Under a Thatched Roof: Sex and the Polish Peasantry of the 17th and 18th Centuries

Permission for premarital sex was commonplace.  The village only reacted when a girl became pregnant, and if the father of the child didn’t want to marry her, he paid child support in the form of a cow.  Dr. Tomasz Wiślicz tells Newsweek about customs from 300 years ago.

Newsweek Historia: Where did we learn about sex among the peasantry of the 17th and 18th centuries?

Dr. Tomasz Wiślicz: The peasants were illiterate, so they didn’t leave us any written records.  The main sources come from courtroom testimony, although they represent situations which violated the established norms.  We know the least about legal, marital sex.  Church records also tell us a lot, and give us an idea about when people married and conceived children.

The romanticization of peasant culture began in the 19th century.  Peasants were to be hard-working, God-fearing, and chaste.  However, in reality their sex ethic was far less rigorous than the example set for them by the church.  Virginity, in today’s sense of the word, was not an especially valuable asset.  Past ethnography believed that the proof of a woman’s abstinence from sex prior to marriage relied on the ritual of pokładziny, or the public demonstration of a bloodied sheet during the wedding night for the gathered wedding guests.  In spite of this there have been many known successful pokładziny for women who were known to have been pregnant at the time of the wedding.  More often than not the village inhabitants were well aware of it too.

From both historical and ethnographic research we draw a complicated system of customs allowing a rather safe cultivation of premarital sex.  For example, girls of a certain age had their beds moved from the common room they shared with the rest of her family, into a storage space, such as those used for storing food or valuables.  Boys sneaking into a girl’s bedroom at night were a common motif of folk poetry, and from historical sources we can ascertain that the older generations didn’t particularly want to get in the way of these escapades. 

NH: When did young people begin to engage in sex?  One peasant song tells, “Od sochy do sochy, niech trawa rośnie. Nie dawaj picochy, az ci porośnie” (From plow to plow, let the grass grow.  Don’t give up your pussy, until your grass grows).

TW:  Girls were allowed to start having sex once they began to menstruate, most likely between the ages of 14 and 15.  Boys may have started a bit later.  Investigation of parochial books shows that the average age at which peasants were married in the 17th and 18th century was between 20 and 24 for women, and 25-29 for men.  Therefore, between reaching sexual maturity and starting a family there was a period of about 10 years.  Many peasant children left the home during their teenage years to find servant positions – something in the way of job training in different villages or a manor house.  Serving in another peasant household had a family-like aspect.  The servant was treated as one of the family, ate their meals with their employers, worked alongside them in the fields and at home, and in addition was paid a small sum of money.  Their behavior was supervised by the host, but of course not nearly as scrupulously as by their own parents.  Serving was an ideal occasion to form closer relationships with the opposite sex, and often times this was when first sexual encounters took place.  At times these relationships ended in marriage.  Most marriages were among people from the same parish, so the number of potential partners in a given area was rather small and everyone knew one another.  It was a little bit like having to choose a mate out of the group of people you had gone to school with since preschool. 

NH: How sexually aware were most villagers?

TW: They knew what sex led to, because mating horses or cows was a public act which was witnessed by entire families.  It was also difficult to obscure people’s sexual activity.  Children knew what their parents did at night because most of them lived in a single room.  Since this took place under the cover of darkness, sex was more often heard than seen:  the squeaking of beds, sounds of bodies…

But practical knowledge was rather scarce.  I read testimony from a girl who attempted to establish paternity of her child by saying she had sex with a particular man on New Year’s, but her child was born in November.  They called experts and midwives to the stand, but in the end the ex-lover was acquitted.

NH: Where did people make love?

TW: Finding an intimate spot was difficult.  In a village consisting of a dozen or so homesteads it was easy to know everyone’s whereabouts.  Going into the forest wasn’t very pleasant.  Firstly, the forest was where pigs grazed, so you can imagine what the ground looked like.  Secondly, it was difficult to hide because trees were stripped of lower branches gathered for firewood.  Lovers would have to go deep into the woods.  The most common places for lovemaking were barns and stables, and not always just at night.  Every favorable moment was taken advantage of.  There were accounts of a couples found making love in the manure pit, especially during the winter when it’s hard to go into the forest, and the heat from the manure was an additional bonus.

