Natalia Budzyńska
Brother Albert. A biography

A saint who walked in sandals and slept under the same roof as villains, drunks and whores

To me, these images in no way suited the Brother Albert whom I began to know. After all, he was never, even for a moment, an old softie. The love with which he surrounded the poor and all those around him was manly and radical, demanding and forgiving. Or, put simply, fatherly. That’s why I love the photograph showing him holding a cigarette. In it he seems accessible, real, genuine. Looking at it, I can feel the sun’s warmth, smell the grass and the cigarette smoke. I hear a babbling brook and feel myself shooing away flies. I imagine that if I touch his habit, I will feel its roughness. I could sit on a bench by the wooden wall and simply have a chat with him. I wonder if this is the photograph where he was caught off guard by the photographer of General Zamojski’s wife. Most proba- bly aware of Brother Albert’s aversion to cameras, she tricked him into having it taken. Knowing that he was coming to visit her, she instructed her photographer to stand in a specific spot and to take his photograph without asking, out of the blue. This ruse did not amuse Brother Albert, in fact he was angry with her. But maybe thanks to this cunning plan, we now have a Brother Albert that we can reach out to with our hand, approachable and human. So much so, that, at any moment now, I feel he will lower his head, look sideways, tap the ash from his cigarette, turn around and simply walk off, out of the frame.

(…) He loved his tramps and paupers. He was able to find a common language with them. He didn’t condemn them. He didn’t moralise. He didn’t evangelise. He was able to speak with them, share a joke, offer them vodka and a cigarette. In each of them he saw a human being and sought to find their virtues, whilst describing faults with humour. He didn’t take himself too seriously. As observed by Countess Tarnowska: “It is hard to believe that this highly cultured person, living day and night in the most appalling physical and intellectual conditions, in indescribable poverty, in surroundings so unlike those to which he was ac- customed as a gentleman and an artist, could retain in similar company his colourful and rather amusing manner of speaking on any subject, including his own problems, in such a way that often when in his presence, one would laugh heartily upon hearing about the adventures and opinions of his nocturnal guests, or his own efforts and even his disappointments, whether this be during a request for donations, or among honorationes of various standing”. Celina Bzowska also noted: “Brother Albert’s face radiated with amusement when he told his stories. He became energised, illustrating everything with his tone of voice and movements. He relished the abilities and qualities of his charges”.

Some people were unable to stomach these accounts. Such a reduction to the level of the lowest of the low did not suit them. They said that Brother Albert sheltered drunks at night and cared for thieves. When local councillors insisted on a response to these char- ges, Brother Albert replied that, yes, he will continue to open his gates to alcoholics knocking in the middle of the night and, no, he will not pretend to be a poli- ceman, and therefore had no intention of informing on thieves. They then asked him directly whether he would accept a murderer who had just attacked somebody. He replied that, yes, of course he would, adding that at least the murderer wouldn’t hurt anybody while in his care. He reiterated that mercy is more important than rules and regulations.

Excerpt translated by Daniel Wiśniewski

Natalia Budzyńska
Brother Albert. A biography

A saint who walked in sandals and slept under the same roof as villains, drunks and whores

Publisher: Znak Publishers, Kraków 2017
Translation rights: Znak Publishers,

The lives of an eccentric and a saint have much in common. If you represented each one as a line on a graph, they would both would eventually fall away from the well-trodden path that the fate of most people follows (school, first love, studies, work, marriage, children). Whereas the first starts to go around in blind circles, like the trace of meticulously joined-up handwriting, the second ascends, following an upward spiral, to heights that are difficult to comprehend.

The first half of Adam Chmielowski’s life was typical for a Polish artist in the 19th century: the son of a good noble family, unfazed by working in the administrative apparatus of one of the foreign powers occupying Poland, eventually rebelling and becoming an idealistic student during the Spring of Nations. As a combatant in one of the tragically doomed uprisings against Russia, he was seriously injured and underwent an amputation without anaesthesia (his screams from an isolated forest hut were muffled by heavy snow fall).

Thanks to bribes and the help of influential relatives, he escaped from under the noses of the Russian authorities to become a student in Munich and Paris. It was an extravagant time of art models, wine, and top hats, mixed in with a hint of boredom. Then, following a Russian amnesty, he returned to Poland.

Suddenly, in 1880, the pen skids off the horizontal line and traces towards the heights. As a bearded monk, he walks in sandals, sleeps under the same roof as bandits, drunks, and whores. Philanthropists who, up until then, had given their charity wrapped in violet scented handkerchiefs (or, in the belief it was more hygienic, threw coins onto the pavement), could not understand him. We also do not completely understand how Adam Chmielowski could have become Brother Albert. This book attempts to provide, at least in some small way, an explanation.

