About Poland

PolandPoland (Polska) is a republic country in Central-Eastern Europe. Poland covers the area of 312 square kilometers of land between the Baltic Sea and the Karpatian Mountains. It is the 9th largest country in Europe. Poland neighbours: Germany, Czech, Slovakia, Ukraine, Belarus, Lithuania, Kaliningrad region (Russia). The longest river going through Poland is Vistula River.
The population of Poland is 38 million people. It is the 6th most populated country in the European Union. People of Poland speak Polish (Slavic language). Most of young people (under 40) speak English, many Poles also speak German, French, Italian, Spanish, Russian and you can find Polish people speaking less popular languages as well. People of Poland are mainly of Polish ethnicity (96%). There are historic minorities of: Germans, Belarusians, Ukrainians, Lithuanians, Russians, Roma, Jews, Lemkos, Slovaks, Czechs, Tatars. There are also big numbers of Vietnamese immigrants. People of Poland are mainly Roman Catholic (ca. 90%). Though the number of atheists has been growing in this group in recent years -Poland remains one of the most devoutly religious countries in Europe.  The biggest religious minorities are: Christian Orthodox,  Protestants (Lutheran, Calvinist, Pentecostal), Jehovah’s Witnesses, Eastern Catholics, Mariavites, Jews and Muslims. However, before the World War 2 -Poland was a multicultural and more socially and religiously diverse country.

Famous Polish people (subjective choice by Marta www.VisitingWarsaw.com):

