The November Uprising in 1830 was a generational experience for the first wave of Polish Romantics. The armed revolt against the Russian occupant was the most significant event of the entire 19th century for contemporary Poles.

Over six thousand participants of the uprising were forced to flee the Kingdom of Poland after the insurgency’s defeat. Most of the emigrants were men, officers, commanders, and soldiers fighting in the uprising, as they were most vulnerable to post-uprising repressions.

It is not the number of emigrants, however, that constitutes the “greatness” of the movement which today is referred to as the Great Emigration. The greatness of this formation – making foreign lands a common ground for representatives of various groups, civilians and soldiers, laymen and clerics, people injured in the battles and those who never set foot on the battlefield – consists in the joint, though implemented in various ways, effort to bring the idea of independent Poland to life.


The post-uprising emigrants set out west, travelling through the Prussian Partition. They were received as heroes in the territory of Germany. Nonetheless, most of the refugees did not stay and travelled on in order to reach France.

While the French province welcomed the refugees so cordially that many of them decided to settle there, Paris turned out to be much less hospitable. The municipal authorities dreaded the accumulation of foreign incomers – especially since a significant portion of them were soldiers. The French feared that the newcomers would plot against them, which is why they were initially disinclined towards the budding Polish associations and organisations.

Whoever arrived to Paris in the 1830s had the chance to witness the birth of a modern European capital. Industry developed at an impressive rate, the town gained its first railway line, the society underwent cultural changes.



Prince Adam Jerzy Czartoryski permanently settled in France in 1834. He had already made a career in the Polish Army, gained experience in government administration and Russian diplomacy, and enjoyed great esteem in the literary circles.

He almost instantly became the central figure in a group of people with similar, conservative-liberal views, which with time converted into a de facto political camp, referred to as the “Hotel Lambert camp.” From then on, Hôtel Lambert – located on the Île Saint-Louis, the very centre of the city – became the most important stage of Polish politics in exile and the centre of social and cultural life of Polish emigrees in Paris.


Duchess Anna Czartoryska, Adam Jerzy’s wife, being the First Lady in the community of Polish emigrants, asked for donations to support the community. She organised balls, charity fairs, and lotteries in Hôtel Lambert, invited artists to give charitable concerts. She was also the force behind the foundation of the St. Casimir House, established in 1846 – a day-care facility run by the Daughters of Charity and open to this day.

Anna Czartoryska also founded the Institute of Polish Maidens. The goal of the institute was, as we would call it today, affirmative action. Thanks to the organisation, many girls in the country and in exile gained access to education, which would have been impossible without the institution’s financial support. It was education, especially primary and secondary education with Polish as the medium of instruction, that constituted one of the most significant preoccupations of the emigrant community.



Education received in France led to significant improvement of one’s material situation. Graduates of military schools in Congress Poland had to obtain study permit, but once they started studying, their soldier’s pays were increased. More challenges awaited those who had to choose between studying and finding a job.

These people could find help in the Society for Academic Aid, founded by Adam Jerzy Czartoryski in 1832, which ran two schools for children of Polish emigrants and supported students attending secondary schools and universities in Paris.


The history of Polish literature traditionally divides the Polish output created between the November and the January Uprising into two groups: works written in the country and in exile. The names of artists writing in the Polish territory are often forgotten even by students at faculties of Polish Studies, while at the same time it is common knowledge that there were three bards working in exile (plus Norwid).

The truth is, however, that there were many literary talents in the emigrant community. Numerous people belonging to the community picked up the quill pen in order to write down the events of the uprising, express their homesickness or preserve their memories. Nonetheless, it cannot be concluded that – apart from the works of the biggest poets – the emigration community created great, or even good, literature between the two uprisings.



Romantics considered everything that surrounded them to be a sign – an indicator or a hieroglyph – of the existence of other planes and beings. They believed that the reality perceived through the senses and fathomable through reason was only a small part of the world and did not constitute the only type of existence. The spiritual needs of the people living in the 19th century were immense.

This trend did not escape Polish emigrants in the Romantic Paris, who suffered from loneliness and poverty and missed their families. All this bonded them and pushed them towards one another, while also bringing them closer to the church, which was not always able to satisfy their aroused spiritual hunger.

The Circle of God’s Cause, established by Andrzej Towiański in Paris, had a religious system, writings explaining its doctrine, its own relics and rituals, even its particular language, since it was impossible to speak of the new programme of spiritual development without creating neologisms.


Słowacki joined the Circle of God’s Cause on 12 July 1842 and this event changed his life. Brother Juliusz felt comfortable not only among the members of the Circle, but also with the organisation’s religious doctrine and programme of spiritual revival.

Nonetheless, he eventually broke his ties with the Circle. Upon his break, Słowacki had already started to undergo spiritual transformation, which soon afterwards became the basis of his own concept of faith.

Leaving the Circle was not Juliusz Słowacki’s first disappearance. Having arrived to Paris in 1831, he initially was enthusiastic to participate in the public life of the emigree community. Over the course of less than a year, however, he started to harbour negative feelings towards the community, which appreciated neither Słowacki’s two newly published collections of poems nor his personality. And so away he went.



For emigrants, forming societies and spending time together was on one hand an escape from loneliness, and on the other – an opportunity to cooperate and achieve spiritual or national goals. It is not surprising, therefore, that numerous societies of various profiles started to be created in Paris in the early 1830s.

Seeing that the priority of all emigrants was regaining independence and shaping the new Polish State, the most important discussions took place in political associations. Political factions published their own newspapers, which served as soapboxes for their views.

One of the most significant associations working in exile was the Literary Society. Among its members there were some of the biggest figures of the Emigration.


The Polish Library in Paris was established in 1838 by the Literary Society with its branches and the Society for Academic Aid, which aimed to raise funds necessary to buy a seat for the institution, mostly through private donations. The library eventually found its location on the Île Saint-Louis, in a building situated at Quai d’Orléans.

The Polish Library, which initially stored collections of the Literary Society and the Society for Academic Aid, served as a counterbalance to Nicholas I’s attempts to annihilate the Polish culture. In the process of Depolonisation, Polish libraries were liquidated and dismantled, while their most valuable resources were sent out to Russia.

The collection of the Polish Library quickly expanded – some of the people who handed over their private collections to the organisation were Niemcewicz and Bem. The Adam Mickiewicz Museum was established by the Library in 1903; its collection was composed of manuscripts, keepsakes, and other materials connected with the artistic output of the author of Dziady and Pan Tadeusz, all donated to the institution by Władysław Mickiewicz.