Drzymała's wagon (Polish: wóz Drzymały) was a house on wheels built by Michał Drzymała as a protest against Imperial Germany's policy of Germanization in its Polish territories. Its owner, the peasant Michał Drzymała (1857-1937), was not only able to circumvent German building regulations by moving his home every day, but with his wagon-home became a Polish folk hero during the Partitions of Poland.
In 1886, by resolution of the Prussian Landtag, a Settlement Commission had been established to encourage German settlement in the Province of Posen and West Prussia. The Commission was empowered to purchase vacant property of the Polish szlachta and sell it to approved German applicants. The Prussian government regarded this as a measure designed to counteract the German "Flight from the East" (Ostflucht) and reduce the number of Poles, who were migrating to the area in hundreds of thousands looking for work. In Polish eyes, the establishment of the Commission was an aggressive measure designed to drive Poles from their lands.
While the campaign against Polish landownership largely missed its aims, it produced a strong opposition with its own hero, Drzymała. In 1904 he purchased a plot of land in Pogradowitz in the Posen district of Bomst, but found that the newly implemented Prussian Feuerstättengesetz ("furnace law") enabled local officials to deny him as a Pole the permission to build a permanent dwelling with an oven on his land. The law considered any place of stay a house if it stayed in one place for more than 24 hours. To get around the rule, he set himself up in a former circus caravan and for several years tenaciously defied in the courts all attempts to remove him. Each day, Drzymała moved the wagon a short distance, thereby exploiting the loophole and avoiding any legal penalties, until in 1909 he was able to buy an existent farmhouse nearby.
The case attracted publicity all over Germany. The German Kulturkampf measures and the Colonization Commission ultimately succeeded in stimulating the Polish national sentiment that they had been designed to suppress.
- "Drzymała's wagon" | 2018-11-12 | 109 Upvotes 23 Comments
The Katyn massacre (Polish: zbrodnia katyńska, "Katyń crime"; Russian: Катынская резня Katynskaya reznya, "Katyn massacre", or Russian: Катынский расстрел, "Katyn execution by shooting") was a series of mass executions of about 22,000 Polish military officers and intelligentsia carried out by the Soviet Union, specifically the NKVD ("People's Commissariat for Internal Affairs", the Soviet secret police) in April and May 1940. Though the killings also occurred in the Kalinin and Kharkiv prisons and elsewhere, the massacre is named after the Katyn Forest, where some of the mass graves were first discovered.
The massacre was initiated in NKVD chief Lavrentiy Beria's proposal of 5 March 1940 to execute all captive members of the Polish officer corps, approved by the Soviet Politburo led by Joseph Stalin. Of the total killed, about 8,000 were officers imprisoned during the 1939 Soviet invasion of Poland, another 6,000 were police officers, and the remaining 8,000 were Polish intelligentsia the Soviets deemed to be "intelligence agents, gendarmes, landowners, saboteurs, factory owners, lawyers, officials, and priests". The Polish Army officer class was representative of the multi-ethnic Polish state; the murdered included ethnic Poles, Polish Ukrainians, Belarusians, and Polish Jews including the Chief Rabbi of the Polish Army, Baruch Steinberg.
The government of Nazi Germany announced the discovery of mass graves in the Katyn Forest in April 1943. Stalin severed diplomatic relations with the London-based Polish government-in-exile when it asked for an investigation by the International Committee of the Red Cross. The USSR claimed the Nazis had killed the victims, and it continued to deny responsibility for the massacres until 1990, when it officially acknowledged and condemned the killings by the NKVD, as well as the subsequent cover-up by the Soviet government.
An investigation conducted by the office of the Prosecutors General of the Soviet Union (1990–1991) and the Russian Federation (1991–2004) confirmed Soviet responsibility for the massacres, but refused to classify this action as a war crime or as an act of mass murder. The investigation was closed on the grounds the perpetrators were dead, and since the Russian government would not classify the dead as victims of the Great Purge, formal posthumous rehabilitation was deemed inapplicable.
In November 2010, the Russian State Duma approved a declaration blaming Stalin and other Soviet officials for ordering the massacre.
Witold's Report, also known as Pilecki's Report, is a report about the Auschwitz concentration camp written in 1943 by Witold Pilecki, a Polish military officer and agent of the Polish resistance. Pilecki volunteered in 1940 to be imprisoned in Auschwitz to organize a resistance movement and send out information about it. His was the first comprehensive record of a Holocaust death camp to be obtained by the Allies. He escaped from the camp in April 1943.
The report includes details about the gas chambers, "Selektion" and the sterilization experiments. It states that there were three crematoria in Auschwitz II able to cremate 8000 people daily.
Pilecki's Report preceded and complemented the Auschwitz Protocols, compiled from late 1943, which warned about the mass murder and other atrocities taking place inside the camp. The latter consists of the Polish Major's Report by Jerzy Tabeau, who escaped with Roman Cieliczko on 19 November 1943 and compiled a report between December 1943 and January 1944; the Vrba-Wetzler report; and the Rosin-Mordowicz report.
- "Pilecki's Report" | 2020-01-23 | 104 Upvotes 20 Comments
The Scottish Book (Polish: Księga Szkocka) was a thick notebook used by mathematicians of the Lwów School of Mathematics in Poland for jotting down problems meant to be solved. The notebook was named after the "Scottish Café" where it was kept.
Originally, the mathematicians who gathered at the cafe would write down the problems and equations directly on the cafe's marble table tops, but these would be erased at the end of each day, and so the record of the preceding discussions would be lost. The idea for the book was most likely originally suggested by Stefan Banach, or his wife, Łucja, who purchased a large notebook and left it with the proprietor of the cafe.