The most abundant sex was had during harvest time, when everyone worked together, often long into the night.  Overall we can say that in the peasant community there was an atmosphere of silent approval for premarital sex.  For example, parents allowed their children to have “sleepovers” in the barn, or even openly carry on sexual relationships if they were engaged.

NH: How were people partnered?  In terms of wealth?  Beauty? 

TW: A sexually attractive partner was one who was good marriage material and with whom one could establish an economically successful household.  Infertility was deemed as God’s punishment.  Children were a free source of labor, so the more a family had, the less necessity to hire field hands there was.  It’s important to remember that the specter of hunger was constantly hanging over villages, so health, or the ability to work, was highly valued.  In those conditions the freedom to choose sexual partners (and perspective spouses) was a bit better than under feudalism, when wealth was the deciding criteria.

NH: Did people marry for love?

TW: Most likely yes, although this term wasn’t really used in its modern context.  If anything, the word “upodobanie” (fancy) was common.  Spouses were expected to respect rather than love one another, and a marriage was prominently looked at in terms of running a home in solidarity rather than passionate lovemaking.  Perhaps this was a non-romantic type of love, but it doesn’t mean it lacked real emotional commitment.

NH: What happened if [an unmarried] woman became pregnant? 

TW: If the man was found to be responsible, they married.  From the analysis of church records we see as many as 30% of peasant marriages took place because of unplanned pregnancy.  If the man refused, the community put pressure on him and his family.  The village was, after all, a type of corporation for which another family meant increased productivity and a better chance of survival for everyone.  If that didn’t work, the woman could take her lover to court.  After interrogating both sides, if he was found to be the most likely culprit, and the possibility of a hefty punishment did not convince him to marry, he was to pay a one-time form of child support:  usually this meant giving the pregnant woman a cow. 
In the village this man would have been labeled as irresponsible and having brought shame to his family.  He was mostly likely also ostracized by his peer group, and his chances of finding a future wife would have been greatly diminished.  A single mother also lost on the marriage market, but having a child didn’t mean completely losing a chance at having a successful marriage.  Another form of punishment for her was the cutting off of the braid and having her wear a cap, which initiated her into a group of adult women.  At this point she was no longer allowed to take part in social events for her peers.

NH: Who was responsible for peasant behavior?

TW: The local priest could sentence a parishioner for sexual misconduct to public penance:  lying face down in the position of the cross on the church floor, or binding him in shackles at the front of the church.  These were highly stigmatized ways of punishment and most churchgoers knew why the sinner was being punished in this way.  That, however, was the extent of the church’s power in that realm.

Most often, however, peasants watched over one another, and created their own, internal system of control.  In many villages functioned what was called the rug:  once a year all householders gathered in front of the public village court and confessed their wrongdoings, as well as those of their household members and sometimes neighbors.  Many cases of sexual misconduct were revealed this way, such as adultery.  In contrast to premarital sex, adultery was viewed as a serious offense and could even be punished by banishment from the community. 

NH:  Were there cases of wrongful accusation? 

TW:  Of course.  There is a known case of the daughter of a village locksmith who was very active in the church.  Someone claimed they saw her in a local inn engaging in inappropriate contact with boys.  They thought a girl like that wasn’t worthy of carrying holy paintings.  Her father took the accuser to court stating that if there is no child, there is no wrongdoing on his daughter’s part.  She was cleared of all charges and the people who accused her were punished instead.

NH: What types of contraceptive methods were used?

TW: We know very little on this subject.  Western historians are in a  much better position here, diaries written in the 18th century by lower class citizens survived to this day.  What we gather from them is that young people used many methods of sexual gratification that did not end in pregnancy – including mutual masturbation.  This could potentially explain that in mid-17th century England there were so few cases of children born out of wedlock.

We have virtually no data for Poland in this area.  Sometimes court documents show women accused of becoming pregnant before marriage, or due to an extramarital affair, who said their partners promised they would “make sure no result would come of it.”  It can be assumed that this referred to the pull-out method.  This, however, does not mean that a whole palette of contraceptives wasn’t used, it’s that they had more of a magical meaning behind them.  People believed in the effectiveness of herbs, spells, or things like burying a placenta from one birth to prevent a subsequent pregnancy.  

Induced abortions were also used, but in my opinion the most effective form of reducing the number of offspring was infanticide.  The average established number of years between births was between 2 and 3 years.  A woman who married at 20 could give birth to 7 or 8 children.  However, the model of the peasant family before the Partitions was 2 + 2 or 2 + 3.  So what happened to the rest of the children? 

