For his participation in a plot to assassinate Tsar Alexander III, Bronisław Piłsudski was at first sentenced to death by the Russian authorities. This was later commuted to 15 years of hard labour. While in exile on Sakhalin, an island in the Pacific Ocean known as the ‘Island of Convicts’, he became interested in the culture of the indigenous population. As a self-taught scientist, he studied the life, language, customs and traditions of the vanishing indigenous peoples – the Ainu, Nivkhs and Oroks. His work formed the basis of important ethnological and linguistic research.
During occasional stays in Zakopane in the years 1906-1914, he engaged in research on Tatra folklore. For this purpose, he set up the ethnographic department of the Tatra Society in 1911. He greatly contributed to the development of the Tatra Museum in Zakopane. Juliusz Zborowski, a longtime director of this institution, saw Bronisław Piłsudski as the first modern ethnographer in the Podhale region, a prominent pioneer of museum work and ethnographic research conducted in Podhale and for Podhale.
The scientific achievements of Bronisław Piłsudski are appreciated by scientists around the world and have been the subject of numerous international symposia. Since 1998, the Collected Works of Bronisław Piłsudski have successively been published under the editorship of Professor Alfred F. Majewicz.
Statues commemorating Bronisław have been erected on Sakhalin in Russia and the island of Hokkaido in Japan, while a commemorative plaque hangs in the building of the Scientific Library of the Polish Academy of Learning (PAU) and the Academy of Sciences (PAN) in Kraków. He was buried in Montmorency cemetery outside of Paris, though his symbolic grave lies in Zakopane’s Old Cemetery.
Despite his great contribution to the world of science, Bronisław Piłsudski is known only to a small group of professionals and enthusiasts. In Poland, the name of Piłsudski is almost exclusively associated with his younger brother Józef, one of the most eminent Polish politicians of the 20th century, the First Marshal of Poland (he was chiefly responsible for the creation of the Second Republic of Poland in 1918, after 123 years of Partitions).
The exhibition in the Tatra Museum is divided into three thematic sections:
- The ethnographic collection of Bronisław Piłsudski in the Tatra Museum
- Among the Ainu people
- Bronisław Piłsudski in Zakopane (1906-1914)
Visitors can see a portrait by Adomas Varnas, entitled Bronisław Piłsudski 'King of the Ainu’, from 1912 (found in 2015 after many years of searching), an Ainu costume, photographs, manuscripts, recordings, video footage, and also unpublished documents
Honorary Patron: The President of the Polish Republic Andrzej Duda
Sponsor of the exhibition: Polish Cable Railways
Partner of the exhibition: The Józef Piłsudski Museum in Sulejówek
Exhibition Curator: Lesław Dall
Coordinator: Danuta Janusz
Artistic design: Ewa Dyakowska-Berbeka, Stanisław Berbeka
The concept of presenting the ethnographic collection of Bronisław Piłsudski from the collection of the Tatra Museum: Anna Kozak, in cooperation with Anna Wójciak
Photography: Rafał Jabłoński-Zelek
Texts: Lesław Dall, Anna Kozak