WARSAW -- The remains of a legendary pianist and Polish patriot, who died in New York in 1941, will be going home this year on the 50th anniversary of his death. But his heart will stay in America.

Unusual and confidential negotiations recently resulted in an agreement by the United States to return the remains of Ignace Jan Paderewski to Poland. President Franklin D. Roosevelt had vowed that Paderewski's body, sealed in a zinc casket at Arlington National Cemetery, would not be returned to Poland until the country was free again.

The man who tipped us off to the secret "body talks" was Tadeusz Mazowiecki, who recently resigned as Poland's prime minister. He was openly puzzled at being stalled by the White House on the return of the remains.

One of Mazowiecki's first actions when he became prime minister in 1989 was to inquire about the return of the pianist's body. But he hit red tape in Washington. Mazowiecki visited Arlington last March on a state visit, but still had received no formal promise to return the body to Poland.

So a prominent American of Polish ancestry, retired Lt. Gen. Edward L. Rowny, got involved in July. He had been chief negotiator for the Strategic Arms Reduction Talks, and this was a job that needed a negotiator.

Rowny went to Poland as a private citizen and talked to Mazowiecki and Solidarity leader Lech Walesa. Both were emphatic that Paderewski's remains be returned.

"For some reason that I cannot explain to you," Mazowiecki told us, "the American government has to take a position on this. We would like to get his body back, so I wrote a letter concerning this to President Bush." That confidential letter, sent Aug. 29, is tactful, but firm: "Poland recalls with gratitude that the remains of one of her most revered and cherished sons . . . have been under the care of the United States of America {until} 'Poland shall be free.' . . . It would be most appropriate to begin planning for Paderewski's remains to be interred in Poland on the 50th anniversary of his death on June 29, 1991. These plans could be made final in early May 1991."

Mazowiecki heard nothing from the White House before he left office. But on Dec. 14, the Polish government got a missive from the State Department saying the Poles could have their pianist back in time for the anniversary, but that a committee was being formed to oversee the transfer "with full honor and dignity."

One thing the Poles won't get is Paderewski's heart. Perhaps following the example of his predecessor, Polish-born composer Frederic Chopin (whose heart was enshrined in Warsaw separate from his body), Paderewski ordered that upon his death his heart be removed from his body and buried separately. He directed that it never leave America.

But because Paderewski never served in the U.S. military, he could not be buried at Arlington. Instead, his remains are in the concrete base of a memorial that holds the mast of the battleship Maine, which was sunk in Havana harbor in 1898, beginning the Spanish-American war.

Paderewski's heart is in a shrine built by the Pauline Fathers in Doylestown, Pa.