NH: Did every woman kill 3-4 children, then?

TW: Of course not.  Mainly this deficit was the result of high infant and child mortality.  Women gave birth surrounded by other mothers, grandmothers, and midwives.  If they collectively decided during the birth that the family could not afford another child, or that it had a low chance of survival, they induced its death.  The babies didn’t die as a result of direct trauma, but more so from neglect.  No one considered this a crime, and the entire village saw it as a collective responsibility.

NH: Could the nobles force marriage among peasantry?

TW: Formally, yes.  The need to obtain permission for marriage was presented as terribly humiliating by literature of the Enlightenment, however in reality it was purely a necessary formality.  Especially if the betrothed came from land owned by two different masters.  In this case one of them lost, and another gained a peasant.  The one on the losing end usually felt entitled to compensation, either from the families of the newlyweds or from their new master.  It was purely about money, and not about petty interjection into people’s private lives.

NH: Did the ius primae noctis come into play?

TW: Historians today believe that the “right of the first night” is a myth.  Which by no means signifies that there was no exploitation of peasant women for sex by the noble class.  We’re speaking about the status quo here, however.  Why would a nobleman humiliate a peasant and invite aggression from an entire village by having sex with the bride on her wedding night?  An easier target would be a servant.  If she became pregnant, another man could take the blame, with a financial incentive of course.  This type of system existed rather well thanks to hypocrisy and mutual benefit of the men involved.  Priests lived under a similar rule.  If one treated his woman like a man treated his wife, didn’t beat her too much, didn’t cheat on her, and supported her children, no one really cared.  The community became outraged when a priest changed lovers too often and did not pay to support her child, or if he outright raped peasant women.

Sexual relationships among different classes seemed to have been based on exploitation of position within society, and were not devoid of physical and emotional abuse.  However, instances of such relationships resulting from mutual love have also been known to happen.  One noblewoman was so in love with her servant she convinced him to kill her husband.  Deep feelings must have also brought together one nobleman and the daughter of serf, with whom he lived for many years and had several children.  It wasn’t until after her death that he married a woman from his own social class.  

Prof. Tomasz Wiślicz - historian, professor of the Zakład Studiów Nowożytnych Instytutu Historii PAN, researcher of the history and culture of Poland in the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries.  Author of  “Upodobanie. Małżeństwo i związki nieformalne na wsi polskiej XVII-XVIII wieku.”  (source)

Images:

Still from the 1973 film Chłopi (Peasants), directed by Jan Rybkowski. [x]

Józef Chełmoński, Sielanka (Przed burzą), 1885. [x]

Józef Chełmoński, Oberek. 1878. [x]

Wincenty Wodzinowski, Odpoczynek żniwiarzy (Grajek), c. 1893. [x]

Wianek - Wreaths in the Slavic Tradition

In many cultures the wreath symbolizes innocence and has served as a sacred ritual prop, embodying the unity of the universe and eternity.

The perfect form of a circle gave wreaths magical characteristics, such as defense from evil, sickness, bad fortune, and dark spirits.  In Polish tradition wreaths blessed during the Corpus Cristi (Boże Ciało) feast were hung above doorways to help protect against lighting and disease.  Placed on the outside corner of a home under construction it was meant to guarantee its inhabitants happiness and protect them from all evil.

Wreaths were also used in divination.  During Noc Kupały (June 21st/22nd), Slavs used flower wreaths to foretell a young woman’s future.  If her wreath sank after being set into the water, it signified an early death.  If it stayed afloat, a wedding would soon follow.  And if the wreath spun in circles, it foretold spinsterhood.  The wreaths were also tossed into a tree in cases where villages were located far from rivers.  Various positions on a tree foretold different futures. 

The wreath has also been a symbol of innocence since time immemorial, and within the Christian tradition, a defendant of the body’s purity.  In many folk songs and carols the Virgin Mary weaves and wears flower wreaths, along with other holy virgins. 

