The Lutosławski family settled in Drozdowo during the mid eighteenth century. Towards the end of his life, the composer reflected: ‘It was a beautiful place, with a wonderful view from the garden over the Narew Valley. The early years spent in contact with nature were not without influence on my character. I still recall the beautiful forests, fields, rivers, meadows and gardens’. That village is still quite a tourist attraction, since it is most beautifully situated, in the wide channel of the River Narew, drawing admirers of waterfowl from all over Europe.
The foundations for the Lutosławskis’ relatively short-lived affluence were laid by Witold’s enterprising grandfather, Franciszek Dionizy (1830–1891), who founded a distillery, a starchworks and also – his most successful investment – a brewery, of which only ruins now attest the scale of the venture. The destruction caused by the First World War and the Bolshevik War put an end to the heyday of Drozdowo.
Witold’s parents lived in the Upper Court, now no longer in existence. ‘The bedrooms were upstairs, downstairs there was a living room with a fireplace, in front of which lay a lynx-skin rug – recalled Witold’s cousin, with whom he was brought up with and played with in Drozdowo. – There, the piano was king, and the walls were adorned by reproductions of the English Pre-Raphaelites. The dining room, adjoining the living room, had furniture made from a light-coloured wood, in Zakopane style, and there was a door onto the veranda, from which one passed into a little garden, separated from the courtyard by pickets. In the garden, there were roses, with wistaria climbing over the fencing.
We liked to play with building blocks that were a sort of prototype of the modern-day Lego. They were little slats of wood with notches in, which interlocked in such a way that the whole thing held together. One of us would build a palace and hide treasure in it – bits of coloured glass – and the other one would have to find it. That probably echoed Carter’s discovery of the tomb of Pharaoh Tutankhamun, which happened in 1922. We would play cards that we’d made ourselves, making up foursomes of tradesmen’s families, such as Mr Tailor, Mrs Tailor, Master Tailor and Miss Tailor. And of course there were games with Witek’s beloved rabbits, of which he had a whole collection. One rabbit was made of china, another of wood, another of fabric, and so on.
Besides playing, we had lessons in piano, eurhythmics and singing. One image that sticks in my mind is of Witek running semiquavers to the rhythm, because we had to illustrate a musical text with movements’.
Another form of fun – sliding along the Narew Valley – was recalled by Lutosławski himself: ‘In the autumn, the Narew would overflow, covering the entire valley more than a mile across. If that flooding, which happened twice a year, was sufficiently late, and if the icy weather arrived sufficiently early, then everything froze. There was a slide more than a mile wide, and endlessly long – as long as the Narew’.
Souvenirs of the Lutosławski family can be seen today in the old Lower Court, which is home to a Nature Museum.
Lutosławski lived here ‘permanently’ only during his childhood, from his birth until his evacuation in 1915 and between 1922 and 1924. He later spent all his summers and church holidays in Drozdowo. ‘The countryside, the garden, forests, meadows and the Narew Valley were very close to me, although I couldn’t imagine being able to spend my entire life in the countryside. I’ve always known perfectly well that my life would be the life of a city-dweller’.