, Topolowa 16, Kraków, Piłsudska. […] my dear and precious, please hurry and don’t waste time, I’m waiting for you, you are terribly late…

7 November

Piłsudski returned to Kraków, where he stayed until May the following year.

20 November

Pursuant to the pardon decree of 21 October 1905, the governor of Sakhalin announced that the police supervision and the restriction of the right to settle in the capital were lifted for Piłsudski and also informed of the decision to restore Piłsudski’s rights and privileges lost as a result of court proceedings. Piłsudski regained the right to inherit the land and property owned by the Piłsudski family; he could also reside in Russia’s capital.

21 November

In a letter to Shimei Futabatei, there is a mention of Maria Żarnowska (née Baniewicz, a younger sister of Bronisław’s first love, Zofia Baniewicz). Maria Żarnowska separated from her husband, with whom she left their only son at their home in St. Petersburg.

During the Christmas holidays, Bronisław Piłsudski was visited by his youngest sister, Ludwika, who lived in Vilnius, and his aunt Stefania Lippman.

At the end of the year, at Bronisław’s request, his younger brother Kazimierz, who lived in St. Petersburg, forwarded in a letter to Żarnowska Bronisław’s address.

17 May

Maria Żarnowska arrived in Kraków, where she met with Bronisław Piłsudski for the first time in 20 years.

Early June - second half of July

Piłsudski and Żarnowska stayed in a Czech resort, Karlovy Vary (then Karlsbad).

Bronisław Piłsudski with Maria Żarnowska Photo from the collection of the Tytus Chałubiński Tatra Museum in Zakopane

Piłsudski returned to Cracow and then to Zakopane, where he lived for the next eight months. Bronisław and Maria initially stayed at a hostel for students and since November, they lived at the “Villa Hygea” guesthouse at the Krupówki Street.

Postcard of “Villa Hygea”
Relations between Piłsudski and Witkiewicz
“My Dearest Uncle”
Relationship of Bronisław Piłsudski with Stanisław Witkiewicz

The two Piłsudski brothers met for the first time in nineteen years in October 1906. It took place in Zakopane, where Bronisław arrived at Józef’s invitation immediately after returning from many years of exile and settlement in the Far East. Over the next eight years, Galicia became the ethnographer’s new home to which he used to return from longer and shorter journeys.

He spent the first two weeks resting with his brother and his wife Maria. From here and later from Kraków, he wrote letters and shared his feelings with his sister. “Dear Zuleczka, here I am finally […] among my beloved. I find it strange but it’s true – my new life to which I rushed and dreamed of has already begun. Still, it’s not this sincere homeland here like our Lithuania […], but it’s at least Europe. It is Poland”. He announced about his return to his respected professor and ex-exile Benedykt Dybowski, and also to Futabateia Shimei from Japan to whom he pointed out his readiness to start his work.
At the turn of October and November, Bronisław visited the Tatra Museum, which had been operating in Zakopane for seven years. At that time, it was located in a wooden, two-story building equipped with a small tower of meteorological observatory and two rooms with natural and sightseeing exhibits. With time, the need for a new premises emerged.

Bronisław Piłsudski’s photographs taken by Stanisław Ignacy Witkiewicz-Witkacy in Zakopane in 1912; from the collection of the Józef Piłsudski Museum in Sulejówek
Witkacy also painted a portrait of his “dearest uncle”, which is known only from the photo attached to his correspondence with his father, Stanisław Witkiewicz.

At the end of the 19th century, Zakopane experienced a spontaneous growth as a place of treatment for “chest diseases”, thanks to the promotion of its values by Tytus Chałubiński, a doctor from Warszawa. It attracted Polish intellectual elites from the three partitions, but mainly from Kraków, Lviv and Warszawa. The main tone of the cultural life was set by the artists who settled there, especially Stanisław Witkiewicz. Attracted by examples of curing tuberculosis, he visited this place in 1886, and after four years, he settled there permanently. In 1908, he moved to Lovran, where he died seven years later.

In the first weeks of his stay in Zakopane, Bronisław Piłsudski managed to meet Stanisław Witkiewicz. The families of Witkiewicz and Piłsudski were probably related to each other. Many authors have tried to unravel the problem of their kinship. The words of an expert on Lithuanian affairs, Stanisław Cat-Mackiewicz may serve as conclusion, “All landowning families in Lithuania are related and all were patriotic exalted.” In any case, conviction of family ties cultivated on both sides made the relationships much easier. Later, in letters to Stanisław Witkiewicz, Bronisław used to call him “Dear Uncle” (it was only 15 years gap between them), and signed himself as a “nephew.” The son of Stanisław, Witkacy, titled Bronisław in a similar way.