As an element of headdress in the past, girls all around Europe and of all social classes wore flower wreaths.  Daughters of ruling knights often had them embellished with precious stones and ribbons.  Traditionally, unmarried Slavic women and priestesses serving Slavic deities wore flower wreaths.  Until the end of the 19th century young peasant women, as well as those from the sphere of nobility and city inhabitants all shared this common custom.  Wreaths were woven from specific materials, primarily ruta, myrtle, barwnik; all are symbols of chastity and everlasting life.  On some occasions flower wreaths worn with regional costumes were constructed from fabric flowers, ribbons, etc.  To this day the wreath remains a crucial element for every girl’s headdress during her 1st Communion.  In certain regions the family whose daughter was old enough to be wed displayed a wreath in the windows or on the front wall.

According to Slavic tradition, weddings began with the weaving of a wreath for the bride by her bridesmaids, the night before the ceremony, and was accompanied by songs.  The following day the bride wore her flower wreath, or in some regions a flower crown adorned with additional stones and ribbons.  Once the ceremony was over and the bride officially became a part of her husband’s family, a ritual called “oczepiny” took place.  Married women carefully removed the wreath or crown from the bride’s head, symbolizing her departure from girlhood.  The wreath was replaced by a cap (czepiec), thus welcoming her to their group.  If the wreath was woven with herbs and flowers it was most often kept under the glass of a holy paining, and pieces of it were later added to a baby’s first bath or used for medicine.  A woman who was married, or a girl who lost her virginity were said to have “lost their wreath” - “straciła wianek”.  Many folk songs use the theme of the flower wreath in their texts.  Often they tell a story of a wreath taken from a young girl by a water current, from which flowers slipped out, etc., and about the punishment that will befall anyone who picks it up. 

The traditional use of wreaths also extends into end of life rituals.  In the Slavic culture, proper funeral flowers come in the form of wreaths (often times set on spruce branches or fern leaves), which signify eternity, the closing of the circle of life, and also honor the dead.  Wreaths are commonly placed on graves during All Saint’s Day to commemorate those who are no longer with us.

— from Zwyczaje, Tradycje, Obrzędy, Urszula Janicka-Krzywda (pp.            227-231)

Images:  [x][x][x][x][x][x]

On the Beaches of the Baltic Sea - 1920s and 30s

Hel, August of 1929, young women from Poznań pose for a photograph for the Wielkopolska Ilustracja magazine. 

A beach in Sopot,1927.

Fishing port Wielka Wieś, girls’ summer camp, 1930 (today Władysławowo).

Karwia, beachgoers relax near a wicker beach basket, 1932.

Hel, 1933.

Hel, tourists from Warsaw, 1929.

A sailboat on a Gdynia beach, next to the newly constructed port,1929.

Gdynia Orłowo, men relaxing on the beach,1935.

Hel after the summer season, 1928.

Beach in Orłowo. Women in bathing suits post near a boat, 1933. (source)

WWI on Polish Lands

Civilians wandering and homeless after their villages were taken over by the Russian Army, Kowel, 1916.

Austro-Hungarian Army at a railroad station in Dobra, near Limanowa.

Austro-Hungarian Army posing for a photo in Dobra.

Austro-Hungarian soldier being treated by a nurse in Dobra.

Road construction in Polesie carried out by the Austro-Hungarians.

Łódź, Russian prisoners of war, 1915.

Postcard entitled, “Russian soldiers leaving Warsaw,” 1915.

Wołyńska campaign - soldiers in trenches, 1915/1916.

Austrian trenches in Nowosiołki, April 1916.

A grave emerging from water gathered in a pit, created by a artillery shell on the  Tarnów - Stefanowice road. (source)

Łódź Ghetto

"At the outbreak of World War II, the Jewish community of Łódź, Poland numbered nearly 200,000, roughly 30% of the city’s population. It was the second largest Jewish community in Poland, and one of the largest in the world. Within a few months of the Nazi invasion, the Germans established a ghetto in the northeastern section of Łódź and all of the city’s Jews were forced to move there.

Like other ghettos in Nazi-occupied Europe, the inhabitants of the Łódź ghetto suffered from horrendous living conditions and were forced to support the Nazi war-effort through manual labor. Unlike other ghettos, however, all aspects of daily life were ruled directly by the ghetto administration (Judenrat) and its head, Mordechai Chaim Rumkowski. Viewed as a controversial figure for his compliance with Nazi orders and strict policies in the ghetto, Rumkowski was in charge of maintaining order in the ghetto and fulfilling Nazi demands. Although his efforts to preserve the ghetto eventually proved fruitless, the Łódź ghetto existed until it was liquidated in August 1944 when the surviving residents were sent to Auschwitz-Birkenau.” (source)

Images:

A German postcard showing the entrance to the Lodz ghetto. The sign reads “Jewish residential area—entry forbidden.” Łódź, Poland, 1940-1941.

