Small Museums of Famous People in Małopolska

Room furnished with antique furniture, kept in an old-bourgeois style.
Creator of the global oil industry and the man who developed the V1 and V2 missiles. Commander of the Polish underground and witness of the Katyn massacre. A man who painted the history of Poles and who was called the Michelangelo of wicker. Rev. Tischner and a peasant boy named Szmaciarz, who became a famous writer proudly known as Orkan. All of these people lived in Małopolska and have their own small, but fascinating museums here – Małopolska museums of famous people.

Museums of Małopolska. You can find small, but very valuable collections in the places where famous people were born, lived, and worked. They are not overly impressive, widely known, with displays that stretch several floors, large catalogues and souvenir shops. Sometimes, they fit merely into two rooms, and are located in the interiors of a small house, or in a lounge. They were created on the initiative of local community workers, and the collections and exhibitions were created by those touched by them and their close ones. Here, we would like to recommend a few small museums in Małopolska where you can find more about great people, artists, patriots and collectors.

Jura Krakowsko-Częstochowska – Olkusz. The Władysław Wołkowski Museum 

He was born in the small town of Sulisławice (municipality of Olkusz) in 1902, and from here, he set off into the world. First to Kazimierz nad Wisłą, then to the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw. He was fascinated by modern design which he made using wicker, ropes, linen and reeds.  He looked for harmonic and simple construction, and also created the concept of a poetic flat, which was to be a contrast to the flats created by technical civilization. He was called the Michelangelo of Wicker, and his works won numerous awards and recognition at exhibitions at home and abroad.  The collection at the museum, which is housed in the 19th century Machnicki Manor in Olkusz, was arranged by the artist himself. If you go to the Władysław Wołkowski Museum, you will see wicker furniture, string, wicker landscapes and portraits, images of Slavic deities and heroes of folk tales. Besides this, Olkusz is a perfect destination for a weekend trip.

Nowy Sącz. Maria Ritter Gallery and Stare Wnętrza Mieszczańskie (the Old Bourgeois Interiors)

She lived, created her works, and returned from her travels to this house. In Nowy Sącz, in a city with many tourist attractions, at the intersection of the Market Square and Jagiellońska street, located at number 2, you can see the works of the painter and sculptor Maria Ritter, as well as travel back in time thanks to its bourgeois interiors. In the rooms, you will not only find countless family heirlooms, knick-knacks, furniture and porcelain, but also see Maria Ritter's workshop. You will learn the story of a woman who studied painting under, among others, Wojciech Weiss, sculpture under Xawery Dunikowski, and then honed her skills in Paris. On her landscapes, you will find the scenery of Nowy Sącz and its surrounding area, Podhale, and the Polish sea. The Maria Ritter Gallery is a delectable journey filled with art and beautiful items.

Podhale – Łopuszna. Dom Pamięci księdza Józefa Tischnera (Rev. Józef Tischner Memory House)

The author of “Filozofia po góralsku” (Philosophy in the Highlander Style) needs no introduction. Rev. Józef Tischner, a philosopher and poet, was born in Stary Sącz, but grew up on the slopes of Gorce in Łopuszna, which always had a special place in his heart. He lived in a house on ulica Szkolna, where he had a beautiful view of the Dunajec river.  This small museum that tells us about Rev. Tischner is located in the very center of Łopuszna, in a highlander cottage built onto the Gminny Ośrodek Kultury (Municipal Cultural Center). He was here often, as he met here with his friends. You will learn about his history and relations with the highlanders by visiting the Dom Pamięci księdza Józefa Tischnera, which was built in the centre of the village, on the initiative of friends, family, the Nowy Targ municipality authorities, parish priest and residents. Thanks to the family, it was possible to collect the priest's personal mementos, his books, notes and photographs, which all ended up in Tischnerówka. The furnishings found in the room were sometimes brought by the inhabitants – Kazimierz Ambroż donated a cupboard, Maria Smarduch a wooden chest, and Bronisław Ambroż a sofa. Here, at the local cemetery, you can find the grave of Rev. Tischner
Also, in the Regional Museum in Stary Sącz, which was Rev. Tischner's family home and where he was born, you can see the exhibition, "Ksiądz Józef Tischner – życie i myśl" (Rev. Józef Tischner – Life and Thought)

Gorce – Poręba Wielka. The Władysław Orkan Museum

It is worth coming to the very heart of Gorce, to stand in the orchard and listen to the rustle of trees that were planted by Władysław Orkan himself. To see the house he built from his honorarium and admire the landscapes that inspired him. It was in this wooden house, built in the Zakopane style, that the writer lived until his death in 1930. When entering the Władysław Orkan Museum, it is worth knowing that during his lifetime, eminent writers and artists used to visit "Orkanówka": Kazimierz Przerwa-Tetmajer, Kornel Makuszyński, Leopold Staff, Juliusz Osterwa, Jan Wiktor, Jan Kasprowicz, Tymon Niesiołowski . In 1973, the villa was transformed into a museum dedicated to the memory of the writer who praised the charms of the Gorce region. We can see the original kitchen, dining room, artist's office and Orkan's mother's room, as well as many of the writer’s keepsakes. The house is situated on the slope of the forestless Pustka mountain, which fans of Orkan's work will recognize in many of his texts. Władysław Orkan, soldier of the Polish Legions, lover of the Tatra Mountains, is buried in Zakopane at the Pęksowy Brzyzek cemetary.

