The villas of The Resort at Ormonde are beautiful structures of brick, stone, stucco, and wood. Yet these lovely villas are far more than their constituent parts. Villa Gioia and Villa Rosea each have their own stories to tell, and their chambers and garden paths still resonate with the lives of their previous occupants.
For over one hundred years, these villas were the centers of cultural life in Naleczow. Villa Rosea was built in 1893, and became a favored haunt for famous writers, actors, and artist. Villa Gioia was built in 1927 for Jozef Beck, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Poland in the years leading up to World War II. The walls of Villa Gioia still echo with the heated debates and political intrigues of Poland’s politicians and nobility.
Like many of Poland’s beautiful buildings during the dreary years of communist oppression, these once-lively villas faded with neglect, reflecting the fallen fortunes and diminished culture of the Polish people.
Today, when you stroll through the villas’ grounds, revel in their parlors, or rest in their bedchambers, you may wonder at their stunning beauty. You have entered a new era in the lives of these villas, one that comes together in the combined property now operated by The Ormonde Resort.
The villas have been given new life, and the story of their resurrection is inextricably intertwined with the lives of the couple who so lovingly resorted to their previous glory, Barbara and Stanislaw Burzynski. There is a story that reaches back through the centuries, and stretches across continents and oceans. The modern Burzynski clan lies at the confluence of many different historical streams, some lost in the murky waters of history, and others well chronicled.
One such stream begins in the 8th century, when Viking marauders tormented the coastlands of continental Europe and the British and Irish Isles. Vikings ravaged isolated settlements during the warm ‘raiding season’, before sailing back home to Denmark and Norway in time to settle in for the long Nordic winters. Eventually, the Danish V ikings established base camps along the northwest coast of France to use as staging grounds, extending their raiding season and making their favored targets in France and the islands more accessible.
A wise and enterprising French Carolingian ruler – Charles the Simple – invaded one of the warring Viking chieftains inside the tent of respectability, and in the Treaty of Saint-Clairsur-Epte granted Rollo land in northwestern France in trade for protection from the plundering exploits of other Viking chiefs. Charles’s treaty with Rollo proved a mutually beneficial experiment, and in AD 911, the Duchy of Normandy was established, with Rouen as its capital city.
Over time, the powerful tug of biology trumped cultural differences, and the rulingVikings intermarried with the local French. The French language and local customs melded into the Vikings’ owl, creating a distinct Norman culture.
The Normans soon abandoned their Nordic gods in favor of Christianity, and proved in domestication to be as resourceful as they were in their previous, less reputable ventures. They served as loyal and brave soldiers to the rulers of France and Rome, and as excellent political administrators and builders of magnificent castles and churches. The city of Caen became Normandy’s main administrative center in the first half of the 11th century, and today Caen’s well-preserved medieval architecture remains a distinctive signature of this regionally influential city.
With such an industrious people, the Duchy of Normandy grew in power and prestige. The year 1066 looms large in British history books, for that is the year that William, Duke of Normandy, invaded England and defeated King Harold and his Anglo-Saxon army at Hastings. Once he had consolidated power, Duke William assumed the elevated title of King William I of England and northern France.
These were dangerous times for the European monarchy, and the life expectancy of a king was often short. Political intrigue rode in tandem with outright warfare as competing rulers jockeyed for territory and power. Some kings died on the battlefield; others fell to the less glorious sting of poison.
One of the most important offices of the royal court, therefore, was that of the royal butler -Le Botiller to the French – the man responsible for tasting the king’s wine. In spite of its inherent risks, this was a much-coveted position, and was traditionally a hereditary office.
Duke William’s royal butler was one William Malet. As royal butler, he accompanied Prince William during his invasion of England. Being half Saxon, William Malet was tasked with the honorable burial of the vanquished King Harold after the Battle of Hastings.
King William, and therefore his royal butler, spent most of his time on the Continent. But William Malet’s son, Walter de Caen, immigrated to England as part of a planned contingent to reinforce Norman cultural traction amongst the conquered Anglo-Saxon population.
Two of Walter’s grandsons, Hubert and Theobald, are enshrined in our history books. Hubert first served King Henry II as a diplomat and administrative advisor until Henry’s death in 1189. In 1190, Hubert accompanied King Henry’s son, Richard the Lionheart, on the Third Crusade, negotiating a peace treaty with Saladin. While journeying home from the Crusade, King Richard was captured in Austria. Hubert diverted his own return journey to locate the Richard, then returned to England to raise the huge ransom demanded for the king’s release. For Hubert’s faithful service, King Richard elevated him to the position of Archbishop of Canterbury in 1193.
Most of the king’s remaining years were spent prosecuting wars in France, and administrating his landholdings there. Because of his frequent absences, King Richard gave Hubert the additional titles of Chief Justiciar in 1198, and Lord Chancellor in 1199, and tasked him with running the English kingdom. Hubert lies buried at the Cathedral of Canterbury, his legacy secure as a prominent Archbishop of Canterbury and an extremely able governmental administrator.
