A Polish oasis of order and the liberal sciences in tsarist Russia. Lyceum of Krzemieniec

"The incoming pupil should have, among other things: soap pounds 4, shuvax quart jars 4, needles of various sizes 12, white thread and uniform colour, of writing implements goose quills 120 pieces, liber paper 8 and ink quart bottle."

The element of indefatigable, antsy building of 'substance' and indefatigable, predatory destruction, manifested more than once at the interface between the Republic and Russia, have in few places collided with such force as here.

The Krzemieniec Lyceum is present in Polish colloquial memory, such as that of crosswords and hastily taken tests, by virtue of two associations: as one of the keystones of the great educational structure created by Prince Adam Czartoryski in the lands of the Russian partition, and as the birthplace of the poet Juliusz Słowacki. His parent, the early deceased Eusebius Słowacki, taught literature and rhetoric there.

The associations are apt, but superficial. Słowacki's family left for Vilnius in 1811, and later, admittedly, Juliusz returned to the city with his widowed mother and even attended high school. In the "Hour of Thought" he also devoted several commonly quoted verses to Krzemieniec ("There the mountain rises, Bona baptised by name"). It seems, however, that he was much more fully shaped by his university studies in Vilnius.

SIGN UP TO OUR PAGE Prince Protector

Adam Czartoryski's role in the establishment of the school in Krzemieniec (there was a Lyceum only from 1819 onwards, before that a Gymnasium, i.e. a secondary school without the right to confer degrees) was also limited to general care and favour. As Ryszard Przybylski writes in an excellent essay on the Lyceum, to which reference will be made more than once, Prince Adam, a punctator and skilled gambler, located his ambitions elsewhere: "Education and upbringing did not fascinate the Prince's political mind too much. He felt himself first and foremost a diplomat, a statesman. He placed more important national tasks on his head".

Yes, without his patronage, the great reform of education in the Russian Empire, which was to be carried out by and through Polish educational institutions, first and foremost the University of Vilnius, would not have stood a chance. But in this project, the school in Krzemieniec (more broadly, in Volhynia; a closer location was not initially determined) was given the place of just a cog in the machine. The special role of the gymnasium and the momentum with which it was created were the work of two people in particular: Tadeusz Czacki, the inspector of educational establishments in the Volhynia, Podolia and Kiev governorates, with the major participation of Hugo Kołłątaj. The Krzemieniec project can even be seen as a correction of Czartoryski's concept: hence the fearful waiting for the grace and consent of Alexander I, hence the joy when the imperial decree was signed on 29 July 1805. "When the imperial rescript of 29 July finally arrived, and the starost of Novgorod had it printed, Kołłątaj immediately drew up a draft of how the new decree was to be distributed among the districts by the marshals by way of cursory notes".
A plaque on the building dedicated to Tadeusz Czacki, as the inscription reads: "the founder of the university known as the Volhynia Lyceum". Photo by Bulka UA - Own work, CC BY 3.0, Wikimedia Commons
Why write about it, on a non-circular anniversary? First and foremost to show how the 'spirit of organic work', usually associated only with the quarter-century of positivism, the period after the January Uprising, had emerged much more fully and with greater vigour more than half a century earlier. And how detailed and at the same time comprehensive was the design of the grammar school - in fact utopian and Enlightenment in spirit. Krzemieniec was intended by its creators to become a new utopia, an island of Nipu, like from an unsuccessful novel by Bishop Ignacy Krasicki, an oasis of order, happiness, liberated sciences and abstinence. Also to consider whether a place marked by work so persistent deserves to be supported once again.

Classicism of the desperate

This 'spirit of organic work', from the inspiration of which Krzemieniec was also born, came from the effort not to give in to despair after the Third Partition. Ryszard Przybylski, author of a book as fundamental as 'Classicism, or the Real End of the Polish Kingdom', wrote about this for years. The entire elite of the Republic of Stanislaus times, who after 1795 did not end up suicidal, in exile or antagonistic to Napoleon (but there were fewer and fewer people willing to do so) - tried their best to re-found a garden of sciences. The founding meeting of the Society of Friends of Learning took place in Prussian Warsaw, in the most treacherous month of the year, on 1 November 1800. It was there that the wisdom of the draftsmen of the Commission of National Education (KEN) and the Constitution came to the fore - strengthened by the Romantic conviction that a nation exists first in language, so language must be guarded and education exercised in it.

