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.

 

The Bible that saved generations.
The Bible that saved generations.

In 1917 the father of Jan Siwy from Zaolzie was carrying this Bible in his pocket when he was hit by a bullet fired by a Russian soldier.

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Border post in Repty, a district of Tarnowskie Góry in Silesia.
Border post in Repty, a district of Tarnowskie Góry in Silesia.
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The wall of the Spring of Youth built from the former border posts in Repty.
The wall of the Spring of Youth built from the former border posts in Repty.
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Alley of border posts from the village of Ligota Tworkowksa, now in the village of Grabówka.
Alley of border posts from the village of Ligota Tworkowksa, now in the village of Grabówka.
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A contemporary gate to the liquidated “Makoszowy” mine.
A contemporary gate to the liquidated “Makoszowy” mine.
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“Makoszowy” Mine.
“Makoszowy” Mine.
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Silesia
Silesia
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In 1958, “Makoszowy” was witness to one of the greatest mining disasters in the history of Poland.
In 1958, “Makoszowy” was witness to one of the greatest mining disasters in the history of Poland.

Zygmunt Piotrowski miraculously escaped to the surface.

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House in the Stodoły district of Rybnik, where the families of German customs officers lived.
House in the Stodoły district of Rybnik, where the families of German customs officers lived.

In the morning of September 1, 1939, the Nazis staged an attack on a nearby German border post, which was one of several dozen incidents to justify Germany’s aggression against Poland.

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Anna Rusin with her son Jan in front of the monument to the victims of the Upper Silesian Tragedy.
Anna Rusin with her son Jan in front of the monument to the victims of the Upper Silesian Tragedy.

Anna’s father was one of tens of thousands of Upper Silesians deported deep into Russia: “On his way back, my father died from exhaustion in a cattle truck near Lubliniec. It was less than fifty kilometers from the family home. His body was dumped somewhere near the railroad tracks. We couldn’t even say goodbye or bury him with due respect.”

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Ruined palace of the German Donnersmarck family in Krowiarki near Racibórz.
Ruined palace of the German Donnersmarck family in Krowiarki near Racibórz.
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Palace interior.
Palace interior.
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Palace interior.
Palace interior.
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Palace in Krowiarki.
Palace in Krowiarki.
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Renovation of the Donnersmarck mausoleum in the palace park.
Renovation of the Donnersmarck mausoleum in the palace park.
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Tombstones from a cemetery on the border of Germany, Poland and Czech Moravia.
Tombstones from a cemetery on the border of Germany, Poland and Czech Moravia.
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Moravian Gate between the Carpathians and Sudetes, connecting the north and south of Central Europe.
Moravian Gate between the Carpathians and Sudetes, connecting the north and south of Central Europe.
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The escape of the Olza River to the Odra River.
The escape of the Olza River to the Odra River.

The former tripoint of Poland, Germany and Czechoslovakia. Today at the Polish-Czech border.

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Writer and ethnographer Jarosław Jot-Drużycki shows Zaolzie on the map of the II Polish Republic
Writer and ethnographer Jarosław Jot-Drużycki shows Zaolzie on the map of the II Polish Republic
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The leaning Church of St Peter of Alcantara in the lost city of Karviná-Kopalnie.
The leaning Church of St Peter of Alcantara in the lost city of Karviná-Kopalnie.

In the 1930s, Karviná-Kopalnie had over 20,000 residents - including 70% Poles, with its own town hall, brewery, cinema, and bank. As a result of post-war plunder of coal mining, the city literally sank into the ground.

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The ruined evangelical cemetery in Karviná-Kopalnie discovered by Jarosław Jot-Drużycki.
The ruined evangelical cemetery in Karviná-Kopalnie discovered by Jarosław Jot-Drużycki.
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Cemetery
Cemetery
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In 1932, top Polish aviators Stanisław Wigura and Franciszek Żwirko crashed near Cieszyn.
In 1932, top Polish aviators Stanisław Wigura and Franciszek Żwirko crashed near Cieszyn.

For Poles, in the 1930s the so-called “Żwirkowisko” was a symbol of the ties between Zaolzie and the Homeland. In 1940, the Germans destroyed the mausoleum and the gate with the inscription “Żwirki and Wigury takeoff to eternity”.

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Monument to Polish soldiers who died during the fights with Czechoslovakia in 1919 in Stonawa.
Monument to Polish soldiers who died during the fights with Czechoslovakia in 1919 in Stonawa.
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Gorolskie Święto, the biggest folklore event in Zaolzie, connecting Poles and Czechs.
Gorolskie Święto, the biggest folklore event in Zaolzie, connecting Poles and Czechs.
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Gorolskie Święto
Gorolskie Święto
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Gorolskie Święto
Gorolskie Święto
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Gorolskie Święto
Gorolskie Święto
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Gorolskie Święto
Gorolskie Święto
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Gorolskie Święto
Gorolskie Święto
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Gorolskie Święto
Gorolskie Święto
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Gorolskie Święto
Gorolskie Święto
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Beskid Mountains in Zaolzie.
Beskid Mountains in Zaolzie.
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