Border: Poland – East Prussia (Germany) – Free City of Danzig
At present: Poland
On the border of Masuria and the Kurpie region between the towns of Chorzele and Opaleniec, there is a tall house with a sloping roof. In May 1930, President Ignacy Mościcki entered this building through a semicircular door, wide open by playing children. Above the entrance, there was an inscription “Border Guard Post Chorzele”, and on the balustrades of the balconies decorated with greenery, there hung portraits of the president and the slogan “The Guard is watching over the border!” At that time, the border had existed for several hundred years and even World War I did not change that.
In 1920, Poland suffered a spectacular defeat in a plebiscite in Masuria, Warmia, and Powiśle. Over 90% of voters were in favor of belonging to Germany. And yet, in the five villages lying on the Vistula River, which today form one village of Janowo, history turned out somewhat differently. Owing to the determination of the inhabitants, Poles won the majority of votes and the only Polish enclave in Powisle was established here, connected with the “continental” part of the country only by a ferry crossing to Gniew. This island, eight kilometers long and one and a half kilometers wide, inhabited in 1931 by six hundred Poles and ninety Germans, was romantically referred to in the twenty years as Little Poland or the Republic of Janów.
Before the war, north of Janow, in Biała Góra, where the sluices resembling Gothic castles separate the Vistula and the Nogat, was the meeting point for the borders of Poland, East Prussia (Germany), and the Free City of Danzig. There, in the Zuławy, which were as flat as a table, the end of World War II was also the end of the history of its former inhabitants: Poles, Dutch Mennonites, Germans. In this no-man’s land is where newcomers from all corners of the Second Polish Republic.
“We, twenty- or thirty-year-olds, the third generation of post-war settlers, are also the first to try to speak of ourselves with full conviction as the Zulawiaks. Finding your identity,” says Kamila Ziętek from the Zuławy Historical Park. “Seventy-five years after the end of the war, is probably high time to look around without regretting the lost past and to say: «We are home ».”