Hubert’s brother, Theobald, shone in his own right. He was the first member of the family to immigrate to Ireland where, and by 1185 was elevated to the position of Chief Butler, a hereditary title which is the equivalent of the governor of Ireland. As governor of Ireland, he had the right to one-tenth of all cargos of imported wine. Theobald leveraged his position to accumulate a huge property in Ireland. He established his own town of Ormonde, a name derived from monde d’or, which in Theobald’s native French tongue means Golden World.
Throughout the ensuing generations, Theobald’s family thrived in Ireland. In 1341. King Edward III enhanced their stature by awarding the seventh Chief Butler, James, the additional hereditary title of Earl of Ormonde.
Through all these years, the Butler/Ormonde clan retained their ancestral French language and customs. But during the Hundred Years War between England and France (1337-1453), time and political allegiances held sway over old cultural ties. The family abandoned the French language, and further distanced themselves from their ancestry by anglicizing the name Ormond, removing the telltale”e”. They assumed the last name of Butler, and moved their residence to Kilkenny Castle, where the Butler family remained a dominant Irish presence for the next five hundred years.
Centuries passed. The mid – 16th century found England the “sick man” of Europe, wracked by internal strife, and tormented by religious persecution. Catholics and Protestants fought to wrest the throne from one other. During the reigns of Protestant ruler Henry VIII and his daughter Elizabeth I, Catholics were brutally slaughtered. When Henry’s Catholic daughter Mary (know to history as “Bloody Mary ) ascended the throne, Catholics took to the streets in retaliation against Protestant neighbors.
The Butlers of Ormond had by this time established themselves as of the country’s foremost of the Norman-English families. They owned in Ireland and England, and were thus caught up in the common troubles, enduring particular difficulties during the reign of Henry VIII.
When Thomas Butler, seventh Earl of Ormond, passed away, his English possessions were passed through his daughter to his grandson Thomas Boleyn. Though Thomas inherited the English properties, he became an estate-holder without a title; the family title of Earl of Ormond passed instead to a second-generation cousin, Piers Butler.
Thomas had a daughter, Anne Boleyn. Piers had two sons, James and Richard Butler. The two families concluded that the best solution for reuniting title with estate was through the marriage of Anne Boleyn and James Butler, a common practice among prominent families wishing to preserve both heritage and wealth.
The young Jasmes and Anne were introduced in 1522, and initially everything moved ahead according to plan. For reasons lost to our histories, however, the marriage did not take place, and the beautiful Anne soon drew the attention of King Henry VIII.
In 1533, Anne became Queen of England, and bore the king a daughter and the country a future queen, the Protestant Queen Elizabeth I. But Anne’s subsequent to produce a male heir combined with the king’s wandering eye to conspire against. She was executed on May 19, 1536, in the same Tower of London chambers she had so recently prepared for her coronation as queen, and entered history as the second of the infamous Henry VIII’s six wives.
James Butler fared no better. He was poisoned in London on October 28, 1546, and his young son Thomas returned to Ireland and became the 10th Earl of Ormond, remaining the lifelong friend of Queen Elizabeth I.
Throughout these years of presecution, war, and political upheaval, the English economy was destroyed. Weary of instability and wary of future economic prospects, many of the most talented people from the British and Irish Isles sought refuge in more promising places.
Poland proved an attractive destination for this British/Irish diaspora. While much of the rest of Europe was caught up in England’s religious wars, Poland was in full cultural and economic bloom.
Poland had at the time the second largest population on the Continent, after only France. Its territories stretched over a million square kilometers, from the Baltic Sea in the north to the Black Sea in the south. Poland enjoyed great religious freedom, a welcome contrast to the inflamed religious climate of its European neighbors. Poland was also the only parliamentary monarchy in the world, with a democratically elected parliament and king.
With such opportunities beckoning, it is not surprising that Poland attracted a wave of English, Irish, and Scottish immigrants. They were particularly drawn to the region of Latvia known as the Duchy of Courland, which benefited from this British/Irish “brain drain” to become the most prosperous province of Poland.
Among these new citizens was John Butler. John’s father was Piers Butler’s other son Richard, who was rewarded for his loyal service to King Edward VI by being named the Viscount of Mountgarret in 1550. Richard remained Catholic in the face of fierce persecution, and enjoyed the continuing favor of Queen Mary’s court when she succeeded Edward VI.
Upon John Butler’s arrival in Courland, he served in KingStephen Batory’s army during the war with Russia’s Ivan III. John’s son, James Butler, continued his father’s military exploits in their adopted homeland, commanding the entire Irish regiment during Poland’s war with Sweden in 1622.
For James’s service to the Polish crown, King Zygmunt III Vasa declared him a nobleman, a high honor reserved for very few immigrants, and the first such honor for an English immigrant in Poland. In an extant Latin document memorializing the event, James Butler is referred to as the Count of Ormond and Wilton.