There was also Tadeusz Czacki, later starosta of Novgorod, a self-taught researcher of the laws of the old Rzeczpospolita (he became acquainted with most of the Załuski Library's book collection!), before the partitions - a member of the Crown Treasury Commission, creator of the scholarship system for civil engineers, after the Targowica Confederation - a private individual, bibliophile and collector of old prints.

Tumultuous history of Polish lion figures in Lviv

As an irritating symbol of Polish “occupation of Lviv” the lions were removed before a tank action on August 25, 1971.

see more
From September 1803, he will begin his work on expanding the educational system established in the western lands of the Russian Empire through Prince Czartoryski. Since there was no agreement on the creation of new universities, apart from Vilnius (and if one were to be established in Kiev, the Tsar would inevitably demand lectures in Russian), a secondary school with a teaching level similar to that of a university had to be created. It was explicitly stated: "The grammar school will not be a 'universitas', but will be the great central school of the whole governorate".

Low brushwood prices

After a tour of Volhynia and the southern governorates, Krzemieniec was chosen. Kołłątaj decided: "the costly and spacious building of the post-Jesuit college (...); the Basilian college standing next to it, which could be used as a governess' seminary; a cheaper life than in Łuck, the ease of renting lodgings for students, the ease of bringing the town into the fold (...) and that the town is most convenient for science, as much as that it will never became a governor's town". The noble men thought of everything: the cost of brushwood (low, because the forests), fruit (ripening on the southern slopes), lime and stone for the cobblestones, and that the officers of the gubernial garrison should not be followed by coquettes who would beguile the students.

For nearly two years, Czacki collected money at the manors and estates of the entire south-western part of the empire, convincing people to "work organically" and raising colossal sums. A pedant and detail-oriented man, Kołłątaj wrote textbooks on teaching methodology and regulations which are still of great joy today: "... an incoming pupil should have, among other things: soap pounds 4, shuvax quart jars 4, needles of various sizes 12, white thread and uniform colour, of writing implements goose quills 120 pieces, liber paper 8 and ink quart bottle."".

He also drafted the inauguration ('from six o'clock in the morning cannon firing and bells ringing'). But he also created a scheme for teaching modern languages. Czacki, endowed with the impetus of an investor, ordered the digging of wells, the rebuilding of the market square and the masonry of new buildings, lamented that the wood was not sufficiently seasoned, and put his accumulated money into quarries and brickyards. When we think of today's 'university towns', whose driving force is not a railway junction, a mine or a car factory, but a university, it is worth realising just how much of a town Krzemieniec became in the early 19th century.

Midwives, governesses and falcons

For it was a real academic 'combo'. History textbooks and encyclopaedic notes mainly mention the most famous lecturers and graduates of the Grammar and Lyceum. True, there is plenty to choose from. Among the first, to name but a few, resonate with association in Polish crossword memory: Alojzy Feliński, Józef Korzeniowski (perhaps the most outstanding prose writer of Polish Romanticism), Joachim Lelewel, Aleksander Mickiewicz (historian of law, Adam's younger brother), the aforementioned Eusebiusz Słowacki, Michał Wiszniewski, philosopher but also the first Polish psychologist. Among the pupils - half of the probably index of names of Polish Romanticism and the Great Emigration: Mikołaj Jełowicki, Maurycy Gosławski, Antoni Malczewski (poet), the Narcyz and Gustaw Olizar brothers, the revolutionary Stanisław Worcell, the Polish-Ukrainian poet Tomasz/Tymko Padura, without whom "Hey, falcons..." would not be hummed to this day.
The building of the former Krzemieniec Lyceum in 2016. It was entered in the State Register of Immovable Monuments of Ukraine under number: 61-107-9001. photo Konstantin Brizhnichenko - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikimedia Commons
But I am more concerned with this organic dimension: the basis (foundation) of action rather than the height of achievement. And this foundation consisted of: a school for the people's teachers, a separate school for the training of "mechanics", i.e. craftsmen of all kinds, from watchmakers to distillers and bartenders; a separate school for midwives, a separate one for medics and surgeons, a separate Institute for Governesses, under the patronage of the Empress. And, as a further continuation of this organic arrangement: Cobblestones Commission, guilds and merchants' societies, Charity Society (here the patronage of Bishop Kacper Casimir Cieciszowski came in handy), Music Society, inns (visited by high school apparitors to ensure that liquor was not served to minors), harbour, theatre, inns, confectioneries, yes, an association promoting the game of palanquin....

