Postcard from... Warsaw

 

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The Independent Online

As Frederic Chopin gasped for air on his deathbed in Paris in 1849, he whispered a request that became the stuff of musical legend: Remove my heart after I die and entomb it in Poland.

Ever since, the composer’s body has rested in peace at the Père Lachaise cemetery – while his heart has endured a wild journey of intrigue and adulation. First it was sealed in a jar of liquor believed to be cognac. Then it was smuggled into Warsaw.

Once in his hometown, Chopin’s heart passed through the hands of several relatives before being enshrined within a pillar in Holy Cross Church.

Chopin experts want to carry out genetic testing to establish whether the sickly genius died at 39 of tuberculosis, as is generally believed. But they remain frustrated.

The Polish church and government have for years refused requests for any invasive tests.

This year, however, they finally consented to a superficial inspection. Bogdan Zdrojewski, the culture minister involved in the inspection, has defended his refusal to allow invasive testing to be carried out. 

“Additional information which could possibly be gained about his death would not be enough of a reason to disturb Chopin’s heart,” he said. AP

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