Studenci WSH or The HSC foxtrot
“Studenci WSH” (“HSC Students” – editor’s note) was created in 1933 by two men – both named Zygmunt. The lyrics were written by Zygmunt Maciejowski (1912-1980) and the music was composed by Zygmunt Lewandowski (1908-1976). Both were very creative, and thanks to their impressive output, they went down in the history of Polish music.
Warsaw, the capital city of a country that regained its independence in 1918, really knew how to party as long as 100 years ago. There were plenty of fashionable entertainment venues (offering exquisite food, good bands, and a dance floor – and sometimes even a revolving stage), especially in the city centre. However, the society of the Second Polish Republic was highly diversified in terms of wealth. There was a narrow class of wealthy aristocrats, influential businesspeople, and high-earning ministerial and military officials, who could afford to party in luxurious clubs. Those worse off had to do with house parties. Some, albeit relatively few, bought turntables and records with popular hits. Finally, those with relatively little money invited family and friends over to chat a bit, have a snack and drink, and listen to the radio. The Polskie Radio station would often broadcast dance music, which would result, in turn, in dance parties so epic that all the neighbours knew about them. An important thing to add is that the conduct of the attendees was very proper. Maybe the only nuisance was the noise, which could have bothered the neighbours – especially those of the most popular and loudest venues. People would dance the waltz, less often tango – because it was an imported ‘good’ and required some more advanced dancing skills. The foxtrot was no child’s play either. This fast dance (there is also a slower variant of it) originated in North America and came to Europe in the 1920s. In Warsaw, thanks to the market and the resourcefulness of the more active individuals, there were many different kinds of dance schools operating at that time. These schools were places where many people became met their life partners and many happy relationships were born.
SGH Warsaw School of Economics was founded in 1906. From 1915 to 1933, it was called the Higher School of Commerce (HSC; its Polish name was Wyższa Szkoła Handlowa, and the original acronym of the name was WSH).
This was the cultural landscape in which the hit titled “Studenci WSH” (“HSC Students” – editor’s note) was created in 1933 by two men – both named Zygmunt. The name Zygmunt was very popular in Poland at the time, although today it is rather rare. The lyrics were written by Zygmunt Maciejowski (1912-1980) and the music was composed by Zygmunt Lewandowski (1908-1976). Both were very creative, and thanks to their impressive output, they went down in the history of Polish music.
Without ‘perhapses’ or ‘maybies’
I know my way with the ladies
They say it - yes, oh yes,
That I’m quite a success
No strings attached, no fetters
Instead - tons of love letters
Temptations all around me
A song to go along
Don’t tell me you can’t see
That every lad from HSC
Enjoys great popularity
Whatever the colour of his lass’ hair may be
Why all the secrecy?
No beauty like at HSC
The female charm
Can do no harm
And lightens every mood
But if you find it silly
I really can’t act chilly
I never miss a kiss
To give to each one Miss
Am I the one to blame
For all my cool and fame?
You ladies do know me
A student of HSC
The HSC foxtrot, performed by Orkiestra Taneczna conducted by Tadeusz Kwieciński (1903-1960), playing under the baton of Henryk Wars (1902-1977), was recorded by the record company Syrena-Electro.
World War II broke out. The German occupation of Warsaw took a terrible turn. The Third Reich’s policy of terror and extreme economic exploitation led to widespread and massive impoverishment of the Polish population. As a result, anti-German conspiracy took the form of a mass armed underground resistance movement. There was a curfew imposed in the capital city. Few felt like dancing under these conditions, but… life is life. Sometimes, a pretty young girl who knew foreign languages, while listening to foreign radio stations for news to pass on to the underground army (the German authorities forbade Poles to have radio sets), would give in to the overwhelming temptation and play some dance music in her headphones during a break in service, as if by accident. The final note in this historical drama was the outbreak of the anti-German Warsaw Uprising in August 1944, which brought destruction to the city in the form of 200,000 fatalities and the ruination of a great many monuments, residential buildings, and streets.
The war was over. Warsaw welcomed back life and various forms of entertainment – including dancing. There was also dancing at SGH. In 1947, the school already had its own fully renovated building on Rakowiecka, erected in 1925. Students had a great time – and so did the academics who accompanied them. One of them was Professor Jerzy Loth (1880-1967) – a geographer, traveller with a great network of contacts, a worldly-wise man of experience in every respect. When there was a student party, he could go all night dancing – to the break of dawn. Pretty female students had always been in abundance at SGH (as testified by the authors of “Studenci WSH”), and there was no shortage of gentlemen willing to join them on the dancefloor either. Did they dance to the rhythm of the HSC foxtrot in those early years after World War II? Perhaps. The times that followed were much less merry, which was due to the rise of communists to power in Poland. Professor Loth, who became known for his dancefloor moves, was even dismissed from the university and reinstated only after a couple of years.
DR PAWEŁ TANEWSKI, senior certified curator, SGH Library.