Krzysztof Opaliński

Krzysztof Opaliński

Krzysztof Opaliński (21 January 1609- 6 December 1655) was a Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth noble (szlachcic), politician and writer (satirist). Voivode of Poznań, starosta kowelski, śremski, osiecki, międzyłęski.


Son of Piotr Opaliński. Married Teresa Czarnkowska on 28 May 1634, had two sons: Piotr Opaliński and Jan Opaliński and three daughters.

Together with brother Łukasz Opaliński studied in the Lubrański Academy in Poznań (1620-1625), and later abroad at Louvain (1626-1629), Orleans (1629) and Padua (1630). After returning to the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth with the position of starosta śremski he became active on the political scene. Took part in the election sejm of Władysław IV Vasa in 1632, to which he was elected a deputy in February of that year. In 1637, after his father's death, he became the voivode of Poznań. He opposed most of Władysław military proposals (from increasing the army to the war against Ottomans), although he supported his idea of sea tariffs. In 1645 he led a diplomatic mission to Paris, where he was a proxy of king Władysław during his marriage to Ludwika Maria Gonzaga, whom she escorted back to Poland afterwards.

In 1647 he bought Sieraków from his brother Łukasz and moved there. In 1650 he opened the first modern school in Poland (in Sieraków), using the didactic materials prepared by Jan Amos Komenski ("Komenský, Comenius"). A Catholic himself, he was critical of the zealotry of the Society of Jesus and supported religious tolerance. He was a patron of writers, scientists and a bibliophile.

Political rival of starost Bogusław Leszczyński in the Wielkopolska province.

When in 1648 Poland elected a new king, Jan Kazimierz Vasa, he joined the opposition against Jan Kazimierz. The king had few friends among the Polish szlachta, as he openly sympathized with Austria and showed disregard and contempt for Polish culture (Sarmatism). Due to this, thinking that Jan II Kazimierz was a weak King, or a Jesuit-King, or for any other reasons, many encouraged King Charles X Gustav of Sweden to claim the Polish Crown. During the Swedish invasion (The Deluge) Krzysztof Opaliński and Bogusław Leszczyński tasked with defence of Greater Poland (Wielkopolska), dissatisfied with policies of Jan Kazimierz, decided to surrender together with their pospolite ruszenie of Great Poland to Charles Gustav at Ujście on 25 July 1655. Many other voivodes of other voivodships followed their suit, especially Janusz Radziwiłł in Lithuania (although Krzysztof brother, Łukasz Opaliński, remained loyal to the Polish king). Almost the entire country was overrun by the Swedes, before the Jasna Góra resistance and the Tyszowce Confederation which turned the tide against the Swedes.

Died in 1655 at Włoszakowice at the age of 45. Buried next to his father in the catacombs at church at Sieraków.


The author of a popular work, often reprinted in this century called"Satyry, albo Przestrogi do naprawy rządu i obyczajów w Polszcze należące" ("Satires, or Warnings Related to the Reform of Government and Customs in Poland") published in 1650, in the aftermath of the Chmielnicki Uprising that spelled the end of the Golden Age of the Commonwealth. The satires, modelled on the Satires of Juvenal, written in unrhymed syllabic verse, are his most famous work. In them he denounced the oppression of peasants (increasing serfdom) and corruption of Golden Freedoms, visible in the increasing anarchy which was to be found in political life. He also wrote against witchcraft in one the satires, one of the few contemporary voices to correctly identify some of the motives behind the witchcraft persecution and to denounce them. He wrote comedies and tragedies for his school, however they have not survived. His letters to his brother Łukasz are collected in "Listy Kszysztofa Opalińskiego do brata Łukasza 1641-1653" (first edition in 1957).


:"Nierządem Polska stoi" - nieźle ktoś powiedział;:Lecz drugi odpowiedział, że nierządem zginie.:Pan Bóg nas ma jak błaznów. I to prawdy blisko,:Że między ludźmi Polak jest Boże igrzysko.::"Satyra VI. Na ogołocone ściany w obronę"

:"Anarchy supports Poland" - well somebody said;:But other replied, that with anarchy it will fall.:God thinks we are clowns, and that's close to truth,:that among people Pole's the God's Playground.::"Satire VI. For empty walls in defense"

:Rozumiem, że Bóg Polski za nico nie karze:Więcej, jak za poddanych srogą opresyją:I gorzej niż niewolą. Jakoby chłop nie był:Bliźnim nie tylko twoim, ale i człowiekiem. :...:Zamykam, jakom zaczął, że Bóg Polskę karze:Najwięcej za poddanych, ba, i karać będzie,:Jeżeli się, Polaku, nie obaczysz kiedy.::"Satyra III. Na ciężary i opresyją chłopską w Polszcze"

:I believe God punishes Poland for nothing:But for the cruel oppression of her subjects:Which is worse than serfdom. It's as if the peasant:Were not your fellow man or a human being.:...:I close as I began; God punishes Poland:Most for her subjects, indeed, he'll keep punishing:If you, Pole, will not ever come to your senses.::"Satire III. On Burdens and Oppressions of Peasants in Poland"


* Michael J. Mikoś, "Polish Baroque and Enlightenment Literature: An Anthology". Ed. Michael J. Mikoś. Columbus, Ohio/Bloomington, Indiana: Slavica Publishers. 1996. 104-108. ISBN 0893572667 (contains a short biography and "Satire III: On Burdens and Oppressions of Peasants in Poland." )

Further reading

* Kate Wilson, "The Politics of Toleration Among the Szlachta of Great Poland: Rafał Leszczyński (1579-1636) and Krzysztof Opaliński (1609-55)", Slovo 14/2002

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