At that time, Stanisław Witkiewicz was an undisputed authority in matters of the Podhale highlanders’ region. Bronisław recalled that the reading On a Saddle: Impressions and Images from the Tatras by Witkiewicz (published by Gebethner and Wolff in Kraków in 1890) inspired him to become more interested in the folklore of Podhale. The creator of the Zakopane style realized that the “nephew” had extensive knowledge and skills in the field of ethnography, so he was one of the people who persuaded him to undertake research on Polish highlanders living not only in southwestern Galicia, but also Spisz, then on the Hungarian side, and Orava. While carrying out projects in this area, Bronisław could rely on the support and convenience resulting from the authority of his “uncle”. Witkiewicz wrote to the Tatra Museum Society, “I authorize Mr. Bronisław Piłsudski to use the fund provided by Mrs. Włodzimierzowa, Count Dzieduszycka, for the purchase at his discretion objects of Podhale art, equipment, clothes, etc. to expand the collection of the Tytus Chałubiński Tatra Museum in Zakopane “.

Stanisław Witkiewicz Photo from the collection of the Tytus Chałubiński Tatra Museum in Zakopane

The cooperation and exchange of views between Piłsudski and Witkiewicz continued also when the latter moved to Lovran. This is evidenced by Bronisław’s letters (published in 2016 by the Tatra Museum in Zakopane and the Józef Piłsudski Museum in Sulejówek) to his “Dearest Uncle”, in which he reports on his achievements and shares his observations about museum buildings he saw in Russia, Japan, the United States, and European countries. Thanks to these comments, the designer of the Tatra Museum building could have a broader view on this issue. Letters addressed to Bronisław have not been found.

Building of the Tatra Museum in 1908

Inspired by Witkiewicz, Piłsudski developed a multifaceted and useful activity in the Southern Borderlands. Many of his ideas, consulted by correspondence with his “Uncle” in the years 1912-1914, were implemented by his successors, including founding a scientific periodical. The adopted by the Tatra Museum “Podhale Yearbook” , which is issued to this day, is one of the most interesting regional publications in our country. The first issue with Bronisław Piłsudski’s article is available here:

The ties between Bronisław Piłsudski and Podhale are commemorated by a symbolic grave erected in 2000 at the “Pęksowy Brzyzek” Cemetery of Merit in Zakopane, next to the grave of Stanisław Witkiewicz, his “Dearest Uncle”.

Illustration from the book On the Pass by Stanisław Witkiewicz

Based on:
Antoni Kuczyński, red., „Kochany wujaszku. Listy Bronisława Piłsudskiego do Stanisława Witkiewicza”, Zakopane – Sulejówek 2016
Jerzy M. Roszkowski, „Witkiewiczowie – Piłsudscy. Wzajemne związki”, „Rocznik Podhalański”, tom XI: 2016, s.87-99

1 S. Cat-Mackiewicz, Klucz do Piłsudskiego, Universitas, Kraków 2013, s. 18.

The four Piłsudski brothers held a family conference in the Tatra Mountains; it was attended by Jan with his wife Maria who came from Vilnius, Józef with his wife Maria, Kazimierz from St. Petersburg, and Bronisław with his partner Maria.

22 October

Maria Żarnowska left Zakopane and returned to St. Petersburg. Bronisław Piłsudski wrote her many letters; in one of them, he offered her to start a life together in Lviv.

In that year, the “Review of the Economic Life of the Ainu People on Sakhalin” and “Some Information on Individual Ainu Settlements on the Sakhalin Island” were published in Vladivostok.

Second half of January

Maria Żarnowska returned to Zakopane; they both lived in the “Villa Hygea” guesthouse.


Bronisław Piłsudski and Maria Żarnowska moved to Lviv where they lived at Turecka Street 3. Piłsudski sold eight phonograph cylinders from the Ainu collection and several photographs. This was undoubtedly one of the happiest periods of his life. He collaborated with Benedykt Dybowski, with whom he exchanged letters while on Sakhalin. Żarnowska took singing lessons as she dreamed of a career as a professional singer. She stopped her lessons due to illness – breast cancer.


Maria Żarnowska returned to St. Petersburg to undergo a surgery, during which metastases were found.