Krakow. Józef Czapski Pavilion

Have you heard about Józef Czapski, an artist who wanted to go to dog heaven? He was as thin as a rake, but his voice was strong and powerful, the kind a man over two meters tall should have. He was determined to tell his difficult story. Difficult, because it is inscribed in the history of Poland, as well as in the history of Krakow. You can hear it well when you go up the stairs of the building at 12 Piłsudskiego street, as if he was waiting for this moment, as if he wanted everyone to learn about the barbarities of the 20th century through a prism as personal as the story of a painter, art and literature expert, critic, writer and witness of Katyn. You must definitely go to the Józef Czapski Pavilion, which is part of the National Museum in Krakow. The interactive journey begins on the second floor and leads you through a specific time, from the moment of Czapski's birth to the moment of his death. By walking through it, step by step, you reach the heart of an extraordinary person. You will take a look at his studio, where he painted and wrote for almost 40 years. A tiny one, for such a great artist; cluttered, in which the artist's straw hat hangs nonchalantly on the easel. How many times, sitting in one of the two armchairs, did he wonder how and why he had cheated death – a shot in the back of the head, which befell almost all of his comrades in Soviet captivity? The thought haunted him intrusively. And although it is hard to believe, he knew the secret of salvation. He had waited 50 years for this. The letter came unexpectedly, signed by the historian Natalia Lebedeva. The German embassy in Moscow has asked for you - he could read in it.  Most likely the aristocratic family of Józef's mother, Józefa von Thun, intervened. Czapski died three years later. Did he go to the same heaven as his beloved dog Bingo? Others did not interest him: If animals, cats, dogs, cows and thus Bingo are not allowed to enter paradise, I will not go there either – he said.

Krakow. The Jan Matejko House

While in Krakow, you must enter the master's house, located at 41 Floriańska street, close to the Jama Michalika Café, which was very famous during the Young Poland period. You will hear stories of a small, stooped genius, see the thick glasses he wore when he painted his greatest works, touch the materials he collected, his paints, read his letters, and discover how he argued with officials. And if you want, the guides in the Jan Matejko House will tell you about the vile character of Jan's wife, Teodora, who gave him a hard time with her diseases and unbearable whims. Did he regret this relationship? Apparently not, even though she caused such scenes of jealousy, the victims of which were canvases (a portrait of Teodora in a wedding dress). And to think that this was his great love, for which he had been striving for a long time. At first, his then future mother in law turned her nose at the bachelor artist who did not have a penny to his name. It was only when he painted Piotr Skarga's Sermon that she began to look at him more kindly and consented to the wedding. Jan Matejko's paintings can also be seen in the Galeria Sztuki Polskiej IX wieku w Sukiennicach (Sukiennice 19th Century Polish Art Gallery). 

Tarnów and the surrounding area – Bratucice. Izba Pamięci Generała Leopolda Okulickiego (General Leopold Okulicki Memorial Chamber)

He was born in Bratucice, in the municipality of Rzezawa near Tarnów, and perhaps he would have even become a priest, as the family wanted, but this was hindered by his interest in politics and independence organizations. He started his officer training and then ran away from home to join the Polish Legions. He was not successful then, but Leopold Okulicki would soon achieve his goal. This Polish military, the last commander of the Home Army, one of the sixteen underground leaders kidnapped by the Soviets and brought before the Soviet tribunal, would consistently strive for his goal. Bratucice has not forgotten the hero who was born in their land. In the Izba Pamięci Generała Leopolda Okulickiego, there is a collection of personal mementos that were donated by the general's family – Irena Kaczmarczyk, Helena Okulicka – Jarosz and Władysław Okulicki. Here, you can also see the Order Orła Białego (Order of the White Eagle) – awarded posthumously to the general in 1995 by the President of the Republic of Poland.

Gorlice. The PTTK Regional Museum of Ignacy Łukasiewicz  

It was in Gorlice in the 19th century that the precursor of the oil industry, Ignacy Łukasiewicz, lived. Here, the world's first street kerosene lamp was lit, and so Gorlice became the cradle of the European oil industry. Who was Łukasiewicz? He was born in 1822 to a poor family. His lack of funds forced him to become an apprentice in a pharmacy already in high school. He studied pharmacy at the Jagiellonian University, and during one of the student trips to the vicinity of Wieliczka, he learned about the properties of crude oil, then called rock oil. He came to continue his research in Gorlice, where there were abundant oil deposits, and it was in this city that his industrialist career began. In the PTTK Regional Museum of Ignacy Łukasiewicz you can see the laboratory equipment he used, and learn about the story of the boy from a poor house who changed the world. In Gorlice, you will find the first petroleum street lamp in the world to be ignited, and the Skansen Naftowy "Magdalena" (“Magdalena” Oil Heritage Museum), where you can see the beginnings of the petrochemical industry.

Jura Krakowsko-Częstochowska – Rabsztyn. Chata Kocjana (Kocjan’s Cottage)

When he complained about his height, his mother reportedly told him: "Don't worry that you’re called “Łokietek” (of short stature), you will be a great king." And so, he became the king of gliders. But not only. This outstanding constructor, a prisoner of Auschwitz, also became a hero, the head of the Home Army's air intelligence, who discovered the secrets of the German V1 and V2 weapons.  That is why he is also said to be a man who won the war. He was born in a cottage in the village of Skalskie in the Jura Krakowsko-Częstochowska. He was always passionate about the skies. In 1932, he became the main constructor of the Gliding Workshop at Pole Mokotowskie in Warsaw. Of all 1,400 gliders built in Poland in the 1930s, more than half were of its construction. These were the gliders: Wrona, Komar, Czajka, Sroka, Sokół, Mewa and Orlik and the motor glider Bąk. 40 national glider records and international records were made using Kocjan’s gliders. In the Chata Kocjana (the family house was demolished and moved to the vicinity of Rabsztyn), a permanent exhibition devoted to Antoni Kocjan is being created, where you can see photos and documents related to the life and work of Antoni Kocjan as well as models of gliders. During your visit in Rabsztyn, you must also visit the ruins of the Gothic castle


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