2016. April 12.
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Poland

Kraków

Kraków, Cracow or Krakow is the second largest and one of the oldest cities in Poland. Situated on the Vistula River in the Lesser Poland region, the city dates back to the 7th century. Kraków has traditionally been one of the leading centres of Polish academic, cultural, and artistic life and is one of Poland's most important economic hubs. It was the capital of the Crown of the Kingdom of Poland from 1038 to 1569; the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth from 1569 to 1596; the Free City of Kraków from 1815 to 1846; the Grand Duchy of Cracow from 1846 to 1918; and Kraków Voivodeship from the 14th century to 1998. It has been the capital of Lesser Poland Voivodeship since 1999. The city has grown from a Stone Age settlement to Poland's second most important city. It began as a hamlet on Wawel Hill and was already being reported as a busy trading centre of Slavonic Europe in 965. With the establishment of new universities and cultural venues at the emergence of the Second Polish Republic in 1918 and throughout the 20th century, Kraków reaffirmed its role as a major national academic and artistic centre. The city has a population of approximately 760,000, with approximately 8 million additional people living within a 100 km (62 mi) radius of its main square. After the invasion of Poland at the start of World War II, Kraków became the capital of Germany's General Government. The Jewish population of the city was forced into a walled zone known as the Kraków Ghetto, from which they were sent to German extermination camps such as the nearby Auschwitz never to return, and the Nazi concentration camps like Płaszów.

In 1978, Karol Wojtyła, archbishop of Kraków, was elevated to the papacy as Pope John Paul II — the first Slavic pope ever, and the first non-Italian pope in 455 years. Also that year, UNESCO approved the first ever sites for its new World Heritage List, including the entire Old Town in inscribing Cracow's Historic Centre. Kraków is classified as a global city by GaWC, with the ranking of High sufficiency. Cited as one of Europe's most beautiful cities, its extensive cultural heritage across the epochs of Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque architecture includes the Wawel Cathedral and the Royal Castle on the banks of the Vistula river, the St. Mary's Basilica and the largest medieval market square in Europe, the Rynek Główny. Kraków is home to Jagiellonian University, one of the oldest universities in the world and traditionally Poland's most reputable institution of higher learning. In 2000, Kraków was named European Capital of Culture. The city will also host the next World Youth Day in 2016. Developed over many centuries, Kraków provides a showcase setting for many historic styles of architecture. As the city expanded, so too did the architectural achievements of its builders. It is for this reason that the variations in style and urban planning are so easily recognisable. Built from its earliest nucleus outward, and having escaped much of the destruction endured by Poland during the 20th-century wars, Kraków's many architectural monuments can typically be seen in historical order by walking from the city centre out, towards its later districts. Kraków is one of the few medieval towns in Poland that does not have a historic Ratusz town hall in its Main Square, because it has not survived the Partitions of Poland.

 

UNESCO World Heritage Site - Cracow's Historic Centre

Kraków's historic centre, which includes the Old Town, Kazimierz and the Wawel Castle, was included as the first of its kind on the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in 1978. The Stare Miasto is the most prominent example of an old town in the country. For many centuries Kraków was the royal capital of Poland, until Sigismund III Vasa relocated the court to Warsaw in 1596. The whole district is bisected by the Royal Road, the coronation route traversed by the Kings of Poland. The Route begins at St. Florian's Church outside the northern flank of the old city-walls in the medieval suburb of Kleparz; passes the Barbican of Kraków (Barbakan) built in 1499, and enters Stare Miasto through the Florian Gate. It leads down Floriańska Street through the Main Square, and up Grodzka to Wawel, the former seat of Polish royalty, overlooking the Vistula river. Old Town attracts visitors from all over the World. Kraków historic centre is one of the 13 places in Poland that are included in the UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The architectural design of the district had survived all cataclysms of the past and retained its original form coming from the medieval times. The Old Town of Kraków is home to about six thousand historic sites and more than two million works of art.[70] Its rich variety of heritage architecture includes Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque buildings. Kraków's palaces, churches, theatres and mansions display great variety of color, architectural details, stained glass, paintings, sculptures, and furnishings.

In addition to the old town, the city's district of Kazimierz is particularly notable for its many renaissance buildings and picturesque streets, as well as the historic Jewish quarter located in the north-eastern part of Kazimierz. Kazimierz was founded in the 14th century to the south-east of the city centre and soon became a wealthy, well-populated area where construction of imposing properties became commonplace. Perhaps the most important feature of medieval Kazimierz was the only major, permanent bridge (Pons Regalis) across the northern arm of the Vistula. This natural barrier used to separate Kazimierz from the Old Town for several centuries, while the bridge connected Kraków to the Wieliczka Salt Mine and the lucrative Hungarian trade route. The last structure at this location (at the end of modern Stradom Street) was dismantled in 1880 when the northern arm of the river was filled in with earth and rock, and subsequently built over.

