Bruno Nowicki never could stand ‘Sto Lat’, the Polish birthday song whose translation is, “I hope you live one hundred years.” For all of his adult life, he’s complained when birthday crowds strike up the tune, saying, “A hundred years? That’s not enough!”
Looking to celebrate his one hundredth birthday this year, Bruno Nowicki is suddenly making a whole lot of sense.
Though beginning to feel a bit of his years (Bruno suffered health issues earlier this year that has slowed him down considerably, including macro degeneration which has left him all but blind), Bruno retains the wit and charm that has made him beloved throughout Polonia and Metro Detroit at large.
The Visionalist crew met and interviewed the venerable chess champ, artist, writer and political visionary at the home of his current caretaker.
Born in Sosnowiec, Poland in 1907, Nowicki immigrated to the States in 1926 and has never lost his enthusiastic regard for America and her people. Asked what he would change about his adopted country, given free reign, he instantly replies, “Absolutely nothing. I love America exactly the way she is.”
Married 41 years to Janet Mirecki, Bruno proudly displays the granite bust he did of his now-departed spouse. Three years in the making, the bust’s smooth, gentle contours display both strength and compassion, traits which Bruno says Janet possessed in life. “I love her still,” he maintains with passion.
Among the Detroit-area works for which Bruno is well-known and highly regarded is the monument to Revolutionary War Generals Pulaski and Kosciusko and the opened-armed statue of Pope John Paul II in Hamtramck. Countless other pieces, lesser known but no less magnificent, dot the area and beyond, including statues of Copernicus (Detroit Main Library) and a bust of Polish-born author Joseph Conrad at the Hamtramck Public Library. His monuments to Szymanowski and Chopin at Interlochen and to Paderewski at Orchard Lake St. Mary’s immortalize Poland’s contribution to classical music.
Bruno’s literary and journalistic career was as distinguished, and he began his career as a reporter in 1927, working for Polish publications in Pittsburgh and Chicago before moving to Detroit. Here, he both reported and published fiction for Dziennik Polski (Polish Daily News, now Polish World).
With his eyesight failing and some difficulty getting around, chess has become his sustaining mental workout in his senior years. The game which he first discovered at the age of six, is well-known to keep elderly minds focused and exercises, and even the best of local chess players consider Bruno a formidable opponent. Having once played Bobby Fischer, Bruno can discourse with equal eloquence on chess’s history and its strategy.
Following his December birthday, won’t the age-old celebratory song ‘Sto Lat’ will have to be altered to “Now that you have the first hundred down, I hope you live a couple hundred more!”)