August 1909 - January 1911

Piłsudski traveled across Europe, working as a correspondent for the leading Lviv daily “Kurier Lwowski”; he carried with him Ainu handicrafts and cylinders with recordings of their folklore texts which he intended to sell.

November 1909 - May 1911

Piłsudski stayed in Paris. He frequently changed his place of residence (mostly in the Latin Quarter). He visited libraries and probably attended lectures at the Sorbonne. He spent time in the company of Polish intellectuals, including Maria Skłodowska-Curie.


Piłsudski arrived in Kraków and took Maria Żarnowska with him to Paris to undergo radiation therapy.


Maria Żarnowska’s condition worsened and another surgery became necessary. Żarnowska left Paris of her own accord; her husband, with whom she had been separated until then, took her back to his home and provided care.

Early June

Piłsudski visited London. At the Japanese-British Exhibition, he met Ainu people from the Saru Valley (4 men, 4 women, and children) who were demonstrating a model of the Ainu village; he interviewed them and took notes of more than 50 stories. He also sold several Ainu handicraft items and cylinders.

End of January

Piłsudski returned to Kraków (via Paris), where he lived at 31 Szlak Street (in his brother’s Józef apartment).


In Limanowa, he visited a former prisoner on Sakhalin, Edmund Płoski, whom he had met in Aleksandrovsk shortly after his arrival there.

12 May

Maria Żarnowska died in St. Petersburg.

20 September

Bronisław Piłsudski, invited by Count Władysław Zamoyski, lived in the School of Women’s Home Labor in Kuźnice, in room 4 above the soap store.

It was there that he prepared his most important book for publication Materials for the Study of the Ainu Language and Folklore, edited by Prof. Jan Rozwadowski of the Academy of Sciences in Kraków.

25 November

In the hall of the Zakopane Falcon Club, on Piłsudski’s initiative, the Folklore Study Section of the Tatra Society was established, and its statute and program were adopted. Bronisław Piłsudski was elected its chairman. The Section’s headquarters were located in the Tatra Manor. Piłsudski planned to hold a new exhibition at the Tatra Museum to present the artifacts he had collected.

AdomasVarnas (1879-1979), one of the Lithuania’s most prominent painters, made Piłsudski’s portrait in the Ainu costume at Stefan Żeromski’s home. In conversations with the painter, Bronisław discussed the issue of the so-called Lithuanian crosses, on which he himself would write a document in 1916. Varnas created a photo album.

Middle of April

Piłsudski moved to “Korniłowiczówka”, the home of his friend Tadeusz Korniłowicz in Bystre, at Droga do Jaszczurówki 2 (now Oswalda Balzera 4). He lived there until the end of his stay in Zakopane. Oktawia and Adam Żeromski also lived in this house, and sometimes Stefan Żeromski. Thirty years later, it was in the attic of this house that the cylinders were found, which Piłsudski had left there. During this year, Żeromski made Bronisław one of the heroes of the short story titled Beauty of Life and named him Gustaw Bezmian.


Bronisław Piłsudski left for Prague to visit museums. He probably also visited Martin in Slovakia and Vinohrady in Bohemia.


Piłsudski stayed briefly in Kraków and Zakopane, and then left for Neuchâtel in Switzerland in order to begin regular ethnological studies.

Photo of Arnold Van Gennep

Before leaving, he unexpectedly submitted his resignation from the position of chairman of the Folklore Study Section, but it was not accepted; Piłsudski ended up continuing to perform his duties through letters sent from abroad.

The Academy of Arts and Sciences in Kraków published the main article titled “Materials for the Study of the Ainu Language and Folklore.”

Title page of the “Materials for the study...”; from the collection of the Hokkaido University Library.

In Zakopane, Stanisław Ignacy Witkiewicz (Witkacy) painted on glass Piłsudski’s portrait against the background of Podhale (it was lost, only this photograph exists).

Picture of the photo of the lost Witkacy’s painting
3–5 January

Piłsudski became a student at the University of Neuchâtel.

Beginning of May - 10 July

Piłsudski stayed in Paris.

25 June

Piłsudski used the signature “Ginet-Piłsudski” for the first time in his letter to the Tatra Society. The Ginet family is descended from the Lithuanian Grand Ducal Dynasty – and Piłsudski family is descended from this family; his last name was recorded as “Ginet-Piłsudski.” Piłsudski saw himself as a liaison between Lithuania and Poland.

10 July - October

Piłsudski stayed in Brussels, Belgium; he worked at the Solvay Institute.

3 August

A new exhibition was opened at the Tatra Museum in Zakopane; Piłsudski, who was then in Brussels, did not attend it.