By the 1930s, Kraków had 120 officially registered synagogues and prayer houses that spanned across the old city. Much of Jewish intellectual life had moved to new centres like Podgórze. This in turn, led to the redevelopment and renovation of much of Kazimierz and the development of new districts in Kraków. Most historic buildings in central Kazimierz today are preserved in their original form. Some old buildings however, were not repaired after the devastation brought by the Second World War, and have remained empty. Most recent efforts at restoring the historic neighborhoods gained new impetus around 1993. Kazimierz is now a well-visited area, seeing a booming growth in Jewish-themed restaurants, bars, bookstores and souvenir shops. As the city of Kraków began to expand further under the rule of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the new architectural styles also developed. Key buildings from the 19th and early 20th centuries in Kraków include the Jan Matejko Academy of Fine Arts, the directorate of the Polish State Railways as well as the original complex of Kraków Główny railway station and the city's Academy of Economics. It was also at around that time that Kraków's first radial boulevards began to appear, with the city undergoing a large-scale program aimed at transforming the ancient Polish capital into a sophisticated regional centre of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. 

New representative government buildings and multi-story tenement houses were built at around that time. Much of the urban-planning beyond the walls of the Old Town was done by Polish architects and engineers trained in Vienna. Some major projects of the era include the development of the Jagiellonian University's new premises and the building of the Collegium Novum just west of the Old Town. The imperial style planning of the city's further development continued until the return of Poland's independence, following the First World War. Early modernist style in Kraków is represented by such masterpieces as the Palace of Art by Franciszek Mączyński and the 'House under the Globe'. Secession style architecture, which had arrived in Kraków from Vienna, became popular towards the end of the Partitions. With Poland's regained independence came the major change in the fortunes of Kraków—now the second most important city of a sovereign nation. The state began to make new plans for the city development and commissioned a number of representative buildings. The predominant style for new projects was modernism with various interpretations of the art-deco style. Important buildings constructed in the style of Polish modernism include the Feniks 'LOT' building on Basztowa Street, the Feniks department store on the Main Square and the Municipal Savings Bank on Szczepański Square. The Józef Piłsudski house is also of note as a particularly good example of interwar architecture in the city.

After the Second World War, new government turned toward Soviet influence and the Stalinist monumentalism. The doctrine of Socialist realism in Poland, as in other countries of the People's Republics, was enforced from 1949 to 1956. It involved all domains of art, but its most spectacular achievements were made in the field of urban design. The guidelines for this new trend were spelled-out in a 1949 resolution of the National Council of Party Architects. Architecture was to become a weapon in establishing the new social order by the communists. The ideological impact of urban design was valued more than aesthetics. It aimed at expressing persistence and power. This form of architecture was implemented in the new industrial district of Nowa Huta with apartment blocks constructed according to a Stalinist blueprint, with repetitious courtyards and wide, tree-lined avenues. Since the style of the Renaissance was generally regarded as the most revered in old Polish architecture, it was also used for augmenting Poland's Socialist national format. However, in the course of incorporating the principles of Socialist realism, there were quite a few deviations introduced by the communists. One of these was to more closely reflect Soviet architecture, which resulted in the majority of works blending into one another. From 1953, critical opinions in the Party were increasingly frequent, and the doctrine was given up in 1956 marking the end of Stalinism. Currently the soc-realist centre of Nowa Huta is considered to be a meritorious monument of the times. This period in postwar architecture was followed by the mass-construction of large Panel System apartment blocks, most of which were built outside the city centre and thus do not encroach upon the beauty of the old or new towns. Some examples of the new style (e.g., Hotel Cracovia) recently listed as heritage monuments were built during the later half of the 20th century in Kraków.

After the Revolutions of 1989 and the birth of the Third Republic in the later half of the 20th century, a number of new architectural projects were completed, including the construction of large business parks and commercial facilities such as the Galeria Krakowska, or infrastructure investments like the Kraków Fast Tram, giving the city a great deal of quality solutions blending with its centuries-old heritage. A good example of this would be the 2007-built Pawilon Wyspiański 2000,[79] which is used as a multi-purpose information and exhibition space, or the award-winning Małopolski Garden of Arts (Małopolski Ogród Sztuki), a multi-purpose exhibition and theatre complex located in the historic Old Town. There are about 40 parks in Kraków including dozens of gardens and forests.[83] Several, like the Planty Park, Botanical Garden, Park Krakowski, Jordan Park and Błonia Park are located in the centre of the city; with Zakrzówek, Lasek Wolski forest, Strzelecki Park and Park Lotników (among others) in the surrounding districts. Parks cover about 318.5 hectares (2002) of the city. The Planty Park is the best-known park in Kraków. It was established between 1822 and 1830 in place of the old city walls, forming a green belt around the Old Town. It consists of a chain of smaller gardens designed in various styles and adorned with monuments. The park has an area of 21 hectares (52 acres) and a length of 4 kilometres (2.5 mi), forming a scenic walkway popular with Cracovians.

The Jordan Park founded in 1889 by Dr Henryk Jordan, was the first public park of its kind in Europe. The park built on the banks of the Rudawa river was equipped with running and exercise tracks, playgrounds, the swimming pool, amphitheatre, pavilions, and a pond for boat rowing and water bicycles. It is located on the grounds of a larger Kraków’s Błonia Park. The less prominent Park Krakowski was founded in 1885 by Stanisław Rehman but has since been greatly reduced in size because of rapid real estate development. It was a popular destination point with many Cracovians at the end of the 19th century.