An emaciated man in the Łódź ghetto awaits deportation to the Chełmno death camp.

Two Jewish women sit outside in the Łódź ghetto and eat their soup ration.

Łódź ghetto Jews behind the wooden and barbed wire fence that separated the ghetto from the rest of the city (probably taken from Zgierska Street).

Deportation of Jewish children from the Łódź ghetto, Poland, during the Gehsperre Aktion, September 1942.

Jews deported from Germany and Austria march towards the Łódź ghetto. Łódź, Poland, October 1941.

Child street vendors. Łódź ghetto, Poland, 1942.

German police raid a vandalized Jewish home in the Łódź ghetto. Łódź, Poland, ca. 1942.

A Jewish man and child at forced labor in a factory in the Łódź ghetto. Łódź, Poland, date uncertain.

Jews from the Łódź ghetto are loaded onto freight trains for deportation to the Chełmno killing center. Łódź, Poland, between 1942 and 1944.

Rationing of Basic Goods in the People’s Republic of Poland

Reglamentacja towarów, or rationing of goods, was a system which controlled the distribution of goods in the People’s Republic of Poland as a result of significant market shortages, and which relied on ration cards that entitled the buyer to purchase a specific item (food, clothing, gasoline, etc.) at government-set prices.  These items were not available for sale without a ration card at any cost.  The system was implemented twice during the existence of the People’s Republic of Poland (PRL).  The first implementation took place following the Second World War and existed as an extension of rations imposed during the Nazi occupation of Poland.  At that time items such as bread, flour, groats, potatoes, vegetables, meat, fats, sugar, sweets, milk, coffee, tea, salt, vinegar, kerosene, matches, soap, and certain types of knitted fabric were all rationed.

As time went on items began to disappear off the list.  In January of 1946 matches and vegetables were no longer on it, in October of that year coffee and tea were also taken off.  In 1947 salt and kerosene became available without cards, and in January of 1948 so did potatoes.  The suspension of the rationing system was directly tied to the eradication of the free market.  On April 1st, 1948, Rada Ministrów (Council of Ministers) passed a resolution to discontinue ration cards for bread, flour and coal, and by January 1st of 1949 the card system ceased to be mandatory. 

Due to this decision being a result of political and not market issues, and the consistent lack of basic goods and difficult market situation, Prezydium Rządu (a section of the Council of Ministers) decided to revive the ration system in order to “help with the acquisition of meat, pork fats, and meat products,” on August 29th, 1951.  With time, this list once again expanded and in December of that year butter and vegetable oils were added; soap, detergents, sugar, and candy appeared in 1952.  The system was finally abolished on January 3rd, 1953, during a drastic rise in prices for these goods.

The second implementation of this system began on August 13th, 1976, with the introduction of rationed sugar, by the government of Piotr Jaroszewicz.  The first sugar cards to be printed were done so with extreme security measures, almost on the level of printing bank notes.  Later on their production was simplified, but it wasn’t until November 1st, 1985, that they were terminated completely.  During the labor strikes of 1980 one of the 21 postulates of the Interfactory Strike Committee’s demands called for the re-introduction of ration cards for meat, until the stabilization of the market occurred.  They were put in use on February 28th, 1981.

As a result of rising economic difficulties the ration system was expanded on April 30th, 1981, and included all meat products, butter, flour, rice, and groats.  On September 1st, 1981, the system also began to ration soap and detergents.  After the implementation of Martial Law on December 13th of that year the rationing expanded further, encompassing goods such as chocolate, alcohol, gasoline and many others, succeeding in surpassing even tight rationing of WWII.  During the height of rationing proof of purchase for items like cotton balls, diapers, formula, butter, etc., was stamped into a child’s health record, as having an infant or toddler allowed the parents the purchase of these products.  A receipt from a wastepaper collection site entitled a consumer to purchase 1 roll of toilet paper in exchange for 1kg of wastepaper. 

After the period of Martial Law ended there was an attempt to gradually abolish the ration cards, however the constant lack of basic goods on the market continued to make them necessary.  It wasn’t until 1986, along with the progressive liberalization of prices and their drastic rise, the system was slowly and carefully limited.  The rationing of basic goods was finally withdrawn by the government of Mieczysław Rakowski.  The last item to be rationed was meat - its ration cards were mandatory until the end of July of 1989. 

