Masuria|Powisle|Zuławy

 
 
 

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 ».”

Stefan Szczepkowski was born on the former border between Polish Mazovia and German Masuria.
Stefan Szczepkowski was born on the former border between Polish Mazovia and German Masuria.

“As a kid, I helped the <<saccharines>>, or sugar smugglers. I found what I had learnt useful after I became a courier of the Home Army during the war”.

Former post of the Polish Border Guard in Chorzele.
Former post of the Polish Border Guard in Chorzele.
The village of Janów, formerly known as the Janów Polish Republic.
The village of Janów, formerly known as the Janów Polish Republic.

In the interwar period, there was one Polish enclave in Powiśle, completely surrounded by Germany.

One of the last residents of Janów, who still remembered the pre-war times.
One of the last residents of Janów, who still remembered the pre-war times.
This was life in Janów during the Second Polish Republic.
This was life in Janów during the Second Polish Republic.
The long extinct ferry across the Vistula to Gniew.
The long extinct ferry across the Vistula to Gniew.

It used to be the only connection between Janów and the rest of Poland.

School in Janów.
School in Janów.
Zofia Ruszkowska: “When the Soviets entered, all hell broke loose."
Zofia Ruszkowska: “When the Soviets entered, all hell broke loose."

"Women were raped on a mass scale. Many of them became pregnant.”

The lock in Biała Góra separating the Vistula and the Nogat River.
The lock in Biała Góra separating the Vistula and the Nogat River.
The tripoint of the borders of Poland, Germany (East Prussia) and the Free City of Danzig.
The tripoint of the borders of Poland, Germany (East Prussia) and the Free City of Danzig.
A stone on a former tripoint with a plaque commemorating Poland’s regaining of independence in 1918.
A stone on a former tripoint with a plaque commemorating Poland’s regaining of independence in 1918.

On the other side, there are German names of cities in the territory of the Free City of Gdańsk, including “Danzig” or “Gdańsk”.

Powiśle landscape.
Powiśle landscape.
Emil Klingenberg is one of the last indigenous inhabitants of the Powiśle and Żuławy region.
Emil Klingenberg is one of the last indigenous inhabitants of the Powiśle and Żuławy region.
Traditional arcaded house in Żuławy, built by Dutch Mennonites.
Traditional arcaded house in Żuławy, built by Dutch Mennonites.
Stanisław Zwolicki, one of the settlers who flocked to Żuławy, which had been deserted after the war
Stanisław Zwolicki, one of the settlers who flocked to Żuławy, which had been deserted after the war
Parish Church of St Nicolas in Żelichów turned into a Greek Catholic church.
Parish Church of St Nicolas in Żelichów turned into a Greek Catholic church.

In 1947, the Ukrainians deported as part of the criminal operation “Vistula” came to Żuławy.

Sleighs brought to Żuławy by Poles who had survived the massacre in Volhynia.
Sleighs brought to Żuławy by Poles who had survived the massacre in Volhynia.

Żuławy Historical Park.

Border post between the Free City of Danzig and Germany on the Baltic Sea on the Vistula Spit.
Border post between the Free City of Danzig and Germany on the Baltic Sea on the Vistula Spit.
The contemporary border between Poland (the European Union) and the Russian Kaliningrad Oblast.
The contemporary border between Poland (the European Union) and the Russian Kaliningrad Oblast.
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