 

The Wieliczka Salt Mine

The Wieliczka Salt Mine, located in the town of Wieliczka in southern Poland, lies within the Kraków metropolitan area. Opened in the 13th century, the mine produced table salt continuously until 2007, as one of the world's oldest salt mines in operation. Throughout, the Royal mine was run by the Żupy krakowskie Salt Mines company. Commercial mining was discontinued in 1996 due to low salt prices and mine flooding. The mine's attractions include dozens of statues and four chapels carved out of the rock salt by the miners. The older sculptures have been supplemented with new carvings made by contemporary artists. About 1.2 million people visit the Wieliczka Salt Mine annually.

The mine is one of Poland's official national Historic Monuments (Pomniki historii), as designated in the first round, 16 September 1994. Its listing is maintained by the National Heritage Board of Poland. The Wieliczka Salt Mine helped inspire the Labyrinth scenes in Bolesław Prus' 1895 historical novel, Pharaoh. Prus combined his powerful 1878 impressions of the salt mine with the description of the ancient Egyptian Labyrinth, in Book II of Herodotus' Histories, to produce the remarkable scenes found in chapters 56 and 63 of his novel. The Wieliczka salt mine reaches a depth of 327 metres (1,073 ft) and is over 287 kilometres (178 mi) long. The rock salt is naturally grey in various shades, resembling unpolished granite rather than the white or crystalline look that many visitors may expect. During World War II, the shafts were used by the occupying Germans as an ad-hoc facility for various war-related industries. The mine features an underground lake; and the new exhibits on the history of salt mining, as well as a 3.5 kilometres (2.2 mi) touring route (less than 2% of the length of the mine's passages) that includes historic statues and mythical figures carved out of rock salt in distant past. More recent sculptures have been fashioned by contemporary artists.

The Wieliczka mine is often referred to as "the Underground Salt Cathedral of Poland." In 1978 it was placed on the original UNESCO list of the World Heritage Sites. Even the crystals of the chandeliers are made from rock salt that has been dissolved and reconstituted to achieve a clear, glass-like appearance. It also houses a private rehabilitation and wellness complex. There is a legend about Princess Kinga, associated with the Wieliczka mine. The Hungarian noblewoman was about to be married to Bolesław V the Chaste, the Prince of Kraków. As part of her dowry, she asked her father for a lump of salt, since salt was prizeworthy in Poland. Her father King Béla took her to a salt mine in Máramaros. She threw her engagement ring from Bolesław in one of the shafts before leaving for Poland. On arriving in Kraków, she asked the miners to dig a deep pit until they come upon a rock. The people found a lump of salt in there and when they split it in two, discovered the princess's ring. Kinga had thus become the patron saint of salt miners in and around the Polish capital.

During the Nazi occupation, several thousand Jews were transported from the forced labour camps in Plaszow and Mielec to the Wieliczka mine to work in the underground armament factory set up by the Germans. However, manufacturing never began as the Soviet offensive was nearing. Some of the machines and equipment was disassembled, including an electrical hoisting machine from the Regis Shaft, and transported to Liebenau in the Sudetes mountains. Part of the equipment was returned after the war, in autumn 1945. The Jews were transported to factories in the Czech Republic and Austria.

In 2010 it was successfully proposed that the nearby historic Bochnia Salt Mine (Poland's oldest salt mine) be added to the list of UNESCO World Heritage sites. The two sister salt mines now appear together in the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites as the "Wieliczka and Bochnia Royal Salt Mines”. In 2013 the UNESCO World Heritage Site was expanded by the addition of the Żupny Castle. Notable visitors to this site have included Nicolaus Copernicus, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Alexander von Humboldt, Fryderyk Chopin, Dmitri Mendeleyev, Bolesław Prus, Ignacy Paderewski, Robert Baden-Powell, Jacob Bronowski (who filmed segments of The Ascent of Man in the mine), the von Unrug family (a prominent Polish-German royal family), Karol Wojtyła (later, Pope John Paul II), former U.S. President Bill Clinton, and many others.

]There is a chapel, and a reception room that is used for private functions, including weddings. A chamber has walls carved by miners to resemble wood, as in wooden churches built in early centuries. A wooden staircase with 378 steps provides access to the mine's 64-metre (210-foot) level. A 3-kilometre (1.9-mile) tour features corridors, chapels, statues, and underground lake, 135 metres (443 ft) underground. An elevator (lift) returns visitors to the surface; the elevator holds 36 persons (nine per car) and takes some 30 seconds to make the trip.

 

Auschwitz concentration camp - UNESCO World Heritage Site

Auschwitz concentration camp was a network of German Nazi concentration camps and extermination camps built and operated by the Third Reich in Polish areas annexed by Nazi Germany during World War II. It consisted of Auschwitz I (the original camp), Auschwitz II–Birkenau (a combination concentration/extermination camp), Auschwitz III–Monowitz (a labor camp to staff an IG Farben factory), and 45 satellite camps. Auschwitz I was first constructed to hold Polish political prisoners, who began to arrive in May 1940. The first extermination of prisoners took place in September 1941, and Auschwitz II–Birkenau went on to become a major site of the Nazi "Final Solution to the Jewish question". From early 1942 until late 1944, transport trains delivered Jews to the camp's gas chambers from all over German-occupied Europe, where they were killed with the pesticide Zyklon B. At least 1.1 million prisoners died at Auschwitz, around 90 percent of them Jewish; approximately 1 in 6 Jews killed in the Holocaust died at the camp. Others deported to Auschwitz included 150,000 Poles, 23,000 Romani and Sinti, 15,000 Soviet prisoners of war, 400 Jehovah's Witnesses, and tens of thousands of others of diverse nationalities, including an unknown number of homosexuals. Many of those not killed in the gas chambers died of starvation, forced labor, infectious diseases, individual executions, and medical experiments.