- "The Scottish Book" | 2019-12-09 | 62 Upvotes 8 Comments
Stańczyk (c. 1480–1560) (Polish pronunciation: [ˈstaɲt͡ʂɨk]) was a Polish court jester, the most famous in Polish history. He was employed by three Polish kings: Alexander, Sigismund the Old and Sigismund Augustus.
- "Stańczyk" | 2019-10-01 | 142 Upvotes 13 Comments
Stanisław Herman Lem (Polish: [staˈɲiswaf ˈlɛm] (listen); 12 or 13 September 1921 – 27 March 2006) was a Polish writer of science fiction, philosophy, and satire. Lem's books have been translated into 41 languages and have sold over 45 million copies. From the 1950s to 2000s, he published many books, both science fiction and philosophical/futurological. Worldwide, he is best known as the author of the 1961 novel Solaris, which has been made into a feature film three times. In 1976, Theodore Sturgeon wrote that Lem was the most widely read science fiction writer in the world. The total print of Lem's books is over 30 million copies.
Lem's works explore philosophical themes through speculation on technology, the nature of intelligence, the impossibility of communication with and understanding of alien intelligence, despair about human limitations, and humanity's place in the universe. They are sometimes presented as fiction, but others are in the form of essays or philosophical books.
Translating his works is difficult due to passages with elaborate word formation, idiomatic wordplay, alien or robotic poetry, and puns.
- "Stanisław Lem" | 2019-11-04 | 82 Upvotes 27 Comments
Tadeusz Kościuszko (1746–1817), a prominent figure in the history of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth and the American Revolution, made several wills, notably one in 1798 stipulating that the proceeds of his American estate be spent on freeing and educating African-American slaves, including those of his friend Thomas Jefferson, whom he named as the will's executor. Jefferson refused the executorship and the will was beset by legal complications, including the discovery of later wills. Jefferson's refusal incited discussion in the 19th, 20th, and 21st centuries. Kościuszko returned to Europe in 1798 and lived there until his 1817 death in Switzerland. In the 1850s, what was left of the money in Kościuszko's U.S. trust was turned over by the U.S. Supreme Court to his heirs in Europe.
- "Wills of Tadeusz Kościuszko" | 2020-06-20 | 53 Upvotes 5 Comments
Intermarium (Polish: Międzymorze, Polish pronunciation: [mʲɛnd͡zɨˈmɔʐɛ]) was a geopolitical project conceived by politicians in successor states of the former Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth in several iterations, some of which anticipated the inclusion as well of other, neighboring states. The proposed multinational polity would have extended across territories lying between the Baltic, Black and Adriatic Seas, hence the name meaning "Between-Seas".
Prospectively a federation of Central and Eastern European countries, the post-World War I Intermarium plan pursued by Polish leader and former political prisoner of the Russian Empire, Józef Piłsudski (1867–1935), sought to recruit to the proposed federation the Baltic states (Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia), Finland, Belarus, Ukraine, Hungary, Romania, Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia. The Polish name Międzymorze (from między, "between"; and morze, "sea"), meaning "Between-Seas", was rendered into Latin as "Intermarium."
The proposed federation was meant to emulate the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth, stretching from the Baltic Sea to the Black Sea, that, from the end of the 16th century to the end of the 18th, had united the Kingdom of Poland and the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. Intermarium complemented Piłsudski's other geopolitical vision, Prometheism, whose goal was the dismemberment of the Russian Empire and that Empire's divestment of its territorial acquisitions.
Intermarium was, however, perceived by some Lithuanians as a threat to their newly established independence, and by some Ukrainians as a threat to their aspirations for independence, and while France backed the proposal, it was opposed by Russia and by most other Western powers. Within two decades of the failure of Piłsudski's grand scheme, all the countries that he had viewed as candidates for membership in the Intermarium federation had fallen to the Soviet Union or Nazi Germany, except for Finland (which suffered some territorial losses in the 1939–40 Winter War with the Soviet Union).
The Scottish Café (Polish: Kawiarnia Szkocka) was a café in Lwów, Poland (now Lviv, Ukraine) where, in the 1930s and 1940s, mathematicians from the Lwów School of Mathematics collaboratively discussed research problems, particularly in functional analysis and topology.
Stanislaw Ulam recounts that the tables of the café had marble tops, so they could write in pencil, directly on the table, during their discussions. To keep the results from being lost, and after becoming annoyed with their writing directly on the table tops, Stefan Banach's wife provided the mathematicians with a large notebook, which was used for writing the problems and answers and eventually became known as the Scottish Book. The book—a collection of solved, unsolved, and even probably unsolvable problems—could be borrowed by any of the guests of the café. Solving any of the problems was rewarded with prizes, with the most difficult and challenging problems having expensive prizes (during the Great Depression and on the eve of World War II), such as a bottle of fine brandy.
For problem 153, which was later recognized as being closely related to Stefan Banach's "basis problem", Stanisław Mazur offered the prize of a live goose. This problem was solved only in 1972 by Per Enflo, who was presented with the live goose in a ceremony that was broadcast throughout Poland.
The café building now houses the Szkocka Restaurant & Bar (named for the original Scottish Café) and the Atlas Deluxe hotel at the street address of 27 Taras Shevchenko Prospekt.
- "Scottish Café" | 2021-05-29 | 173 Upvotes 46 Comments
The method of Zygalski sheets was a cryptologic technique used by the Polish Cipher Bureau before and during World War II, and during the war also by British cryptologists at Bletchley Park, to decrypt messages enciphered on German Enigma machines.
The Zygalski-sheet apparatus takes its name from Polish Cipher Bureau mathematician–cryptologist Henryk Zygalski, who invented it about October 1938.
- "Zygalski Sheets" | 2021-07-10 | 74 Upvotes 1 Comments