Tuesday, August 22, 2017
Poland is an eastern European country on the Baltic Sea known for its medieval architecture and Jewish heritage. Warsaw, the capital, has shopping and nightlife, plus the Warsaw Uprising Museum, honoring the city’s World War II-era resistance to German occupation. In the city of Kraków, 14th-century Wawel Castle rises above the medieval old town, home to Cloth Hall, a Renaissance trading post in Rynek Glówny (market square).
The official name of Poland is The Republic of Poland (Rzeczpospolita Polska).
The flag of Poland consists of two horizontal stripes of equal width, the upper one white and the lower one red. The two colors are defined in the Polish constitution as the national colors.
The Flag of Poland
The Coat of Arms of Poland
The capital of Poland is Warsaw.
The population of Poland is 37.93 million people (2016).
The currency of Poland is the Polish zloty.
The current president of Poland is Andzei Duda.
The size of Poland is 120,562 square miles (312,255 km2)
In 2011, 92.2% of Poles identified themselves as Roman Catholics and 65% of Polish believers attend church services on a regular basis. The rest of the population consists mainly of Eastern Orthodox (504,150 believers, Polish and Belarusian), various Protestant churches (about 145,600, with the largest being the Evangelical Church of the Augsburg Confession in Poland with 61,738 members) and Jehovah's Witnesses (129,270). There are about 85,000 Greek Catholics in Poland. Other religions practiced in Poland, by less than 1% of the population, include Islam and Judaism and to a lesser extent Hinduism and Buddhism.
Roman Catholic Churches
Roman Catholicism is so popular in Poland that there is a television channel dedicated to the Pope.
Poland’s highest point is Mt. Rysy at 8,199 feet (2,499 m); its lowest is near Raczki Elbląskie at 6.56 feet (2 m) below sea level.
Poland joined NATO in 1999 and the European Union in 2004.
Poland’s national anthem is Dąbrowski’s Mazurka. The anthem, commonly known as “Jeszcze Polska nie zginęla” (“Poland Has Not Yet Perished”), was written in 1797 by Jozef Wybicki. The anthem was composed in Italy, where Polish troops were fighting at the side of Napoleon.
The first Polish ruler recorded in history was Mieszko, about A.D. 963. In 966, Mieszko adopted Christianity, making Poland the easternmost country within the orbit of Latin culture.
The 380,000-acre (150,000-hectare) Białowieża Primeval Forest in Poland is Europe’s last ancient forest and home to 800 European bison, Europe’s heaviest land animals.
The Mongols’ invasion of Poland from late 1240 to 1241 culminated in the battle of Legnica, where the Mongols defeated an alliance of forces from fragmented Poland and members of various Christian military orders led by Henry II the Pious, the Duke of Silesia.
Polish King Kazimierz Jagiellończyk, became known as the “Father of Europe.” Of his nine children, one became a cardinal, four became kings, one was canonized, and the three daughters were married off to become mothers of the heirs of the greatest dynasties in Western Europe.
In 1573, the Poles elected their king, Henry de Valois, but the new king decided to return to France immediately after his coronation to rule as Henry III.
The last Polish monarch, Stanisław Poniatowski, died in prison in 1798 in St. Petersburg, Russia.
On November 11, 1918, Poland declared itself a republic, independent of Russia. Poles have celebrated their Independence Day as a national holiday on November 11th since 1937. However, public celebration of the holiday was forbidden from 1939–1989, while Poland was under a Communist government. Since the collapse of that government, Independence Day has become the most important Polish national holiday.
In 1922, Gabriel Narutowicz became Poland’s first democratically elected president.
On September 1, 1939, the German Wehrmacht invaded Poland without any prior declaration of war, thereby beginning World War II.
Poland was the only European country which never officially collaborated with the Nazis at any level, and no Polish units fought alongside the Nazi army. Poland never officially surrendered to Germany, and the Polish Resistance movement in German-occupied Poland during World War II was the largest resistance movement in Europe.
The word “Poland” is the Anglicized version of Polska, which is ultimately derived from the word or “field.” Thus, Poland means “land of the Poles”—which could be a reference to the Polans, Polanies, or Polonians, who were to eventually unite the territories of Poland and establish the first Polish national dynasty, the Piast.