It is at the base. And which way to the top - not of Bona's mountain, but of the pyramid of knowledge? Kollataj departed far from the simple 'trivium' and 'quadrivium'. First the languages: Polish, Russian, French, Latin, Greek, or religion, geography and geometry. These were the basics, a time for mastering the discipline of work and memory, followed by university courses: extended geometry, flat trigonometry (plotting), algebra, logic, science of pronunciation, ancient history, physics, integral calculus (differential calculus, or higher algebra), chemistry, natural history, botany, domestic law, history of Greek, Latin, Polish and French literature. For the final classes: Greek and English, bibliology, drawing, theoretical and practical mechanics, and architecture and gymnastics. Fencing, singing, music, dancing and horseback riding are after hours. Only to learn: in the lyceum garden, 12,000 species of plants, textbooks from London, but also from the book collection of Stanisław August, physical instruments from Paris - all paid for with the grain of Volhynia.

Axlibrises of August

The Russian garrison, a breeding ground for Czacki's disliked drunkenness, duels and venereal diseases, arrived in the city in the spring of 1831 - admittedly, the cavalry of the Polish uhlans was far away, but who knows which way the spirit of revolt was flowing? The officers played a few games of palanquin, then broke sticks. The Lyceum was closed down in the autumn. Some of the professors, after going through the humiliating procedure of declaring their loyalty to the ruling house, were taken on posts at the Kiev University, which was just being established. The Lyceum's book collection also found its way to the Dnieper: on the oldest volumes of today's National Library of Ukraine in Kiev, you can still see the initials "S.A.P." on the bookplates. In the post-secondary buildings there was enough space for an Orthodox seminary, a storehouse for gubernatorial records and a prison.

With a knife, pillow, snuff box. How to kill a tsar

Later, just a secret, tongues ripped out, witnesses sent to hard labor and no nighttime conversations among fellow countrymen.

see more
The Second Republic dreamt the dreams of the First: The Krzemieniec Lyceum was reconstituted not simply as part of the reconstruction of the educational system in the Borderlands, but by a 1920 decree of Marshal Piłsudski. It also boasted an illustrious group of graduates, from Marek Kac (Lwów School of Mathematics, after the war a probationary scholar at Cornell University) to the poet and martyr to the Polish cause, Zygmunt Rumel. And it too disappeared as soon as hooves began to clatter on the evenly laid cobblestones and the tracks of tankettes began to slide: suspended after the first Soviet entry, it was finally liquidated by the Germans. At the end of July 1941, exactly 136 years after the decree Czacki had asked for, dozens of the Lyceum's teachers were shot by the Sonderkommando at the foot of Krzyżowa Mountain.

I've thrown in a few pennies for a high-profile collection for Bayraktar, and it probably won't be the last military need to support Ukraine. But I'm hoping for the day when a collection for 12,000 plants and 120,000 titles for the state-of-the-art Tadeusz Czacki's Intermarium Academy based in Krzemieniec can be unleashed.

-Wojciech Stanisławski
-Translated by Tomasz Krzyżanowski

TVP WEEKLY. Editorial team and jornalists

The quotes cited are from two works: MariA Danilewiczowa ( Academic life of the former Lyceum of Krzemieniec ,. Warsaw 1937) and Ryszard Przybylski ( Krzemieniec. A Tale of the Reason of the Defeated , Warsaw, 2003).
Main photo: Krzemieniec. The Jesuit Church of St. Ignatius Loyola and St. Stanislaus Kostka and the Krzemieniec Lyceum, Mount Bona with the ruins of the castle in the background. Years 1919 - 1939. Photo: NAC/Koncern Ilustrowany Kurier Codzienny; Ref. 1-U-3247
See more
History wydanie 22.12.2023 – 29.12.2023
Pomeranian Crime: Whoever is Polish must disappear
Between September and December, 1939, 30,000 people in 400 towns of Pomerania were murdered.
History wydanie 22.12.2023 – 29.12.2023
Escape from Stalag – Christmas Eve Story 1944
Prisoners sought shelter in a German church... It was a mistake.
History wydanie 15.12.2023 – 22.12.2023
New Moscow in Somalia
The Russian press called him "the new Columbus".
History wydanie 15.12.2023 – 22.12.2023
Anonymous account by Witold Pilecki
The friend with whom they had escaped from KL Auschwitz was killed on August 5. He died with the words: “for Poland”.
History wydanie 8.12.2023 – 15.12.2023
Journalist purge to restore media monopoly
Only “trusted people” were allowed to work; over 100 employees were interned.