In the course of the war, the camp was staffed by 7,000 members of the German Schutzstaffel (SS), approximately 12 percent of whom were later convicted of war crimes. Some, including camp commandant Rudolf Höss, were executed. The Allied Powers refused to believe early reports of the atrocities at the camp, and their failure to bomb the camp or its railways remains controversial. One hundred forty-four prisoners are known to have escaped from Auschwitz successfully, and on October 7, 1944, two Sonderkommando units—prisoners assigned to staff the gas chambers—launched a brief, unsuccessful uprising. As Soviet troops approached Auschwitz in January 1945, most of its population was evacuated and sent on a death march. The prisoners remaining at the camp were liberated on January 27, 1945, a day now commemorated as International Holocaust Remembrance Day. In the following decades, survivors, such as Primo Levi, Viktor Frankl, and Elie Wiesel, wrote memoirs of their experiences in Auschwitz, and the camp became a dominant symbol of the Holocaust. In 1947, Poland founded a museum on the site of Auschwitz I and II, and in 1979, it was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

 

Auschwitz I

After this part of Poland was annexed by Nazi Germany, Oświęcim (Auschwitz) was located administratively in Germany, Province of Upper Silesia, Regierungsbezirk Kattowitz, Landkreis Bielitz. It was first suggested as a site for a concentration camp for Polish prisoners by SS-Oberführer Arpad Wigand, an aide to Higher SS and Police Leader for Silesia, Erich von dem Bach-Zelewski. Bach-Zelewski had been searching for a site to house prisoners in the Silesia region, as the local prisons were filled to capacity. Richard Glücks, head of the Concentration Camps Inspectorate, sent former Sachsenhausen concentration camp commandant Walter Eisfeld to inspect the site, which already held sixteen dilapidated one-story buildings that had once served as an Austrian and later Polish Army barracks and a camp for transient workers. Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler, head of the Schutzstaffel (SS), approved the site in April 1940, intending to use the facility to house political prisoners. SS-Obersturmbannführer (lieutenant colonel) Rudolf Höss oversaw the development of the camp and served as the first commandant. SS-Obersturmführer (senior lieutenant) Josef Kramer was appointed Höss's deputy. Auschwitz I, the original camp, became the administrative center for the whole complex.

Local residents were evicted, including 1,200 people who lived in shacks around the barracks. Around 300 Jewish residents of Oświęcim were brought in to lay foundations. From 1940 to 1941, 17,000 Polish and Jewish residents of the western districts of Oświęcim were expelled from places adjacent to the camp. The Germans also ordered expulsions from the villages of Broszkowice, Babice, Brzezinka, Rajsko, Pławy, Harmęże, Bór, and Budy.German citizens were offered tax concessions and other benefits if they would relocate to the area.[21] By October 1943, more than 6,000 Reich Germans had arrived.[22] The Nazis planned to build a model modern residential area for incoming Germans, including schools, playing fields, and other amenities. Some of the plans went forward, including the construction of several hundred apartments, but many were never fully implemented.[23] Basic amenities such as water and sewage disposal were inadequate, and water-borne illnesses were commonplace. The first prisoners (30 German criminal prisoners from the Sachsenhausen concentration camp) arrived in May 1940, intended to act as functionaries within the prison system. The first mass transport to Auschwitz concentration camp, which included Catholic prisoners, suspected members of the resistance, and 20 Jews, arrived from the prison in Tarnów, Poland, on June 14, 1940. They were interned in the former building of the Polish Tobacco Monopoly, adjacent to the site, until the camp was ready.

The inmate population grew quickly as the camp absorbed Poland's intelligentsia and dissidents, including the Polish underground resistance. By March 1941, 10,900 were imprisoned there, most of them Poles. By the end of 1940, the SS had confiscated land in the surrounding area to create a 40-square-kilometre (15 sq mi) "zone of interest" surrounded by a double ring of electrified barbed wire fences and watchtowers.[26] Like other Nazi concentration camps, the gates to Auschwitz I displayed the motto Arbeit macht frei ("Work brings freedom”).

 

Auschwitz II-Birkenau

The initial victories of Operation Barbarossa in the summer and fall of 1941 against Hitler's new enemy, the Soviet Union, led to dramatic changes in Nazi anti-Jewish ideology and the profile of prisoners brought to Auschwitz. Construction on Auschwitz II-Birkenau began in October 1941 to ease congestion at the main camp. Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler, head of the Schutzstaffel (SS), intended the camp to house 50,000 prisoners of war, who would be interned as forced laborers. Plans called for the expansion of the camp first to house 150,000 and eventually as many as 200,000 inmates. An initial contingent of 10,000 Soviet prisoners of war arrived at Auschwitz I in October 1941, but by March 1942 only 945 were still alive, and these were transferred to Birkenau, where most of them died from disease or starvation by May. By this time Hitler had decided to annihilate the Jewish people, so Birkenau was repurposed as a combination labor camp / extermination camp.

