The last day Fryderyk Chopin spent in Warsaw was 2 November 1830. He boarded the mail coach heading for Kalisz at the Wola Tollhouse on the evening of that day and finally alighted in Paris a few months later, having travelled via Dresden, Prague and Vienna. He was never to return to Poland.
Chopin first handed his baggage to the postman at the Saxon Post Office on ul. Krakowskie Przedmieście on that memorable afternoon of 2 November. After that, he took a hansom cab to the outskirts of the city with a group of friends, so that they could say their final farewells while waiting for the mail coach.
In those days, Warsaw was surrounded by forests and trenches. ‘[…] there were only ten places where people could enter or leave the city’, explains Piotr Mysłakowski. ‘Thoroughfare was via tollhouses (Mokotów, Czerniaków, Wola etc.). These usually consisted of two twin buildings, one on either side of the entry/exit road, and served as border inspection posts’. Jerzy S. Majewski adds that ‘The blades of dozens of windmills whirled in the suburb of Wola. Cultivated land stretched out towards Ochota, Szczęśliwice and Raszyn, as well as Włochy and Babice, and there were vast tracts of forest along the Vistula and on the Praga side. Forests grew in Gocławek and Grochów. Białołęka was forested, as was Choszczówka as far as Jabłonna Palace. Bielany Forest stretched out along the Vistula and joined up with Młociny Forest and Kampinos Forest further on. To the south, Piaseczno was surrounded by forest. As you drove there from Warsaw via Mokotów and Wierzbno, i.e. along today’s Puławy trail, the road at Pyry entered Kabaty Woods, which extended considerably more westward than they do now, for several kilometres. There were also numerous farms, manors, mills on meandering streams and, finally, taverns, in the environs of Warsaw’.
On that afternoon of 2 November, Chopin bade an emotional farewell to his friends in one of these taverns, or wayside inns. Those present mainly included his friends from the conservatory, as well as the vice-chancellor, Józef Elsner, who was also one of his teachers. They most likely spent their time waiting for the mail coach somewhere near the Wola Tollhouse. It used to be the norm to imagine them in the ‘yellow tavern’ (on ul. Połczyńska) or possibly the ‘iron tavern’ (near what is now ul. Twarda). Piotr Mysłakowski convincingly argues, however, that both those taverns were too far from the Tollhouse and that it is much more likely that the group waited for the mail coach in the nearby ‘Pod Wolą’ [Wola] restaurant, in the Aleksander Unruh Gardens (now the corner of ul. Wolska and ul. Młynarska).
We know how the send-off went thanks to an account placed in the Kurier Warszawski [Warsaw courier] the next day: ‘a number of the artist’s friends – led by vice-chancellor Elsner – took him to Wola. While saying their goodbyes, the music school students sang “Zrodzony w polskiej kraini” [Born in the land of the Poles]’. Elsner himself composed the cantata to Ludwik Adam Dmuszewski’s lyrics. In his memoirs, he noted that it was ‘performed by his [Chopin’s] fellow composition students from the conservatory at the “Pod Wolą” tavern, where we waited for the mail coach that was to take him away’.
Henryk Nowaczyk notes that the mail coach on which Chopin supposedly travelled was equipped for ten passengers, sat on eight steel springs, and was built according to English designs. The coach got to the Tollhouse around seven in the evening. Chopin boarded and left Warsaw, and soon Poland, forever.