On September 12, 1989, the first freely elected, non-communist government in a Warsaw Pact state took office, led by Poland’s Nobel Peace Prize-winner Lech Wałęsa, who was instrumental in organizing the Solidarity movement of the 1980's.
Adam Mickiewicz is the author of the Polish national epic poem, Pan Tadeusz (Master Thaddeus) in 1834, which ironically begins with the verse “Lithuania, my fatherland!”
The 2,121-feet- (646-m-) high Warsaw Radio Mast in Konstantynów, Poland, was the world’s tallest structure until it was intentionally collapsed on August 8, 1991.
During World War II, the Polish town of Oświeçim was the site of the Auschwitz-Birkenau Concentration Camps, where at least 1.1. million Nazi prisoners were killed by gassing with the pesticide Zyklon-B and many more died in other ways. Ninety percent of the prisoners killed were Jewish. The first exterminations of prisoners took place in September,1941.
The Entrance to Auschwitz-Birkenau
Gniezno was the very first capital of Poland. The Gniezno Cathedral has been the seat of the Polish archbishops since A.D. 1000. The first Polish martyr, St. Adalbert, is entombed in Gniezno Cathedral.
On July 20, 1944, Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg made his courageous, though unsuccessful, attempt to assassinate Hitler at the Wolf’s Lair, near Kętrzyn, in northeastern Poland. The Wolf’s Lair was Hitler’s main headquarters along the German Eastern Front.
Russian composer Dmitri Shostakovich, whose paternal Polish grandfather fought in the 1863 insurrection against Russia and was exiled to Siberia, is the most famous of the descendant of those Poles exiled or killed during that rebellion.
It is estimated that 100 million pączki, a Polish doughnut, are consumed every year on the the Thursday before Ash Wednesday alone.
On November 3, 1939, the first death sentence of World War II was passed by the Nazis on two Polish women who had torn down Nazi placards.
Poland’s Henryk Sienkiewicz, author of Quo Vadis and winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature, is buried in Warsaw’s St. John’s Cathedral, which also happens to bear the dedication “Decapitation of the head of St. John.”
Napoleon Bonaparte met the Polish elite and his future mistress, Countess Maria Waleska, in the ballroom of Warsaw’s Zamek Królewski (Royal Castle) in 1806.
Nicolaus Copernicus (Mikołaj Kopernik) was born in 1473 in Toruń (Thorn), Poland. He was educated at Kraków’s Jagiellonian University and after that joined the Catholic priesthood. On his return home from studying in the famous Renaissance universities in Padua and Bologna, he became administrator of the northern bishopric of Warmia in 1497, also working as a doctor, lawyer, architect, and soldier. He lived for 15 years in Frombork, where he constructed an observatory and undertook his research, which he later wrote down in De revolutionibus orbium coelestium; its revolutionary contention was that the sun, not Earth, was the center of the planetary system. The work was published by church authorities in Nuremberg in 1543, the year Copernicus died. It was later banned by the papacy, but re-allowed into scholasticism in 1582 with Pope Gregory.
Nicolaus Copernicus (assumed image)
Ludwig Zamenhof, from Białystok, Poland, created the artificial language of Esperanto. His first primer, Dr. Esperanto’s International Language, was published in 1887. The first world Esperanto conference was held in France in 1905, the same year Zamenhof published Fundamento de Esperanto, his main work, which became the basic Esperanto textbook and is still use today. Universala Esperanto-Asocio has an estimated worldwide membership of 500,000 speakers. There is still a thriving Esperanto-speaking community in Białystok.
Marie Curie (Manya Sklodowska) was born in Warsaw (Warszawa), Poland, on November 7, 1867. She moved to Paris in early 1880 and married Frenchman Pierre Curie in 1895. With her husband, she discovered the elements polonium (Po), named after her native Poland, in the summer of 1898 and, soon thereafter, radium (Ra). She is credited for coining the term “radioactivity” and won her first Nobel Prize in Physics with her husband and another colleague, Henri Becquerel, in 1903. Following Pierre’s death in 1906, Marie was appointed to her husband’s professorship and was the first woman to teach at Paris’ Sorbonne University. She won a second Nobel Prize in 1911 for her research in the isolation of pure radium.