The chief of construction of Auschwitz II-Birkenau was Karl Bischoff. Unlike his predecessor, he was a competent and dynamic bureaucrat who, in spite of the ongoing war, carried out the construction deemed necessary. The Birkenau camp, the four crematoria, a new reception building, and hundreds of other buildings were planned and realized. Bischoff's plans initially called for each barrack to have an occupancy of 550 prisoners (one-third of the space allotted in other Nazi concentration camps). He later changed this to 744 prisoners per barrack. The SS designed the barracks not so much to house people as to destroy them. The first gas chamber at Birkenau was the "red house" (called Bunker 1 by SS staff), a brick cottage converted into a gassing facility by tearing out the inside and bricking up the windows. It was operational by March 1942. A second brick cottage, the "white house" or Bunker 2, was converted some weeks later. These structures were in use for mass killings until early 1943Himmler visited the camp in person on July 17 and 18, 1942. He was given a demonstration of a mass killing using the gas chamber in Bunker 2 and toured the building site of the new IG Farben plant being constructed at the nearby town of Monowitz. 

In early 1943, the Nazis decided to increase greatly the gassing capacity of Birkenau. Crematorium II, originally designed as a mortuary, with morgues in the basement and ground-level incinerators, was converted into a killing factory by installing gas-tight doors, vents for the Zyklon B (a highly lethal cyanide-based pesticide) to be dropped into the chamber, and ventilation equipment to remove the gas thereafter.It went into operation in March. Crematorium III was built using the same design. Crematoria IV and V, designed from the start as gassing centers, were also constructed that spring. By June 1943, all four crematoria were operational. Most of the victims were killed using these four structures.

 

Częstochowa

Częstochowa is a city in southern Poland on the Warta River with 240,027 inhabitants as of June 2009. It has been situated in the Silesian Voivodeship (administrative division) since 1999, and was previously the capital of the Częstochowa Voivodeship (1975–1998). However, Częstochowa is historically part of Lesser Poland, not of Silesia, and before 1795 (see: Partitions of Poland), it belonged to the Kraków Voivodeship. Częstochowa is located in the Kraków-Częstochowa Upland. It is the 13th most populous city in Poland. It is the largest economic, cultural and administrative hub in the northern part of the Silesian Voivodeship. The city is known for the famous Pauline monastery of Jasna Góra, which is the home of the Black Madonna painting (Polish: Jasnogórski Cudowny obraz Najświętszej Maryi Panny Niepokalanie Poczętej), a shrine to the Virgin Mary. Every year, millions of pilgrims from all over the world come to Częstochowa to see it. The city also was home to the Frankism in the late 18th and 19th Century. There is also a Lusatian culture excavation site and museum in the city, and ruins of a medieval castle in Olsztyn, approximately 25 kilometres (16 miles) from the city centre.

The name of Częstochowa means Częstoch's place and comes from a personal name of Częstoch mentioned in the medieval documents also as Częstobor and Częstomir.[2] Variations of the name include Czanstochowa used in 1220, and Częstochow used in 1382 and 1558. A part of today's city called Częstochówka was a separate municipality mentioned in the 14th century as the Old Częstochowa (Antiquo Czanstochowa, 1382) and Częstochówka in 1470-80.[3] The city was also known in German as Tschenstochau and in Russian as Ченстохов (Chenstokhov). According to archaeological findings, the first Slavic settlement in the location of Częstochowa was established in the late 11th century. It was first mentioned in historical documents from 1220, when Bishop of Kraków Iwo Odrowąż made a list of properties of the Mstów monastery. Two villages, Częstochowa and Częstochówka were mentioned in the document. Both of them belonged to the basic territorial unit of Slavic tribes (opole), with its capital at Mstów. Częstochówka was located on a hill on which the Jasna Góra Monastery was later built. In the late 13th century Częstochowa became the seat of a Roman Catholic parish church, which was subjected to the Lelów deanery. The village was located in northwestern corner of Kraków Land, Lesser Poland, near the Royal Castle at Olsztyn. Częstochowa lay along a busy merchant road from Lesser Poland to Greater Poland. 

The village was ruled by a starosta, who stayed at the Olsztyn Castle. It is not known when Częstochowa was granted town charter, as no documents have been preserved. It happened some time between 1356 - 1377. In 1502, King Alexander Jagiellon granted a new charter, based on Magdeburg rights to Częstochowa. In 1382 the Paulist monastery of Jasna Góra was founded by Vladislaus II of Opole - the Polish Piast prince of Upper Silesia. Two years later the monastery received its famous Black Madonna icon of the Virgin Mary and in subsequent years became a centre of pilgrimage, contributing to the growth of the adjacent town. Częstochowa prospered in the late 15th and early 16th centuries, due to efforts of Sigismund I the Old, the future king of Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. At that time, Sigismund ruled the Duchy of Głogów, and frequently visited Częstochowa on his way to the Duchies of Silesia (1498, 1502, 1502, 1503, 1505, 1505, 1506). In 1504, Częstochowa was granted the right to collect tolls on the Warta river bridge. In 1508, Częstochowa was allowed to organize one fair a year; in 1564, the number of fairs was increased to three annually, and in 1639 to six. In the year 1631, Częstochowa had 399 houses, but at the same time, several residents died in a plague, after which 78 houses were abandoned.