Piłsudski returned to Bystre in Zakopane and as the chairman of the Folklore Study Section he worked intensively on the organization and the program of the local history and research group; its operation would later be expanded to the regions of Orawa and Spisz. He was also active as an executive employee of the Tatra Society and a head of the editorial board of the newly established magazine “Rocznik Podhalański”.


The Polish Academy of Arts and Sciences in Kraków established the Ethnographic Committee and appointed Piłsudski its secretary. He received a salary of 600 krone a year for his work and was the only salaried employee on the Committee. This was his first permanent job and a steady annual income since his arrival in Europe seven years earlier.

He completed editorial work for the first issue of the “Rocznik Podhalański” magazine, which would eventually be published in 1921; the “Introduction” included a memoir of Bronisław by Wacław Sieroszewski.

The title page of “Rocznik Podhalański”, 1921
End of June

A visit to Brussels.

5 August

The beginning of World War I.

Beginning of December

Piłsudski left for Vienna (according to the order of the Kraków authorities, he was not allowed to stay in the city threatened by a Russian attack, much less that he did not have a passport), where he lived at Schindlergasse 44. He would stay there for more than four months, until April next year.

He was involved in the work on the Polish Encyclopedia, the purpose of which was to acquaint the world with facts about Poland that did not exist as a sovereign country on the maps. Researchers in Vienna, Warszawa, and Lausanne worked independently on the Polish Encyclopedia. Piłsudski undertook to combine the results of their work.

Work on the Polish Encyclopedia

With the outbreak of World War I, Bronisław joined the stream of peaceful actions to regain independence. Together with other Poles who left the war-torn Galicia, he found himself in Vienna. There, in the fall of 1914, under the tutelage of Bishop Władysław Bandurski, the idea of preparing a work entitled “Poland. A Thing about its Past and Future” arose. Awareness of the importance of this undertaking absorbed Bronisław who played an important role in the first stage of its implementation.

Wacław Sieroszewski wrote, “I met him in Vienna in 1915, where together with the Reverend Bishop W. Bandurski they worked on compiling a Polish Encyclopedia to inform the world about the rights, needs, and riches of Poland.” When I pointed out to him that this world could best be informed about our needs and rights by our own organized force, and that his brother Józef had chosen a much more appropriate and shorter way to do so, he painfully replied, “Well… I can’t! Everyone serves as best as he can…” He admired his brother, loved him very much and trusted him infinitely, but… he did not join the army. And yet he was a brave man; I experienced it more than once in our joint adventures. He was a very modest and sacrificial man… but again – he was a man too good, and too tender to be able to burn the crimes of this world with fire and iron!”1

In March 1915, with the awaited Austrian passport in his hand, he left for Switzerland. There, he was to coordinate the undertaken work on the Polish Encyclopedia. It was his first initiative to promote the Polish cause abroad. Presumably, he was delegated to Rapperswil by the Executive Commission of the Supreme National Committee, but it is not certain what specific tasks he was supposed to have or how he performed them. In Switzerland, Bronisław was among the collaborators of the encyclopedia, probably at the invitation of Erazm Piltz – a journalist, politician, diplomat and founder of the Small Polish Encyclopedia.

Passport of Bronisław Piłsudski issued on 31 March 1915 by the KK Polizei Direktion in Vienna; from the collection of the Józef Piłsudski Family Foundation

The very idea of ​​writing articles, editing, publishing and disseminating an encyclopedic publication on Poland in European languages ​​was born in several circles. At the turn of 1914 and 1915, the idea of ​​such a publication emerged in Warsaw, Paris, Lausanne and Vienna. Paris was the first city to resign of publishing the work of its own, so the materials were handed over to Lausanne. The Warsaw project functioned independently, and it was ultimately taken under the care of August Zaleski (later participant of the Versailles Peace Conference, diplomat and President of the Republic of Poland in Exile), who chaired the Polish Information Committee in London, fought strongly by Roman Dmowski. The Warsaw-London initiative ended with the publication of partial articles in English; after the end of the war it was issued in the French-language version as La Pologne son histoire, son organization at sa vie in Lausanne, and in the German-language – Polen, Entwicklung und gegen wärtiger Zustand in Bern. The third project was led in Vienna by Bishop Władysław Bandurski. The then suffragan of the Lviv Archdiocese and rector of the seminary was a fanatical enthusiast of Józef Piłsudski. He gathered around him other people from Lviv, such as Prof. Oswald Balzer, historian of the Polish political system and law, or Stanisław Starzyński, also a professor at the University of Lviv, and a lawyer – an outstanding expert in constitutional, electoral, and administrative law. Eugeniusz Romer, a professor of geography at the University of Lviv, was invited to cooperate in the Viennese initiative too. On Piltz’s recommendation, Bronisław Piłsudski officially asked him to write an article for the geographical part of the encyclopedia being prepared. However, as Romer’s work grew beyond the prescribed framework, the article in the form of a dissertation was published separately under the pseudonym of J. Saryusz, as “La Pologne. Le Sol et l “Etat”, and the appropriate entry for the encyclopedia was prepared by Edward Janczewski. Piłsudski helped Romer in his attempts to publish the dissertation outside Switzerland, unfortunately to no avail. Ultimately, the initiative of Bishop Bandurski to publish the above mentioned work failed due to lack of funds. So he proposed to combine efforts with Piltz’s concept. The collected materials were soon transferred to Lausanne, where a project of publishing two Polish encyclopedias was created: the small, so-called Lausanne, and the large one, called Fribourg.