The ration card system during Martial Law and following years didn’t function very efficiently.  The most common side-effect was the necessity to spend hours in long lines to purchase basic goods without the assurance that there will be enough of them for everyone, in spite of the government’s formal guarantee.  Stores attempted to rectify this issue by “registering” ration cards.  This required the buyer to present a card with the stamp of the store they were shopping at.  In practice this system did not prove effective. 

Another characteristic of the state of affairs during the 1980s was the first illegal, and eventually legalized sale of difficult to obtain items beyond the parameters of the ration system.  Starting in 1986 almost all goods available with ration cards at government prices were available for sale without them, however the prices were usually 2-3 times higher than those guaranteed by ration cards.  Along side this system was also an illegal one, a very common and often unsuccessfully prosecuted black market of ration cards.  The most common rations to be bought and sold by these means were ones for alcohol and gasoline.

It’s imperative to understand that the ration cards only authorized the buyer to purchase certain goods, they did not cover their costs.  Each person was responsible for providing both a ration card and cash payment at the time of purchase. [x][x]

Images:

Multi-assortment ration card (flour, candy, sugar, cigarettes, alcohol, chocolate, fats, detergent, cereal), November 1982. [x]

Milk ration card, 1L per day, June 1983. [x]

Meat ration card, 1989 (unused due to final cessation of rationing). [x]

Ration for one pair of shoes, issued in Kalisz with the expiration date of March 31st, 1983. [x]

Sugar ration card, Warsaw, July 25th, 1976. [x]

Gasoline ration card, April 5th, 1984. [x]

Ration for one school notebook for elementary students in grades 5 and 6, with an expiration date of September 15th, 1982.  [x]

A non-historical announcement:

I apologize for the lack of new (and decent) content these past few days. I’ve been on bed rest and haven’t had it in me to do anything aside from mindlessly reblogging whatever comes my way, and being crabby. So, with that said, I hope you stick around until I get myself together, which should be soon. Also, remember, I always welcome submissions if you have anything you’d like to share. Toodles for now.

Hymn (Smutno mi, Boże…)
Smutno mi, Boże! - Dla mnie na zachodzie Rozlałeś tęczę blasków promienistą; Przede mną gasisz w lazurowej wodzie Gwiazdę ognistą… Choć mi tak niebo Ty złocisz i morze, Smutno mi, Boże! Jak puste kłosy, z podniesioną głową Stoję rozkoszy próżen i dosytu… Dla obcych ludzi mam twarz jednakową, Ciszę błękitu. Ale przed Tobą głąb serca otworzę, Smutno mi, Boże! Jako na matki odejście się żali Mała dziecina, tak ja płaczu bliski, Patrząc na słońce, co mi rzuca z fali Ostatnie błyski… Choć wiem, że jutro błyśnie nowe zorze, Smutno mi, Boże! Dzisiaj, na wielkim morzu obłąkany, Sto mil od brzegu i sto mil przed brzegiem, Widziałem lotne w powietrzu bociany Długim szeregiem. Żem je znał kiedyś na polskim ugorze, Smutno mi, Boże! Żem często dumał nad mogiłą ludzi, Żem prawie nie znał rodzinnego domu, Żem był jak pielgrzym, co się w drodze trudzi Przy blaskach gromu, Że nie wiem, gdzie się w mogiłę położę, Smutno mi, Boże! Ty będziesz widział moje białe kości W straż nie oddane kolumnowym czołom; Alem jest jako człowiek, co zazdrości Mogił popiołom… Więc, że mieć będę niespokojne łoże, Smutno mi, Boże! Kazano w kraju niewinnej dziecinie Modlić się ze mną co dzień… a ja przecie Wiem, że mój okręt nie do kraju płynie, Płynąc po świecie… Więc, że modlitwa dziecka nic nie może, Smutno mi, Boże! Na tęczę blasków, którą tak ogromnie Anieli Twoi w niebie rozpostarli, Nowi gdzieś ludzie w sto lat będą po mnie Patrzący - marli. Nim się przed moją nicością ukorzę, Smutno mi, Boże!Pisałem o zachodzie słońca na morzu przed Aleksandrią 19 października 1836
— Juliusz Słowacki

Hymn (Smutno mi, Boże…)

Smutno mi, Boże! - Dla mnie na zachodzie
Rozlałeś tęczę blasków promienistą;
Przede mną gasisz w lazurowej wodzie
Gwiazdę ognistą…
Choć mi tak niebo Ty złocisz i morze,
Smutno mi, Boże!