In the first half of the 17th century, kings of the House of Vasa turned the Jasna Góra Monastery into a modern Dutch-style fortress, which was one of the pockets of Polish resistance against the Swedish armies during Swedish invasion of Poland in 1655 (for more information, see Siege of Jasna Góra). The town of Częstochowa itself was almost completely destroyed by Swedish soldiers. It has been estimated that the town lost 50% of population, and 60% of houses. Nevertheless, the destruction was less severe than at other towns in the area (Przyrów, Olsztyn and Mstów). It took several years for Częstochowa to recover from extensive losses. As late as in the 1680s there still were ruined houses in the town. At the same time, the Jasna Góra Monastery prospered. On February 27, 1670, the wedding of king Michał Korybut Wiśniowiecki with princess Eleanor of Austria took place here. Furthermore, in 1682 the celebration of 300 anniversary of the Black Madonna of Częstochowa brought thousands of pilgrims from both Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth and Silesia. The Jewish community in Częstochowa came into existence by about 1700.

During the Great Northern War, Częstochowa was captured by Swedish army on August 11, 1702. In February 1703 Swedes besieged the monastery, but failed to seize it. In April 1705 the Swedes returned, and appeared at the monastery again in September 1709. Unable to capture the fortified stronghold, they looted villages in the area, set Częstochowa on fire and left towards Wieluń. At that time, a village of Częstochówk also existed next to Częstochowa. The village belonged to the monastery and quickly developed. In 1717 it was granted town charter, and its name was changed into Nowa Częstochowa (New Częstochowa). The town was completely destroyed during the Bar Confederation. On February 8, 1769, the monastery was seized by rebels of the Bar Confederation, commanded by Kazimierz Pułaski. Soon the stronghold was besieged by Russians under German-born General Johann von Drewitz. The Russians gave up on January 15, 1771.

In 1789, the population of Częstochowa (also called Stara Częstochowa, Old Częstochowa) was app. 1,600, which was less than in the 15th century. After the Sejm passed the Constitution of May 3, 1791, local Sejmiks were obliged to legitimize it. On February 14–15, 1792, a sejmik of the szlachta of northern part of Kraków Voivodeship (counties of Lelów and Książ Wielki) took place in Częstochowa. Traditionally, local sejmiks were organized in Żarnowiec; the fact that it was moved to Częstochowa confirms growing importance of the town. In 1760, Jacob Frank, the leader of a Jewish sect mixing Kabbalah, Catholicism and Islam, was imprisoned for heresy in the monastery by the church. His followers established near him, later establishing a cult of his daughter Eve Frank. In August 1772, Frank was released by the Russian general Bibikov, who had taken occupation of the city, promising the Russians that he would convince Jews to convert to Orthodox Christianity. After the Partitions of Poland, Częstochowa was seized by the Kingdom of Prussia (1793). Both Częstochowas (Old and New) belonged to the province of South Prussia, Department of Kalisz (Kalisch), in which Old Częstochowa was the capital of a county (see Districts of Prussia). During the Napoleonic Wars, in 1807 Częstochowa became part of the Duchy of Warsaw, and in 1815, Russian-controlled Congress Poland, in which it remained until World War One. In 1807–1830, Old Częstochowa was the capital of a county. In 1809, the monastery was unsuccessfully besieged by Austrians (see Polish–Austrian War). On April 2, 1813, Jasna Góra was seized by the Russians (see War of the Sixth Coalition), after a two-week siege.

In 1821, the government of Congress Poland carried out a census, according to which the population of New Częstochowa was 1,036, while the population of Old Częstochowa was 2,758. Furthermore, almost four hundred people lived in several settlements in the area (Zawodzie, Stradom, Kucelin). The idea of a merger of both towns was first brought up in 1815. In 1819, military architect Jan Bernhard planned and started the construction of Aleja Najświętszej Panny Marii—the Holy Virgin Mary Avenue, which is currently the main arterial road of the modern city, and which connected Old Częstochowa with New Częstochowa. Finally, both towns were officially merged on August 19, 1826. The new city quickly emerged as the fourth largest urban centers of Congress Poland; larger were only the cities of Warsaw, Lublin, and Kalisz. On September 8, 1862, a patriotic rally took place in the city, in front of St. Sigismund church. As a reprisal, Russian military authorities destroyed app. 65% of Częstochowa's Old Town, and martial law was introduced. During the January Uprising, several skirmishes took place in the area of Częstochowa, with the last one taking place on July 4, 1864 near Chorzenice. In modern times, Pope John Paul II, a native son of Poland, prayed before the Madonna during his historic visit in 1979, several months after his election to the Chair of Peter. The Pope made another visit to Our Lady of Częstochowa in 1983 and again in 1987, 1991, 1997 and 1999. On August 15, 1991, John Paul II was named Honorary Citizen of Częstochowa. On May 26, 2006, the city was visited by Pope Benedict XVI.

 

Warsaw

Warsaw is the capital and largest city of Poland. It stands on the Vistula River in east-central Poland, roughly 260 kilometres (160 mi) from the Baltic Sea and 300 kilometres (190 mi) from the Carpathian Mountains. Its population is estimated at 1.740 million residents within a greater metropolitan area of 2.666 million residents, which makes Warsaw the 9th most-populous capital city in the European Union. The city limits cover 516.9 square kilometres (199.6 sq mi), while the metropolitan area covers 6,100.43 square kilometres (2,355.39 sq mi). In 2012 the Economist Intelligence Unit ranked Warsaw as the 32nd most liveable city in the world. It was also ranked as one of the most liveable cities in Central Europe. Today Warsaw is considered an "Alpha–" global city, a major international tourist destination and a significant cultural, political and economic hub.