Thomas Keneally’s book Schindler’s Ark is based on the life of Oskar Schindler, a German industrialist who used his business operations to shelter thousands of Polish Jews during World War II. The book won Britain’s prestigious Booker Prize in 1982 and was also made into an Academy Award-winning film, Schindler’s List, by Steven Spielberg.
American author Leon Uris wrote the bestselling novel Mila 18, based on the tale of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising of 1843. Mila 18 was the Warsaw address of the Jewish Resistance militia’s headquarters.
Ignacy Jan Paderewski was a celebrated pianist and composer who became Poland’s first prime minister post World War II, as the country regained its independence from Nazi Germany.
Mikołaj Rej is the so-called Father of Polish Literature, being the first author to write exclusively in the Polish language.
In October, 1978, the Bishop of Kraków, Poland, Cardinal Karol Józef Wojtyla, became Pope John Paul II, the 264th head of the Roman Catholic Church on October 16, 1978 at 5:15 p.m. A mountain climbing man of letters, playwright, philosopher, intellectual, and poet, Pope John Paul II is affirmed by many as one of the chief architects of the Second Vatican Council and its document Gaudium es Spes, or Joy and Hope. He was canonized by the Roman Catholic Church on April 27, 2014.
Pope (and Saint) John Paul II
Poles have won a total of 17 Nobel Prizes (more than Japan, China, India, or Australia), including four Peace Prizes and five in Literature.
Polish-born Michael Marks arrived in Britain in the 1880s, fleeing persecution of the Jews in Russian-controlled Poland. In 1884, he set up a stall in Leeds’ Kirkgate open market, selling household goods for the fixed price of a penny. He would later go on to become cofounder, with Tom Spencer, of Marks & Spencer Department Stores, which officially opened in 1894.
Born in Kraków, Poland, Helena Rubinstein can take credit for the world’s first waterproof mascara, and later for the precursor of the mascara wands used universally today, when she bought and developed a business called “Mascara-Matic.” The business was also the first to develop a professional range of suntan products.
Helena Rubinstein (photo)
One of the world’s oldest salt mines, the Wieliczka Salt Mine, located in the southern Polish town of Wieliczka, was built in the 13th century and produced table salt until 2007. The mine’s attractions include dozens of statues, three chapels, and an entire cathedral carved out of rock salt by the miners. Approximately 1.2 million visitors walk through the salt mine annually. The mine reaches a depth of 1,073 feet (327 m) and is over 178 miles (287 km) long. It is often referred to as the “Underground Salt Cathedral of Poland.”
The English writer Joseph Conrad was born Józef Teodor Konrad Nałęcz Korzeniowski in Poland. He is most famous for the novels Lord Jim and Heart of Darkness.
The highest mountain in Australia, Mount Kosciuszko, was named after Polish General Tadeusz Kościuszko, who fought against the Russian Empire as well as in the American Revolutionary War.
Kazimierz (Casimir Pulaski) is a Polish-born nobleman and soldier who was recruited by Benjamin Franklin and the Marquis de Lafayette to fight with the colonists in the American Revolutionary War. He is sometimes called the “Father of the American cavalry.” He was killed on October 9, 1779, during the Battle of Savannah in Georgia.
In 1912, Casimir Funk, a Polish-born American biochemist, collected all published literature on the issue of vitamin deficiency. He was the first to isolated niacin, later called Vitamin B3. He also coined the term vital amine to describe the class of chemicals he and other researchers were studying, and the word was later simplified to vitamin by 1920.
Stanisław Leszczyński, King of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth 1704–1709 and 1733–1736, was the father-in-law of Louis XV of France. Leszczyński became the last Duke of Lorraine after losing the throne of Poland. He gave his name to a World Heritage City square in Nancy, then the capital of the Duchy of Lorraine.
Polish astronomer Johannes Hevelius published the earliest exact maps of the moon.
In 1802, a Polish unit of soldiers accompanied a French force sent to quell the slave uprising in the French colony of Haiti. Descendants of the Polish soldiers still live in Haiti where they are known as negres blancs. In 1983, Pope John Paul II visited Haiti and acknowledged its place in Polish history.
Mirosław Hermaszewski was the first Polish national in space, flying aboard the Soyuz 30 spacecraft in 1978 and spending almost eight days on board the Salyut 6 space station as part of the Intercosmos space program.