Jak puste kłosy, z podniesioną głową
Stoję rozkoszy próżen i dosytu…
Dla obcych ludzi mam twarz jednakową,
Ciszę błękitu.
Ale przed Tobą głąb serca otworzę,
Smutno mi, Boże!

Jako na matki odejście się żali
Mała dziecina, tak ja płaczu bliski,
Patrząc na słońce, co mi rzuca z fali
Ostatnie błyski…
Choć wiem, że jutro błyśnie nowe zorze,
Smutno mi, Boże!

Dzisiaj, na wielkim morzu obłąkany,
Sto mil od brzegu i sto mil przed brzegiem,
Widziałem lotne w powietrzu bociany
Długim szeregiem.
Żem je znał kiedyś na polskim ugorze,
Smutno mi, Boże!

Żem często dumał nad mogiłą ludzi,
Żem prawie nie znał rodzinnego domu,
Żem był jak pielgrzym, co się w drodze trudzi
Przy blaskach gromu,
Że nie wiem, gdzie się w mogiłę położę,
Smutno mi, Boże!

Ty będziesz widział moje białe kości
W straż nie oddane kolumnowym czołom;
Alem jest jako człowiek, co zazdrości
Mogił popiołom…
Więc, że mieć będę niespokojne łoże,
Smutno mi, Boże!

Kazano w kraju niewinnej dziecinie
Modlić się ze mną co dzień… a ja przecie
Wiem, że mój okręt nie do kraju płynie,
Płynąc po świecie…
Więc, że modlitwa dziecka nic nie może,
Smutno mi, Boże!

Na tęczę blasków, którą tak ogromnie
Anieli Twoi w niebie rozpostarli,
Nowi gdzieś ludzie w sto lat będą po mnie
Patrzący - marli.
Nim się przed moją nicością ukorzę,
Smutno mi, Boże!

Pisałem o zachodzie słońca na morzu przed Aleksandrią
19 października 1836

Juliusz Słowacki

First Polish Man in Space

"Mirosław Hermaszewski (born September 15, 1941), is a retired Polish Air Force officer and cosmonaut. He became the first (and to this day remains the only) Polish national in space when he flew aboard the Soyuz 30 spacecraft in 1978.

Mirosław Hermaszewski was born into a Polish family in Lipniki, Volhynia, formerly in Poland (Wołyń Voivodeship) but at the time part of the Reichskommissariat Ukraine, in present day - Ukraine. He is a survivor of the Volhynian massacres during World War II, during which Ukrainian nationalists murdered 19 members of his family, including his father.  In 1965, he graduated from the military pilot school in Dęblin. In 1978, he was chosen from almost 500 Polish pilots to take part in the Intercosmos space program. Together with Pyotr Klimuk, he spent almost eight days on board the Salyut 6 space station (from 17:27, June 27, 1978 ‘til 16:31, July 5). During their time in orbit, they carried out geoscience experiments and photographed the Earth.  They landed 300 km west of Tselinograd. He was awarded with the Hero of the Soviet Union title for that flight.

During the period of martial law in Poland, Hermaszewski was a member of the Military Council of National Salvation (Wojskowa Rada Ocalenia Narodowego, WRON), a military quasi-government.  Later, he was a commander of the Fighter Pilots School in Dęblin. In 1988, he was promoted to general. Between 1991 and 1992, Hermaszewski served as a second-in-command of the Headquarters of the Airforce.  He is currently retired. He is married to Emilia Hermaszewska and has two children, Miroslaw (born 1966) and Emilia (born 1974).”  (source)

Images:

Mirosław Hermaszewski

Pyotr Klimuk and Mirosław Hermaszewski during their Soyuz 30 mission.

Soyuz 30 landing capsule at the Muzeum Polskiej Techniki Wojskowej in Warsaw. 

