Il est né dans une famille bien connue de musiciens de Varsovie, les Melodysta. Il étudie le piano et la composition au Conservatoire de Varsovie puis la direction d'orchestre à Vienne, en Autriche et avec Emmerich Kalman, qui le persuade de laisser la musique classique et de composer des chansons populaires.
Back in Warsaw, in 1926, together with his cousin Arthur Gold, Jerzy Petersburski co-founded the Petersburski & Gold Orchestra. Petersburski played piano and Gold was the violinist. At the turn of 1920s/1930s it was the most popular dance orchestra in Warsaw, which performed in the most fashionable restaurant "Adria". A well known refrain of that time had "When Petersburski plays with Gold, you will not sleep through the night till dawn". Later, Arthur Gold left the duo to make his own way and Petersburski continued on his own as the " Jerzy Petersburski Orchestra ".
He was the author of numerous revue and movie hits, among which the most famous was " Oh Donna Clara " (Polish title: " Tango Milonga "). Petersburski composed it in 1929 for the theatre revue " Morskie Oko ", dirigé par Andrzej Wlast.. The first performer of it was a popular singer called " Queen of the Tango " Stanisława Nowicka. The tune remained relatively unknown outside of Poland until the early 1930s. when the Petersburski Orchestra gave a concert in Vienna and played " Tango Milonga ". A powerful Viennese music editor came out of the audience and offered Petersburski 3000 shillings for the rights to publish the tune with the proviso that the title had to be changed. Petersburski agreed and that is how " Oh Donna Clara " was born.
Another of his tango compositions that attained international recognition was " To Ostatnia Niedziela " (" The Last Sunday ") (1933) with lyric by Zenon Friedwald describing the final meeting of former lovers who are parting. In Poland, " To ostatnia niedziela " is commonly and erroneously called the " Suicide Tango " - although the „true" Suicide Tango was the Hungarian art song „ Smutna niedziela " (The Gloomy Sunday). During the 1930s „The Last Sunday" became an enormous evergreen in the Soviet Union, where it was played on virtually every street corner. It was so popular, that it was considered their own Russian tune, holding the Russian title " Utomlennoe Solncem " (English: "Burnt by the Sun"). Recently, this song became the title and the leading music theme of Nikita Mikhalkov's film "Utomlennoe Solcem" -a powerful portrait of viciousness in Russia in the 1930s, during the Stalin era, which won the 1994 Academy Award for Best Foreign Film.
In September 1939, Petersburski served as a sergeant in the Polish Air Forces. With the fall of Poland to the German and Soviet invaders, he managed to flee to the East and to survive in the Soviet Union. After the 1942 Sikorski --Stalin Pact, which guaranteed the release from the Gulags of all Poles imprisoned by KGB between 1939-41- he continued his career in Russia where he again founded the Petersburski & Gold orchestra, this time together with Artur Gold's brother Henryk, also a composer, who also managed to survive under the Soviet occupation. In USSR, Petersburski composed one of the finest war songs "Goluboy platok" ("The Blue Handkerchief"), first sung by Klavdya Shulzhenko (Polish title "Blekitna chusteczka"). When the Sikorski-Stalin agreement started to evaporate -- after uncovering of the mass graves of Polish officers murdered by the Russians in Katyn -- Petersburski went out from the USSR together with the Polish Army units, formed by General Anders.
In 1947 he traveled, via Palestine, to Brasil, where he first worked as one half of a piano duo with his friend from pre -war Poland, also a Jewish composer Alfred Schuetz. In 1948-'68 he lived in Argentina and worked with 'Radio El Mondo' in Buenos Aires. During this time, he composed the hit song "All Roads Lead to Buenos Aires". (Eight bars of this song became a famous radio jingle.) He also co-led, with the famous Polish-Jewish cabaret actor who managed to escape from Warsaw Kazimierz Krukowski („Lopek") the El National theatre orchestra. After the death of his wife, Maria Minkowska - during the earthquake in 1967 - Petersburski moved to Caracas, Venezuela and in 1968 returned to Poland. In 1968, after resettling in his beloved Warsaw, he married again with an opera singel Sylwia Klejdysz. He died in Warsaw in 1979.