From mid-August 1915, Bronisław Piłsudski participated in the work on the Lausanne Encyclopedia, also known as the Erazm Piltz Encyclopedia, as a full-fledged member of the editorial team. He was commissioned to prepare several topics for the publication. In the second section, entitled “Natural resources”, he was to develop mineral springs and spa resorts. The Polish text was ready at the beginning of January 1916, and took up 5 pages. It was reviewed and supplemented by one of the professors, and then it was to be delivered to a French translator. In the third section, entitled “Inhabitants”, in the chapter I, he was envisaged as the author of the text on archeology (7 type-written pages), while in the second – “Ethnography” – he created a material consisting of 37 type-written pages. In addition, Piłsudski was assigned the section XX (“Lithuania and Ruthenia”) “Economic Introduction”, as well as the next parts: section XXI – “Agriculture”, section XXII – “Industry”, section XXIII – “Trade and Communication”. Based on the previously collected materials, the author was to prepare the texts within two weeks. The work on the encyclopedia was carried out at a rapid pace, it is not known whether for one author it was not an overload.

Perhaps Piłsudski wanted to complete his academic studies in Freiburg, interrupted by the exile to Sakhalin. Meanwhile, the whirlwind of emigrant life in Switzerland drew him into the traditional “Polish hell”. Fighting groups of Poles – “Viennese, Lausanne and Paris” – created many problems, taking up valuable time. Bronisław thought that it would be possible to combine these groups in joint work on the Polish Encyclopedia published for “the use of European politicians and diplomats”. He remained alone in his naivety. He did not have enough strength to implement his own ideas, so he turned to various people to undertake them. He joined the work of the Sienkiewicz Committee for Aid to War Victims, and founded a “stricter committee to help Lithuania”. What he managed to do best in Freibourg, was collecting money by the Committee for Aid to Poles Working in Research who were in poverty as a result of the war.

Piłsudski’s activity during his stay in Switzerland caused physical exhaustion, but most of all decreased his mental resilience. Political matters, meetings, deliberations, discussions and press polemics did not favor his personality. In November 1917, Piłsudski left for Paris and started working as an official in the Polish National Committee.

Eugeniusz Romer.

A far-reaching encyclopedia about Poland was never finished. Its fragments, published in French, proved useful at the Versailles Peace Conference.

Based on:
Bronisław Pasierb, „Bronisław Piłsudski (1866-1918) – A Meeting with Great Politics”, „Polityka i społeczeństwo”, 8/2011
Jan Staszel, „ Bronisław Piłsudski’s Relations with the Academy of Arts in Kraków”, „Bronisław Piłsudski: Man – Scholar – Patriot”, materials of the Tytus Chałubiński Society of the Tatra Museum, vol . 11
Ibid., Halina Florkowska-Frančić, “Last Years of Bronisław Piłsudski, 1915-1918 (Switzerland-Paris)”

1 W. Sieroszewski, „Bronisław Piłsudski was born in 1866 in Zułów, in the Ściecinski district, and died in 1918 in Paris”, „Rocznik Podhalański” 1914−1921: 1, p. XXV.

31 March

Piłsudski received an Austrian passport in Vienna.

Bronisław Piłsudski’s passport issued on 31 March 1915 by the KK Polizei Direktion in Vienna; from the collection of the Józef Piłsudski Family Foundation

Piłsudski went to Lausanne as the official representative of the Viennese group working on the Polish Encyclopedia and after intense disputes, he reached a consensus. The Polish Encyclopedia was published (in French) in 1919-1921 in Fribourg and Lausanne in Switzerland.