  • the blessed Pope Jon Paul 2 (Karol Wojtyła) -the head of universal Catholic Church 1978-2005.
  • Nicolaus Copernicus (Mikołaj Kopernik) -revolutionary astronomer of 15th/16th century.
  • Marie Skłodowska-Curie -genious and liberated female scientist, radioactivity pioneer, twice Nobel Prize winner, 1st woman-professor of Sorbonne University, 1st non-French to be buried at Paris Pantheon.
  • Fryderyk Chopin -young composer and genious pianist.
  • Ludwig Zamenhof -creator of Esperanto language.
  • Wisława Szymborska -poet, Nobel Prize winner, often used irony and paradox.
  • Lech Wałęsa -Nobel Peace Prize winner (after leading independent trade union and social movement ‘Solidarność’ (Solidarity) in the fight against communism), later president of Poland.
  • Jan Hevelius -17th century astronmer, founder of lunar topography.
  • Ignacy Łukasiewicz -petroleum industry pioneer, discovered how to distill kerosene from oil, invented kerosene lamp, introduced 1st modern street lamp in Europe, constructed 1st oil well in Poland and then in 1856 built the 1st oil refinery in the world. 
  • Arthur Rubinstein -great classical pianists.
  • Roman Polanski -film director, producer, writer and actor; working mainly in France and Poland, winner of numerous European film awards.
  • Saint Faustina Kowalska -Catholic nun, mystic and visionary; the Apostle of Divine Mercy. She directed an artist to paint the first Divine Mercy image (“Jesus, I trust in you”) in 1934 -which was revealed to her in her vision of Jesus. The devotion to Merciful Jesus spread worldwide.
  • Robert Kubica -1st Polish Formula1 driver.
  • Adam Małysz -the most successful ski jumper in history, 4 individual World Cup titles, 4 individual World Championships gold medals, 4 individual Olympic Games medals and many other. 
  • Agnieszka Radwańska -professional tennis player, in 2012 ranked no. 3 world female rocket.
  • Kazimierz Funk -biochemist, the concept of “vitamins”.
  • Jozef Kosacki -engineer, invented 1st man-portable mine detector during WW2 (later used by many armies).
  • Henryk Magnuski -inventor of “Walkie-Talkie” communication equipment.
  • Kazimierz Żegleń -invented the first bulletproof vest in 1897.
  • Jack Tramiel -the founder of Commodore International computer corporation.
  • Zygalski, Rejewski, Różycki -mathematicians who decrypted “Enigma” cipher machine, thanks to that British were able to start reading German ciphers during World War 2.
  • Zygmunt Bauman -concepts from contemporary sociology and philosophy.
  • Bronisław Malinowski -one of the most important contemporary anthropologist, researched Pacific tribes by participant observation
  • Sir Edmund Strzelecki -geologist, explorer of Australia, named Australia’s highest mountain “Mount Kosciuszko” after Polish hero Tadeusz Kościuszko.
  • Stanisław Moniuszko -music composer of operas, ballets, etc.
  • Wojciech Kilar -music composer for American and Polish films.
  • Krzysztof Penderecki -composer and music conductor.
  • Joseph Conrad (Józef Korzeniowski) -novelist writing in English (e.g. “Lord Jim”), “a gentleman” in Britain.
  • Henryk Sienkiewicz -writer, novelist, Nobel Prize winner, his book “Quo Vadis” was filmed many times worldwide.
  • Isaac Singer -author writing in  Yiddish language, Nobel Prize winner.
  • Daniel Libeskind -architect, projects of many museum, public buildings and business offices in USA, Europe, Israel.
  • Agnieszka Holland -film director, nominated to Oscars 3times.
  • Janusz Kamiński - Hollywood cinematographer, photographed all Steven Spielberg’s films in recent 20 years, winner of 2 Oscars.
  • Pola Negri (Apolonia Chalupec) -film actress, became one of the first ”moders stars” in America, 1st European film star to be invited to Hollywood, one of the names of silent movie era, played in films 1910-1940s.
  • Barbara Piasecka-Johnson -philanthropist and art collector, married John Seward Johnson I after emigrating to the USA.
  • Helena Rubinstein -the founder of “Helena Rubinstein” cosmetics brand.
  • Tadeusz Kościuszko -military leader of Polish uprising against Russia in 18th century, became American general after emigrating to the USA, hero of American Revolutionary War.
  • Kazimierz Pulaski -nobleman soldier who emigrated to the USA and became the father of American cavalry there, during the American Revolutionary War he saved the life of George Washington, became American general in the Continental Army.
  • Zbigniew Brzezinski -political geostrategist, National Security Advisor to US President Jimmy Carter.
  • Israel Meir Lau -Chief Rabbi of Tel Aviv, Yad Vashem Chairman, Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi of Israel 1993-2003, the 38th generation in an unbroken family chain of rabbis (in Poland until his father).
  • Saint Maximilian Maria Kolbe -Franciscan friar, founded and started the global movement of “Militia Immaculata” (the Army of Mary), started Immaculata media with newspapers, books, radio. During World War 2 was taken by Germans to the Auschwitz concentration camp and there he voluntarily gave his life for another man randomly chosen to die, before his death he survived 2weeks in the “starvation cell” with no food and water -praying peacefully and celebrating Holy Mass each day.
  • Robert Korzeniowski -sportsman, racewalker, 3times world champion, 4 gold Olympic medals.
  • Mariusz Czerkawski -ice hockey player, played for NHL’s different teams 1991-2008
  • Mariusz Pudzianowski -strongman, won five World’s Strongest Man titles.
  • Anja Rubik -model, on covers of “Vogue” and “Elle” in many countries, modeled for many top-class brands.
  • Andrzej Sapkowski -fantasy writer, author of globally best-selling “The Witcher” saga (transformed into films and computer games).
  • Jerzy Dudek -retired footballer, goalkeeper for teams in UK, Holland, Spain and for Poland national team.
  • Irena Szewińska -sportswoman, sprinter; broke 6 world records, the only athlete to have held a world record for 100 m, 200 m and 400 m, 7 Olympic medals 1964-1980.
  • Marcin Gortat -professional basketball player, playing for NBA teams.