Jame’s son, Gotard, continued the Butler legacy of high service to Poland, becoming Minister of the Treasury during the reign of King Jan Kazimierz. In 1654, Gotard organized an expedition to the Caribbean island of Tobago that claimed the island as a colony of Poland and Courland. The island proved difficult to colonize, with a dense jungle and a fierce indigenous population. These impediments to settlement, combined with political distractions back in Poland, eventually led to the island’s sale to England in 1681.
The children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren of Gotard retained close ties to the courts of Polish kings throughout the 18th century. Early in that century, in 1701, our story takes a turn, when Elizabeth Butler met Konstanty Burzynski, most likely at the court of King John III Sobieski.
The Burzynski family legacy can be traced back to AD 1047 and Johnny, a peasant pressed into military service in defense of the deposed Polish Prince Casimir. In the final battle to reclaim the Polish throne against the rebellious courtier Maslaw, Prince Casimir hurtled headlong into the fleeing enemy forces, and found himself separated from his supporting army. The peasant Johnny, though merely a conscript, came to the aid of the vunerable prince, and singlehandedly slew three enemy knights, saving the prince’s life.
According to the historian Gallus, “the grateful prince granted him a castle with land, and elevated him to stand with his foremost knights.” Johnny the peasant became Johnny the Brave, and his descendants continued in noble service to Poland-noble both in title and character-for the next six centuries.
The marriage of Elizabeth and Konstanty began a new era for the Butler-Burzynski clan. When these two illustrious lines merged, they remained engaged in Polish politics until the country temporarily ceased to exist in 1795. Over the next century and a half, the Burzynski family participated in successive insurrections against various occupying forces, including czarist Russia, the Soviet Union, Nazi Germany, and Cold War-era Polish Communists. Various members of the family died on battlefields, in Siberian gulags, or in Nazi imprisonment. Their ancestral properties were confiscated and historical documents were lost.
Very important to our narrative is the story of Michal and Antonina Burzynski. This young couple was killed fighting in the Polish insurrection of 1863. They left behind a young boy of seven, Nicholas. Count Seweryn Dunin-Borkowski took the orphaned child into his home, and began to educate him as a nobleman. Unfortunately, the count passed away a few years later, and the new owners of the estate had no desire to inherit Nicholas along with the property. This vast estate was populated by expatriate Ukrainians, with the lone exception of the village blacksmith, who was Polish. Nicholas was summarily sent from the palace to the blacksmith, where he learned to play that trade.
When Nicholas grew up, he opened his own blacksmith shop, but never forgot the value of his own false start as an educated man. Though he remained poor to the end of his days, he bequeathed to his children the legacy of an education at the best schools in the district.
Nicholas’s son, Gregory, continued the family tradition of military exploits, serving as a counter-intelligence officer in opposition to Communist insurgents. But after the Polish-Soviet war of 1919-1920, Gregory also fulfilled his father’s dream for him as scholar, becoming an expert in classical philology (Greek and Latin), sociology, educational science, and the law. Gregory also met and married fellow student Sophie Radzikowska, with whom he had four sons.
Gregory and Sophie’s youngest son is Stanislaw Burzynski. Stanislaw continued his father’s academic legacy, becoming the youngest M.D./Ph.D. in Poland, and a youth during the years of Communist oppresion, Stanislaw immigrated to the United States in 1970 to accelerate his groundbreaking work in medicine science. While doing seminal research institute and clinic alongside their son, Dr. Gregory Burzynski.
What you have just read is but a small part of our family history. In this particular place, and at this particular time, our personal story comes full circle. With the fall of Poland’s communist government, we felt free to once again travel back to the land of our youth. On one such visit in 2003, we discovered the devastated villas of Gioia and Rosea. Though the properties had fallen into disrepair from years on neglect, their very stones seemed to call out to us. Our family in highly invested in our new community in Huston, Texas, but our hearts have always remained tethered to our Polish homeland. We can see that Poland is now at the nascent stage of what we’ra sure will prove to be a brilliant cultural renaissance. Our small contribution to Poland’s resurgence-and our legacy to our native land-is the careful restoration of these beautiful villas. The painstaking task of restoring the villas and their grounds to their previous glory has proved a true labor of love.
We have a vision for this property. Our hope is that their parlors will once again ring with laughter, their dining halls resonate with stimulating conversation, their gardens provide a sanctuary in our stress-filled world. Our hope is that after decades of darkness, a new era of happiness and prosperity will come to Naleczow, a hope reflected in the name Ormonde-the Golden World-which hearkens back to a golden age in our family’s history.
We are in a new era in Poland, and there are many more chapters yet to be written. We hope that one day soon you’ll add your own page during a stay at The Ormonde Resort.
-Barbara and Stanislaw Burzynski