On 2 September 1829, on their way back from Vienna, Chopin and his companions, Ignacy Maciejowski and Alfons Brandt, paid an unexpected visit to the doctor and philanthropist Adam Helbich at his home in Kalisz. It may well be that Brandt, under whose father (Franciszek Brandt) Helbich had studied in Warsaw, put the idea to his friends. This unplanned visit proved inopportune, as their host was just leaving for the nearby town of Żychlin. Helbich was reluctant to leave his guests on their own, so he proposed that all three go to the wedding to which he had been invited in Żychlin. Helbich looked back on what was then a distant event in the Tygodnik ilustrowany [Illustrated weekly] in 1870: ‘I knew that three well-known, well-educated and pleasant young men would be welcomed out of time-honoured hospitality, so I asked them to come with me. They readily agreed, so off we went’. They set off in the afternoon. The journey from Kalisz to Żychlin (approx. 50 km) took almost seven hours.
Helbich and the ‘three well-educated young men’ missed the actual wedding, as they arrived in Żychlin in the evening. Melania Bronikowska, whose parents owned Żychlin, and Wiktor Kurnatowski had been joined in matrimony at noon. The ceremony was held in the local Polish Reformed Lutheran church. Curiously, the bride knew Chopin and his close friend Tytus Woyciechowski, to whom the composer wrote: ‘You were mentioned frequently; she asked me to give you her regards’. Ever mindful of feminine charms, he noted in the very next sentence: ‘Her cousin of the same age, who also got married a few days earlier, is an even prettier child – they looked pretty in their wedding finery’. Henryk Nowaczyk managed to determine that the woman in question was Aniela Kurnatowska, who married Wojciech Gałczyński in Charłupia a week earlier. The reception, however, had to be postponed, as the groom had had an accident, so Chopin was at the joint reception of both young couples.
Once it became known that there was a brilliant young piano virtuoso among the guests, he was prevailed upon to perform, as this was too good an opportunity to pass up. Another guest, Henryk Unrug, had been at one of the charitable concerts Chopin gave in aid of orphaned children in Duszniki in 1826. It was thanks to Unrug that, as Helbich puts it, ‘everyone present knew about Fryderyk’s noble act before a quarter of an hour had passed’.
During one of the parlour games on the third day of the wedding, Unrug was assigned a task that anyone present would have been only too happy to perform. He thought it over for a moment, then ran out, and, as Helbich tells it: ‘returned shortly holding a branch of ivy tied in a ribbon, and, placing it on Fryderyk’s head pronounced: “I hereby crown your talent and virtue.” There followed a long round of applause that was repeatedly resumed. Tears rolled down Fryderyk’s cheeks and there was not a dry eye to be found in the entire gathering’.
Until 1745, Żychlin was the property of the Żychliński family of the Szeliga coat of arms. It then belonged to the Potworowskis for a while before passing to the Bronikowski family in 1760. There it remained until the outbreak of the Second World War. The earliest description of the Żychliński property dates back to 1725. It mentions there being two manor houses (one wooden and one brick), joined by a gallery. The brick manor that stands there today was probably erected in the 1820s and was presumably designed by Tomasz Karol Pelletier. Unfortunately, several later extensions have obliterated the interior layout and altered the appearance of the building. It is currently the seat of the Economic and Service Schools Complex. There is a plaque at the entrance. The legend reads: ‘Fryderyk Chopin stayed here on 1 September 1829’.
On 3 September 2010, a statue of Fryderyk Chopin by Łódź sculptor Marcin Mielczarek was unveiled outside the manor.