Extraordinary life of Józef Piłsudski’s older brother told in new website
The extraordinary life of Józef Piłsudski's older brother Bronisław is showcased in the first website dedicated to the man many regarded as a real king.
Considered by many to be just as fascinating as his more illustrious brother, the new website https://bronislawpilsudski.pl/ aims to bring his incredible life to a wider audience.
After being exiled to Sakhalin Island in the far east of the Russian Empire, Bronisław soon learned the language of one of the most mysterious peoples in the world, the Ainu, and set about documenting the life and culture of the island's people.
Through this work, he became well-known in Japan, and was known as the King of the Ainu.
His determination preserved from oblivion the language and culture of the peoples of Sakhalin and Hokkaido, which is still remembered and appreciated in Japan today. His monument stands in the town of Shiraoi.
The only living male descendent of the Piłsudski family bearing the famous surname is a Japanese man, Bronisław’s grandson.
These and many other fascinating facts can be found on the website recently launched by the Józef Piłsudski Museum in Sulejówek, Warsaw.
The museum said: “bronislawpilsudski.pl is a collection of systematised information on the life of the social and national activist, exiled convict, peasant-settler, encyclopaedist, linguist, ethnologist and ethnographer.”
The site, officially opened by Japan’s ambassador to Poland on Saturday, details what led him to such distant lands and charts his relationship with the mysterious Ainu people.
In 1887, Bronisław was sentenced to death for his involvement in a plot to assassinate Alexander III of Russia in 1887 together with Vladimir Lenin's brother Aleksandr Ulyanov.
Ulyanov was hanged but Bronisław’s sentence was commuted to fifteen years of hard labour on Sakhalin island. His journey there can be seen on a map on the site.
Józef Piłsudski was also involved in the plot, but unlike his older brother, he helped the conspirators without being aware of their true intentions -and was only sentenced to five years of exile to Eastern Siberia.
Bronisław reached Sakhalin on 9th August 1887. The island in the Pacific Ocean was discovered by Europeans in the 17th century and by the 19th century it had become a place of exile.
He first worked manually in a wood yard, but due to his education he was soon transferred to office duties.
Meanwhile, his interest in anthropology led him to study the island’s native inhabitants. First the Nivkh people and later the Ainu and the Orok people.
He had the best relations with the Aniu people and was given a grant by the Imperial Russian Academy of Sciences to study them.
The Ainu are the oldest indigenous people of Sakhalin and the Japanese Islands, but for centuries they were considered second-class citizens in Japan.
A mysterious people, they were contemptuously called the ‘hairy ones’ because of their body hair. The women had tattoos around their mouths to look like men’s beards.
This difference was the cause of centuries of discrimination and today the descendants of this original culture are a community of only 20,000 people.
That year he settled in an Ainu village, fell in love with an Ainu woman, Chufsanma, married her according to the local customs and had a son and daughter, Sukezo and Kiyo, with her.
He went on to record the Ainu language and used them to create the first dictionary of the language.
Bronisław wrote down the myths, culture, music and customs of the Ainu and built an elementary school in the village where he taught Russian language and mathematics to the local children.
He represented the Ainu in disputes with the local Russian administrators. When they received a fishing ban from the Russians, Piłsudski advised them how to survive. He urged them to plant potatoes, farm fields, and preserve food by salting it.
The Ainu people revered Bronisław so much that they called him their king.
When he finally left Sakhalin in autumn 1905, he wanted to take his new family with him. However, his wife's relatives would not agree to it due to her pregnancy. Piłsudski never saw them again and had no contact with them. His descendants now live in Japan.
One of them, his grandson Kazuyasu Kimura-Piłsudski, is the last living male in the family to bear the Piłsudski name.
Just months before Poland regained its independence, he drowned in the Seine in Paris.
More details about Bronisław Piłsudski can be found at the site bronislawpilsudski.pl and the museum promises that an English version will be available soon.