Wojciech Stanisławski, translated by Daniel Wiśniewski

Selected samples

Julita Deluga
Wojtek Wawszczyk, Tomasz Leśniak
Anna Kańtoch
Andrzej Bobkowski
Wisława Szymborska
Zdzisław Kranodębski
Andrzej Nowak
Wiesław Myśliwski
Jarosław Jakubowski
Anna Piwkowska
Roman Honet
Miłosz Biedrzycki
Wojciech Chmielewski
Aleksandra Majdzińska
Tomasz Różycki
Maciej Hen
Jakub Nowak
Elżbieta Cherezińska
歐菈·沃丹斯卡-波欽斯卡(Ola Woldańska-Płocińska)
作者:沃伊切赫·維德瓦克(Wojciech Widłak), 插圖:亞歷珊德拉·克珊諾夫斯卡(Aleksandra Krzanowska)
文字:莫妮卡·烏特尼-斯特魯加瓦(Monika Utnik-Strugała), 概念和插圖:皮歐特·索哈(Piotr Socha)
作者:亞格涅絲卡·斯特爾馬什克(Agnieszka Stelmaszyk)
尤安娜·日斯卡(Joanna Rzyska)、阿嘉妲·杜德克(Agata Dudek)、瑪格熱妲·諾瓦克(Małgorzata Nowak) Druganoga出版社,華沙2021
艾麗莎·皮歐特夫斯卡(Eliza Piotrowska)
米科瓦伊·帕辛斯基(Mikołaj Pasiński)、瑪格熱妲·赫爾巴(Gosia Herba)
歐菈·沃丹斯卡-波欽斯卡(Ola Woldańska-Płocińska)
瑪麗安娜·奧克雷亞克(Marianna Oklejak)
拉法爾·科希克(Rafał Kosik)
亞歷珊德拉·沃丹斯卡-波欽斯卡(Aleksandra Woldańska-Płocińska)
巴托米耶·伊格納邱克(Bartłomiej Ignaciuk), 阿嘉塔·洛特-伊格納邱克(Agata Loth-Ignaciuk)
文字和插圖:皮歐特·卡爾斯基(Piotr Karski)
文字和插圖:皮歐特·卡爾斯基(Piotr Karski)
羅珊娜·延澤耶夫斯卡-弗魯貝爾 (Roksana Jędrzejewska-Wróbel)
作者:普舎米斯瓦夫·維赫特洛維奇(Przemysław Wechterowicz) 插圖:艾米莉·吉烏巴克(Emilia Dziubak)
尤斯提娜·貝納雷(Justyna Bednarek) 插圖:丹尼爾·德拉圖爾(Daniel De Latour)
尤安娜·巴托西克(Joanna Bartosik)
瑪格熱妲·斯文多夫斯卡(Małgorzata Swędrowska)、尤安娜·巴托西克(Joanna Bartosik)
Jan Kochanowski
Jarosław Marek Rymkiewicz
Olga Tokarczuk
Władysław Stanisław Reymont
An Ancient Tale
Stanisław Rembek
Elżbieta Cherezińska
Henryk Sienkiewicz
Maria Dąbrowska
Stefan Żeromski
Bronisław Wildstein
Zbigniew Herbert / Wisława Szymborska
Karol Wojtyła
Wiesław Myśliwski
Czesław Miłosz
Anna Świrszczyńska / Melchior Wańkowicz
Tadeusz Borowski / Gustaw Herling-Grudziński
Wiesław Helak
Góra Tabor
Adriana Szymańska
Paweł Rzewuski
Mariusz Staniszewski
Radek Rak
Urszula Honek
Kazimierz Orłoś
Rafał Wojasiński
Antonina Grzegorzewska
Józef Mackiewicz
Tobiasz Piątkowski, Marek Oleksicki
Daniel Odija
Bronisław Wildstein
Józef Mackiewicz
Józef Mackiewicz
Witold Szabłowski
Andrzej Muszyński
Wiesław Helak
Bartosz Jastrzębski
Dariusz Sośnicki
Łukasz Orbitowski
Jakub Małecki
אנדז'יי ספקובסקי
Elżbieta Cherezińska
Wiesław Myśliwski
Jakub Małecki
Aleksandra Lipczak
Jacek Dukaj
Wit Szostak
Bartosz Biedrzycki
Zyta Rudzka
Maciej Płaza
Wojciech Chmielewski
Paweł Huelle
Przemysław "Trust" Truściński
Angelika Kuźniak
Wojciech Kudyba
Michał Protasiuk
Stanisław Rembek
Krzysztof Karasek
Elżbieta Isakiewicz
Artur Daniel Liskowacki
Jarosław Jakubowski
Zbigniew Stawrowski
Szczepan Twardoch
Wojciech Chmielarz
Robert Małecki
Zygmunt Miłoszewski
Anna Piwkowska
Dominika Słowik
Wojciech Chmielewski
Barbara Banaś
Rafał Mikołajczyk
Jerzy Szymik
Waldemar Bawołek
Julia Fiedorczuk
Jakub Szamałek
Witold Szabłowski
Jacek Dukaj
Grzegorz Górny, Janusz Rosikoń
Paweł Piechnik
Andrzej Strumiłło


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Piotr Mitzner
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Urszula Zajączkowska
Marek Stokowski
Hubert Klimko-Dobrzaniecki
Jakub Małecki
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Małgorzata Rejmer
Rafał Wojasiński
Wojciech Kudyba
Włodzimierz Bolecki
Jerzy Liebert
Wojciech Zembaty
Wojciech Chmielarz
Bogdan Musiał
Joanna Siedlecka
Krzysztof Tyszka-Drozdowski
Jarosław Marek Rymkiewicz
Marek Bieńczyk
Leszek Elektorowicz
Adrian Sinkowski
Szymon Babuchowski
Lech Majewski
Weronika Murek
Agnieszka Świętek
Stanisław Szukalski
Barbara Klicka
Anna Kamińska

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Ks. Tomasz Stępień

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Szczepan Twardoch
Wiesław Helak
Maria Wilczek-Krupa
Anna Kańtoch
Rafał Kosik
Paweł Sołtys
Dorota Masłowska
Wiesław Myśliwski
Martyna Bunda
Olga Tokarczuk
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Waldemar Bawołek
Marek Oleksicki, Tobiasz Piątkowski
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Marzanna Bogumiła Kielar
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Anna Bikont
Magdalena Grzebałkowska
Wojciech Orliński
Klementyna Suchanow
Andrzej Franaszek
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Marian Sworzeń
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