12 December

The Comité général de Secours pour Victimes de la Guerre en Lithuanie (General Committee in Support of War Victims in Lithuania) was established in Fribourg with Piłsudski as its head.

This year, the journal “Zhivaya Starina” of the Imperial Russian Geographical Society published Piłsudski’s article titled “At the Bear Festival at the Ainu People on the Sakhalin Island” (published in Poland in “Sfinks”, 1909).

Beginning of the year

In Lausanne, Piłsudski became the chairman of the Polish-Lithuanian Committee. He worked to reach an agreement between Poles and Lithuanians.

He lived in Rapperswil and then in Lausanne, Vevey, Zurich, Geneva, and Fribourg, where the editorial office of the Polish Encyclopedia was located.


In Lausanne and Geneva, Piłsudski gave series of lectures titled “Poles in Siberia”, which were published the following year in Le Puy-en-Velay; the money from the sales were donated in their entirety for charity.


During his cooperation with the Polish Society in Zurich, Piłsudski began charity activities to evacuate children from war-stricken Galicia to Switzerland. He asked Ignacy Paderewski, who lived in the United States, to set up a special fund.

Ignacy Paderewski.

The telegram to Paderewski was also signed by Plater-Zyberk. Paderewski, without notifying the Polish Society, transferred the collected money (50,000 Swiss francs) to a bank account jointly held by Piłsudski and Plater-Zyberk. This caused a scandal, and the Polish Society harshly criticized Piłsudski, questioning his honesty and patriotism, and even trying to disavow his scientific achievements. The incident referred to as the “Zurich incident” harmed Piłsudski’s fragile psyche and lowered his sense of dignity.

15 August

The Polish National Committee was established in Lausanne; the position of the chairman was taken by Józef Piłsudski’s political opponent, Roman Dmowski. The Polish National Committee offered Bronisław Piłsudski a full-time job at its representative office established in Paris. He accepted the offer.

Roman Dmowski.
Middle of November

Piłsudski stayed in Paris; the work entrusted to him by the Polish National Committee involved various tasks, primarily those of an editor. His ability to talk to anyone was highly valued.


Piłsudski visited Le Puy-en-Velay, where Polish prisoners of war were being held, and the biweekly “Captive Pole” magazine was issued in which Piłsudski published his article titled “Poles in Siberia” (as a supplement to the magazine). Upon his return from Le Puy-en-Velay, he planned to publish a newspaper intended for the same group of readers.

27 April

Piłsudski explained his involvement in the “Zurich incident” in a long letter to Paderewski.

3 May

He wrote his “last will” – an appeal to various factions fighting each other to reach an agreement, and delivered it personally to many friends. This was an initiative to establish the Forbearance League. Unfortunately, it was not supported.

Piłsudski’s depression that had been observed for some time worsened, in part due to malnutrition and overwork. He felt unwell and complained of stuffy and heavy air in the bedroom. He feared for his life, suffered from persecution delirium, and believed that someone wanted to poison or murder him.

16 May

At the request of his friends, Piłsudski consulted a doctor, Prof. Babiński, who diagnosed him with advanced sclerosis.

17 May

Bronisław Piłsudski got up in the morning and went to visit a friend. When he found that the friend was not at home, he left him a note, “I came here to you to ask for an injection and to end the world. I am innocent when it comes to these suspicions that are piling up around me.” At 11:45 in the morning, a guard on the Pont des Arts Bridge saw a man taking off his jacket and jumping into the Seine River.

21 May

At 8:15 in the morning, Piłsudski’s body was found at the mouth of Pont Mirabeau; it was identified by Władysław Zamoyski and Władysław Mickiewicz.

29 May

The scheduled funeral of Bronisław Piłsudski at the Notre-Dame Cathedral was put on hold. Piłsudski’s body was buried at the Les Champeaux Cemetery in Montmorency near Paris.


Unveiling of Bronisław Piłsudski’s monument in front of the Sakhalin Regional Museum in Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk

Bronisław Piłsudski’s monument (photo by Kazuhiko Sawada)

Unveiling of the Bronisław Piłsudski’s bust in Shiraoi

Bronisław Piłsudski’s bust in Shiraoi

Unveiling of Bronisław Piłsudski’s monument in front of the museum in Żory, Poland

Bronisław Piłsudski’s first monument in Poland
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