Warsaw’s economy, by a wide variety of industries, is characterised by FMCG manufacturing, metal processing, steel and electronic manufacturing and food processing. The city is a significant centre of research and development, BPO, ITO, as well as of the Polish media industry. The Warsaw Stock Exchange is one of the largest and most important in Central and Eastern Europe. Frontex, the European Union agency for external border security, has its headquarters in Warsaw. It has been said that Warsaw, together with Frankfurt, London, Paris and Barcelona is one of the cities with the highest number of skyscrapers in Europe. Warsaw has also been called "Eastern Europe’s chic cultural capital with thriving art and club scenes and serious restaurants". The first historical reference to Warsaw dates back to the year 1313, at a time when Kraków served as the Polish capital city. Due to its central location between the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth's capitals of Kraków and Vilnius, Warsaw became the capital of the Commonwealth and of the Crown of the Kingdom of Poland when King Sigismund III Vasa moved his court from Kraków to Warsaw in 1596. After the Third Partition of Poland in 1795, Warsaw was incorporated into the Kingdom of Prussia. In 1806 during the Napoleonic Wars, the city became the official capital of the Grand Duchy of Warsaw, a puppet state of the First French Empire established by Napoleon Bonaparte. In accordance with the decisions of the Congress of Vienna, the Russian Empire annexed Warsaw in 1815 and it became part of the "Congress Kingdom". 

Only in 1918 did it regain independence from the foreign rule and emerge as a new capital of the independent Republic of Poland. The German invasion in 1939, the massacre of the Jewish population and deportations to concentration camps led to the uprising in the Warsaw ghetto in 1943 and to the major and devastating Warsaw Uprising between August and October 1944. Warsaw gained the title of the "Phoenix City" because it has survived many wars, conflicts and invasions throughout its long history. Most notably, the city required painstaking rebuilding after the extensive damage it suffered in World War II, which destroyed 85% of its buildings. On 9 November 1940, the city was awarded Poland's highest military decoration for heroism, the Virtuti Militari, during the Siege of Warsaw (1939). The city is the seat of a Roman Catholic archdiocese (left bank of the Vistula) and diocese (right bank), and possesses various universities, most notably the Polish Academy of Sciences and the University of Warsaw, two opera houses, theatres, museums, libraries and monuments. The historic city-centre of Warsaw with its picturesque Old Town in 1980 was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Other main architectural attractions include the Castle Square with the Royal Castle and the iconic King Sigismund's Column, St. John's Cathedral, Market Square, palaces, churches and mansions all displaying a richness of colour and architectural detail. Buildings represent examples of nearly every European architectural style and historical period. Warsaw provides many examples of architecture from the gothic, renaissance, baroque and neoclassical periods, and around a quarter of the city is filled with luxurious parks and royal gardens.

Warsaw's name in the Polish language is Warszawa, meaning "belonging to Warsz", Warsz being a shortened form of the masculine name of Slavic origin Warcisław; see also etymology of Wrocław. Folk etymology attributes the city name to a fisherman, Wars, and his wife, Sawa. According to legend, Sawa was a mermaid living in the Vistula River with whom Wars fell in love. In actuality, Warsz was a 12th/13th-century nobleman who owned a village located at the modern-day site of Mariensztat neighbourhood. The first fortified settlements on the site of today's Warsaw were located in Bródno (9th/10th century) and Jazdów (12th/13th century). After Jazdów was raided by nearby clans and dukes, a new similar settlement was established on the site of a small fishing village called Warszowa. The Prince of Płock, Bolesław II of Masovia, established this settlement, the modern-day Warsaw, in about 1300. In the beginning of the 14th century it became one of the seats of the Dukes of Masovia, becoming the official capital of Masovian Duchy in 1413. 14th-century Warsaw's economy rested on mostly crafts and trade. Upon the extinction of the local ducal line, the duchy was reincorporated into the Polish Crown in 1526.

In 1529, Warsaw for the first time became the seat of the General Sejm, permanent from 1569. In 1573 the city gave its name to the Warsaw Confederation, formally establishing religious freedom in the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth. Due to its central location between the Commonwealth's capitals of Kraków and Vilnius, Warsaw became the capital of the Commonwealth and the Crown of the Kingdom of Poland when King Sigismund III Vasa moved his court from Kraków to Warsaw in 1596. In the following years the town expanded towards the suburbs. Several private independent districts were established, the property of aristocrats and the gentry, which were ruled by their own laws. Three times between 1655–1658 the city was under siege and three times it was taken and pillaged by the Swedish, Brandenburgian and Transylvanian forces. In 1700, the Great Northern War broke out. The city was besieged several times and was obliged to pay heavy contributions. Warsaw turned into an early-capitalistic principal city. Stanisław II Augustus, who remodelled the interior of the Royal Castle, also made Warsaw a centre of culture and the arts.[25][26] This earned Warsaw the name of the Paris of the east.