Żołnierze wyklęci - Cursed Soldiers

"The cursed soldiers is a name applied to a variety of Polish resistance movements formed in the later stages of World War II and afterwards. Created by some members of the Polish Secret State, these clandestine organizations continued their armed struggle against the Stalinist government of Poland well into the 1950s. The guerrilla warfare included an array of military attacks launched against the new communist prisons as well as MBP state security offices, detention facilities for political prisoners, and concentration camps set up across the country. Most of the Polish anti-communist groups ceased to exist in the late 1940s or 1950s, hunted down by MBP security services and NKVD assassination squads.  However, the last known ‘cursed soldier’, Józef Franczak, was killed in an ambush as late as 1963, almost 20 years after the Soviet take-over of Poland.

The best-known Polish anti-communist resistance organizations operating in Stalinist Poland included Freedom and Independence (Wolność i Niezawisłość, WIN), National Armed Forces (Narodowe Siły Zbrojne, NSZ), National Military Union (Narodowe Zjednoczenie Wojskowe, NZW), Konspiracyjne Wojsko Polskie (Underground Polish Army, KWP), Ruch Oporu Armii Krajowej (Home Army Resistance, ROAK), Armia Krajowa Obywatelska (Citizens’ Home Army, AKO), NIE (NO, short for Niepodległość), Armed Forces Delegation for Poland (Delegatura Sił Zbrojnych na Kraj), and Wolność i Sprawiedliwość (Freedom and Justice, WiS).”  Read More

Images:

Summer 1945, Białystok, 5th Wileńska Brigade, Lt. M.Pluciński “Mścisław”, Sgt. K.Chmielowski “Rekin”,  Platoon-leader L.Smoleński “Zeus”, 2nd Lt. W.Minkiewicz “Wiktor”, Sgt. W.Goldzisz “Radio”, Sgt. H.Wieliczko “Lufa”, Sgt. J.Lejkowski “Szpagat”.

1945, Białystok, 5th Wileńska Brigade, 2nd Lt. Henryk Wieliczko “Lufa”, Lt. Marian Pluciński “Mścisław”, Major Zygmunt Szendzielarz “Łupaszka”,  Sgt. Jerzy Lejkowski “Szpagat”, 2nd Lt. Zdzisław Badocha “Żelazny”.

4th Squadron, 5th Wileńska Brigade, Lt. M.Pluciński “Mścisław”, 2nd Lt. H.Wieliczko “Lufa”, M.Abramowicz “Miecio”, 2nd Lt. Z.Badocha “Żelazny”, Sgt. J.Lejkowski “Szpagat”, Corp. Z.Fijałkowski “Pędzelek”, D.Siedzikówna “Inka”, “Beduin”, “Radio”, “Ostatni”.

Major Zygmunt Szendzielarz “Łupaszka”.

Franciszek Niepokolczycki, colonel and a sapper in the Polish Army, soldier of the Polish Home Army (AK) and the anti-communist organization Freedom and Independence (WiN) and a political prisoner during the Stalinist period in Poland.

September 7th, 1945, Stoczek (Wysokie Mazowieckie County), 5th Wileńska Brigade.

1945, Białystok, partisans from the “Łupaszek” squad, 2nd Lt. Zdzisław Badocha “Żelazny”, Sgt. Jerzy Lejkowski “Szpagat”, Platoon-leader Leon Smoleński “Zeus”.

November 1947, Warsaw, the show trial of Zrzeszenie Wolność i Niezawisłość WiN (Freedom and Independence) members, testimony of Colonel Wincenty Kwieciński who was sentenced to death but had his sentence commuted to life in prison.  He was released a decade later.

Archeological festival at Biskupin. [x

"A beautifully preserved fortified settlement which is more than 2500 years old.  It is the best known archaeological reserve in Central Europe which protects the old defensive village from the turn of the Bronze and Iron Age that was  inhabited by people of the Lusatian culture. It was originally discovered in 1933. The museum in Biskupin is open all year round. The settlement of the people of the Lusatian culture, which was found on the peninsula on Lake Biskupin, dates back about 2500 years. Already before World War II there was an archaeological reserve here, constantly expanding, it now covers an area of 24 hectares. In the exhibition pavilion there are exhibits of tools, utensils, ornaments, weapons, remnants of crops and bones of domestic animals that have been found in Biskupin. However, the most impressive features are the original sections and the reconstruction of the wooden fortified settlement from the 8th and 7th century BC. There are two parallel rows of huts (eight in each row) surrounded by a wooden breakwater and a defensive rampart with a gate, a watch tower and a drawbridge. Each year the museum organises the largest archaeological festival in Europe." (source)