Frédéric François Chopin (Fryderyk Franciszek Szopen), is Poland’s most famous composer. Chopin was born in Żelazowa Wola, Poland, in 1810. In the summer of 1830, he left Poland, never to return. He died in Paris in 1849 in his home at Place Vendôme 12 and is buried in Père-Lachaise Cemetery in Paris.
Frédéric François Chopin
The International Fryderyk Chopin Piano Competition is one of the oldest music competitions in the world. It was founded by Polish Professor Jerzy Zurawiew, and the first competition took place in January 1927 in the Warsaw Philharmonic in 1927. From then on, the competition was organized to take place every five years except for 1942, when the competition was interrupted by World War II.
The first Olympic medal in winter sports won by a Polish national was a bronze won by skier Franciszek Gąsienica Groń in 1956.
The beginnings of Polish football, or soccer, can be traced back to a seven-minute-long game played on July 15, 1894. The first real Polish football club was called Sława Lwów, later Czarni Lwów, formed in 1903. The first international match Poland played was against Hungary in 1921 in Budapest, which Poland lost 0-1.
Poland contributed 144 fighter pilots to the Allied effort during World War II, most notably in the RAF 302 and 303 squadrons. It is claimed they are responsible for shooting down 204 German planes and probably another 35, which was 12%–14% of German losses during the Battle of Britain in 1940.
Poland’s Stanisław Lem is known as one of the world’s greatest science fiction writers. His novel Solaris was made into a movie in 2002.
Poles consider the Battle of Monte Cassino, a Benedictine monastery in Italy, their most important military action during World War II. After repeated Allied failures to take the monastery, Second Polish Corps commanded by General Władysław Anders succeeded, although with heavy losses. The battle was increasingly commemorated after 1989, with streets in Poland being named after it.
Polish-born Pola Negri, born Apolonia Chałupec, became a great Hollywood starlet, especially of the silent film era. Her most memorable roles were in historical epics such as Ann Boleyn and Madame DuBarry.
Krąków’s Jagiellonian University was established by King Casimir III the Great in 1364 and is the oldest university in Poland and second oldest in Central Europe.
The American Academy of Motion Pictures recognized the outstanding merit of Andrzej Wajda, Poland’s most famous contemporary film director, awarding him a special Oscar for lifetime achievement in March 2000.
Polish-born Mariusz Pudzianowski is a five-time winner of the “World’s Strongest Man” title.
President Woodrow Wilson set out Fourteen Points in January 1918 as the basis for a peace settlement at the end of World War I. The Thirteenth Point laid down the requirement for an independent Poland, with secure access to the sea.
Barbara Piasecka Johnson, of Johnson & Johnson Company fame, was born in Staniewicze, Poland. In 1971, she married John Steward Johnson, who left her the bulk of his fortune when he died in 1983. In 2007, she was listed on the Forbes 400 World’s Richest People List with an estimated net worth of $2.7 billion US, making her the 149th richest person in the world. She died in Sobótka, Poland, in 2013, and was buried in Wrocław.
Poles drink, on average, 92 liters of beer a year, which places Poland third in consumption in Europe behind Germany and the Czech Republic.
The first surviving cookbook of Polish recipes dates from 1682 with dishes influenced by strong Lithuanian, Tartar-Turkish, and German influences.
The Polish alphabet consists of 32 letters.
Pierogi, or Polish dumplings, are one of the most recognizable Polish dishes outside of Poland.
Ronald Reagan named his 1982 speech “Let Poland Be Poland” after the song, “Żeby Polska była Polską,” a protest song written in 1976 by Jan Pietrzak.
Poland has a history of producing high-quality vodka for more than 500 years.
The first Polish vodkas appeared in the 11th century when they were called gorzalks and used as medicines.
Located in Wrocław, the “Piwnica Swidnicka” is the oldest restaurant in Europe, open since 1275.
Pizza, or zapiekanka, in Poland does not contain tomato sauce. It is a popular street food served on a baguette with melted cheese, mushrooms, and ketchup.
Inspired by and named for the original Woodstock rock festival, Pryzstanek Woodstock, an annual free rock music festival in Poland, is the largest open-air festival in Europe.
In Poland, bananas are peeled from the blossom end not the stem end.
Pictures of Poland