The history of Poland dates back to the year 966, when Poland was established as a state and the Polish duke Mieszko the 1st was baptised, taking on Christianity for Polish people.
That time of over a thousand years of history of Poland had its ups and downs. There were times of prosperity and long turbulent times. There were many wars on the territory of Poland -due to its location between West (Prussia, Germany) and East (Russian forces), and sometimes even North (Sweden) and South (Turks). In 15th and 16th century Poland was the biggest territory in Europe, but in the 19th century Poland did not exist as an independent state on the map. Most of the time Poland was a monarchy and had its kings.
Subjectively chosen important dates in Poland’s history:
1364 – the University of Krakow established by the king and with queen’s donation.
14th century -a Polish Queen married a Lithuanian King and they made an Union, that Commonwealth was later the biggest country in Europe in 15th-16th century.
1410 – Poland+Lithuania won the Battle of Grunwald/Tannenberg with powerful Tautonic knights.
17th century – “the Swedish Deluge”, Swedish troops flood Poland and rob loads of cultural artifacts.
1693 –the Polish King Jan III Sobieski –fights back Turks at the battle of Vienna and Muslims do not proceed in Europe.
1791 –Poland’s Parliament signs the Constitution of the 3rd of May, the 2nd written constitution in the world after the USA. Poland’s constitution guaranteed civil rights and freedoms and made all citizens equal.
end of 18th century -till beginning of 20th century -Poland does not exist on the map for 123 years, as is partitioned between Prussia/Germany, Russia and Austria-Hungary. Occupators tried to de-root Polish identity and culture.
1918 –Poland regained its independence (thanks to Versailles Treaty after World War 1).
1918-1939 -20 years of rebuilding Poland and connecting 3 parts.
1.September 1939 -Germany invaded Poland and World War 2 started.
1939-1945 -occupation of Poland during World War 2. Poland was  invaded by Nazi-Germany from the West and Soviet-Russia from the East, as the consequence 6+2 millions Poles were killed, cities were destroyed (buildings &cultural objects), Polish people were persecuted.
1945-1990 – Poland behind the Iron Curtain, under the influence of Soviet communist regime.
1989/1990 – ‘Round Table’ negotiations between the opposition and “the communist side”, free parliamentary and presidential elections.
1998 – Poland joined NATO.
2004 – Poland joined the European Union.
2012 -Poland co-hosts UEFA EURO2012 football cup ;)  

You can check detailed history of Poland at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_Poland


Useful information:

  • Time zone: GMT +1 (UTC+1)
  • Money: Polski złoty (PLN)
  • Electricity: 230V, 50Hz
  • Measures: Metric system
  • Climate: temperate
  • Public holidays: 1.January, 6.January, Easter Monday, 1.May, 3.May, Corpus Christi, 15.August, 1.November, 11.November, 25.December, 26.December.

Chosen Tourist attractions:

  • 13 UNESCO World Heritage Sites (Krakow, Warsaw, Wroclaw, Zamosc, Torun, Malbork, Wieliczka, Auschwitz, Bialowieza Forest,  Kalwaria Zebrzydowska, Jawor+Swidnica, wooden churches in south PL, Mużakowski Park. 
  • 23 National Parks
  • Historic cities, towns, villages. (there are 22 cities with population over 100 thousands ppl).
  • 300 Castles (from Medieval to 19th century) and 2000 noblemen’s palaces.
  • Mineral spas, health&beauty and medical tourism.
  • activities: cultural-sightseeing, hiking, cycling, mountain climbing, skiing, sailing, hunting, fishing, kayaking, windsurfing, horse-riding, eco-tourism, birds-watching.
  • the sea (Baltic Sea), lakes (e.g. Mazurian Lake District), mountains (e.g. Tatra Mountains with the highest peak of 2499 meters).

Useful links on Poland:
http://en.poland.gov.pl/ official promotional website of Poland http://www.poland.travel/en Poland’s official travel portal http://www.polishguide2012.pl/en/ Poland’s guide for tourists http://www.thenews.pl/ news on Poland in English (by Polish Radio) http://www.paiz.gov.pl/en?lang_id=12 investing in Poland http://www.studyinpoland.pl/en/ studying in Poland (programmes for foreigners in English and Polish)


by Marta VistingWarsaw.com

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