Warsaw remained the capital of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth until 1796, when it was annexed by the Kingdom of Prussia to become the capital of the province of South Prussia. Liberated by Napoleon's army in 1806, Warsaw was made the capital of the newly created Duchy of Warsaw.Following the Congress of Vienna of 1815, Warsaw became the centre of the Congress Poland, a constitutional monarchy under a personal union with Imperial Russia. The Royal University of Warsaw was established in 1816. Following the repeated violations of the Polish constitution by the Russians, the 1830 November Uprising broke out. However, the Polish-Russian war of 1831 ended in the uprising's defeat and in the curtailment of the Kingdom's autonomy. On 27 February 1861 a Warsaw crowd protesting against the Russian rule over Poland was fired upon by the Russian troops. Five people were killed. The Underground Polish National Government resided in Warsaw during January Uprising in 1863–64.

Warsaw flourished in the late 19th century under Mayor Sokrates Starynkiewicz (1875–92), a Russian-born general appointed by Tsar Alexander III. Under Starynkiewicz Warsaw saw its first water and sewer systems designed and built by the English engineer William Lindley and his son, William Heerlein Lindley, as well as the expansion and modernisation of trams, street lighting and gas works. The Russian Empire Census of 1897 recorded 626,000 people living in Warsaw, making it the third-largest city of the Empire after St. Petersburg and Moscow. Warsaw was occupied by Germany from 4 August 1915 until November 1918. The Allied Armistice terms required in Article 12 that Germany withdraw from areas controlled by Russia in 1914, which included Warsaw. Germany did so, and underground leader Piłsudski returned to Warsaw on 11 November and set up what became the Second Polish Republic, with Warsaw the capital. In the course of the Polish-Bolshevik War of 1920, the huge Battle of Warsaw was fought on the eastern outskirts of the city in which the capital was successfully defended and the Red Army defeated. Poland stopped by itself the full brunt of the Red Army and defeated an idea of the "export of the revolution”.

After the German Invasion of Poland on 1 September 1939 began the Second World War, Warsaw was defended till September 27. Central Poland, including Warsaw, came under the rule of the General Government, a German Nazi colonial administration. All higher education institutions were immediately closed and Warsaw's entire Jewish population – several hundred thousand, some 30% of the city – herded into the Warsaw Ghetto. The city would become the centre of urban resistance to Nazi rule in occupied Europe. When the order came to annihilate the ghetto as part of Hitler's "Final Solution" on 19 April 1943, Jewish fighters launched the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. Despite being heavily outgunned and outnumbered, the Ghetto held out for almost a month. When the fighting ended, almost all survivors were massacred, with only a few managing to escape or hide. By July 1944, the Red Army was deep into Polish territory and pursuing the Germans toward Warsaw. Knowing that Stalin was hostile to the idea of an independent Poland, the Polish government-in-exile in London gave orders to the underground Home Army (AK) to try to seize control of Warsaw from the Germans before the Red Army arrived. Thus, on 1 August 1944, as the Red Army was nearing the city, the Warsaw Uprising began. The armed struggle, planned to last 48 hours, was partially successful, however it went on for 63 days. Eventually the Home Army fighters and civilians assisting them were forced to capitulate. They were transported to PoW camps in Germany, while the entire civilian population was expelled Polish civilian deaths are estimated at between 150,000 and 200,000.

The Germans then razed Warsaw to the ground. Hitler, ignoring the agreed terms of the capitulation, ordered the entire city to be razed to the ground and the library and museum collections taken to Germany or burned. Monuments and government buildings were blown up by special German troops known as Verbrennungs- und Vernichtungskommando ("Burning and Destruction Detachments”). About 85% of the city had been destroyed, including the historic Old Town and the Royal Castle. On 17 January 1945 – after the beginning of the Vistula–Oder Offensive of the Red Army – Soviet troops entered the ruins of Warsaw, and liberated Warsaw's suburbs from German occupation. The city was swiftly taken by the Soviet Army, which rapidly advanced towards Łódź, as German forces regrouped at a more westward position.

In 1945, after the bombings, revolts, fighting, and demolition had ended, most of Warsaw lay in ruins. After the war, under a Communist regime set up by the conquering Soviets, the "Bricks for Warsaw" campaign was initiated, and large prefabricated housing projects were erected in Warsaw to address the housing shortage, along with other typical buildings of an Eastern Bloc city, such as the Palace of Culture and Science, a gift from the Soviet Union. The city resumed its role as the capital of Poland and the country's centre of political and economic life. Many of the historic streets, buildings, and churches were restored to their original form. In 1980, Warsaw's historic Old Town was inscribed onto UNESCO's World Heritage list. John Paul II's visits to his native country in 1979 and 1983 brought support to the budding solidarity movement and encouraged the growing anti-communist fervor there. In 1979, less than a year after becoming pope, John Paul celebrated Mass in Victory Square in Warsaw and ended his sermon with a call to "renew the face" of Poland: Let Thy Spirit descend! Let Thy Spirit descend and renew the face of the land! This land![  These words were very meaningful for the Polish citizens who understood them as the incentive for the democratic changes. In 1995, the Warsaw Metro opened with a single line. A second line was opened in March 2015. With the entry of Poland into the European Union in 2004, Warsaw is currently experiencing the largest economic boom of its history. The opening fixture of UEFA Euro 2012 took place in Warsaw, a game in which Poland drew 1-1 with Greece. Warsaw was the host city for the 2013 United Nations Climate Change Conference.

 

 

 

 

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