Poland – a Turbulent Past, a Resilient People

Today was about absorbing the history and culture felt by Poland through the ages from the 7th century through to the horrors of WWII.

Poland’s History in Brief
5th – 8th Century – Arrival of the Slavs, permanent settlement and historic development
966 – Christianity adopted, medieval monarchy established
1569 – Establishment of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth
1795 – Russian Empire, the Kingdom of Prussia and the Austrian Habsburg Monarchy terminated the Commonwealth’s independent existence
1918 – Opportunity for freedom appeared after World War I, when partitioning imperial powers were defeated by war and revolution
1918 to 1939 – Second Polish Republic was established
1939 – Nazi Germany and Soviet Union invaded Poland, millions of Polish citizens perished
1945 – Soviet Red Army defeated Nazi Germany, leading to the creation of the People’s Republic of Poland under communist regime
Late 1980s – Poland became a democratic state resulting in the creation of the modern Polish state
2004 – Poland accession to the European Union

 

Kraków

We are staying in Kraków for two days. Kraków is the second largest and one of the oldest cities in Poland, dating back to the 7th century.

After the invasion of Poland at the start of World War II, Kraków became the capital of Germany’s General Government.

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.

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Wawel Royal Castle

Wawel Castle was built in the mid-to-late 14th Century.

The interior is adorned with a number of tapestries wall-to-wall. At the beginning of the WWII, some 150 tapestries were set to Canada for safe-keeping and returned thereafter. There is a plaque on the entrance wall commemorating Canada as a safe haven for Wawel’s treasures.

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The room shown above includes tapestries depicting Genesis. Tapestries were used to insulate the walls.

Auschwitz – Birkenau

I had mixed feelings about visiting Auschwitz – Birkenau today. I had the desire to learn, but at the same time I wanted to honour those who lost their lives – may they rest in peace.

Upon entering the first building, I read the following sign, which helped me come to terms with the significance of our presence.

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To respect the 1,300,000 people who lost their lives here, I will only share the following image – the entrance sign to Auschwitz.

It reads “Arbeit macht frei” which translates to “work/labour makes (you) free.”

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