Silesia & Zaolzie

Border: 1. Śląsk: Poland – Germany; 2. Zaolzie: Poland – Czechoslovakia (from March 1939, the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia)
At present: 1. Poland; 2. The Czech Republic

In Repty Śląskie, a pole with a carved “Versaille” date from the height of the socle like an ancient obelisk casts a shadow at the former border which, meandering through Śląsk, divided houses, streets, cities, mines and people. This grown-together and nationally mixed human melting pot was first broken in half by a newly-established artificial border line and later swept away by a German-Soviet storm.

Following the declaration of independence by the Republic of Poland, the “Makoszowy” coal mine in today’s Zabrze found itself in Germany, but the border ran exactly along the mine’s fence and the main entrance to the hall at the same time became a border crossing. Given that out of 4,600 crew members, 3,600 lived in Poland, every day on their way to work the miners had to cross the state border. 

In 1945, the Russians treated all of “Makoszowy” coal mine like the entire Upper Silesia, specifically as conquered territory, a trophy. The Soviet liberators committed mass rape, robberies and murder, and tens of thousands of Upper Silesians were deported deep into Russia. It was only in 2015 in Byton, on the 70th anniversary of these tragic events, that the first monument to the Upper Silesian Tragedy was unveiled.

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The Olza River weighed on the most recent history of Śląsk Cieszyński; in united Europe, the river brings together the Czech Republic and Poland but for most of the 20th century, the Cieszyn Silesia was divided into a Polish and a Czech portion, i.e. Zaolzie. 
In 1910, about 70% of Poles inhabited the Zaolzie area. Later in 1920, in the face of the Bolshevik offensive against Warsaw, at the cost of creating an overland corridor for the supply of weapons from the West, the Czechs forced Poland to agree to withdraw from the national plebiscite and to divide Cieszyn Silesia, Spisz and Orawa by the Council of Ambassadors, which was unfavorable for Poles. In 1938 Poland took advantage of the weakness of Prague following the Munich conference to regain the disputed territories. Historians continue to argue to this day about who was right in this conflict.
In 2011, Polish nationality was declared by 7.8 percent of the inhabitants of Zaolzie, i.e. twenty-eight thousand people. The folk event “Gorolski Święto” (literally Highlander’s Festival) is a tribute to the Polishness of the Zaolzie region. Every year at the beginning of August, the Municipal Forest in the small town of Jabłonków is filled with folk groups not just from Zaolzie and Poland, but from all over Europe and even other continents. For three days, thousands of people dance, sing and celebrate till dawn to honor their regional identity.

 

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A public task co-financed by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Poland in the "Public Diplomacy 2020 – a new dimension" competition

 

The publication merely expresses the views of the author(s) and cannot be equated with the official position of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Poland

© 2020 by Kaja Grzywaczewska | Tomasz Grzywaczewski |  Martyna Wróblewska