Did You Know that . . . ?


— At present, Poland’s two main i parties are the conservative, pro-Catholic. mildly euro-skeptical and more common-people-friendly Law and Order (Prawo i Sprawiedliwość), represented by President Lech Kaczyński, and the elitist, more pro-business and pro-EU Civic Platform (Platforma Obywatelska).


— In meteorological terms Poland has six seasons. Not only winter (zima), spring (wiosna), summer (lato) and autumn (jesień), but also pre-spring (przedwiośnie) and pre-winter (przedzimie).


— Polish surnames ending in -ak, -czyk and -wicz originated as patronymic nicknames, meaning they identified someone as someone’s son. Banasiak, Tomczyk, Jędrzejczak and Stankiewicz would be the Polish equivalents of Benson, Thomson, Anderson and Stanson.


— Poland is a good place to do business in or use as a springboard for European tourism. London, Paris and Rome are only two hours away by plane and it takes even less to get to Berlin, Vienna, Prague or Budapest. More leisurely travelers can reach the same destinations by train or motor coach.


— For centuries the southern region of  Śląsk (Sielsia) has attracted gold, silver and gem prospectors, but it was the discovery of large deposits of mineable “black gold” (coal) in the 19th century that led to this region’s dynamic growth. There are eve those convinced that Nazi treasures are still waiting to be found in underground bunkers and tunnels as well as disused and walled-up mines corridors.


— Typing the word “Polish” into Google and other search engines will turn up a large number of entries related to car wax, floor polish and others such preparations.


— In August the town of Liw (pronounced “leaf”) on the border of Masovia and Podlasie is the scene of an annual knights’ tournament. Visitors not only watch old-style knights in combat by can also try their hand at shooting a cross-bow, wielding a sword and even trying on a suit of armor.

— Poland’s “ice box” is the Suwałki region in the country’s northeast corner, where (under the influence of Russia’s continental climate) winters are long, cold and snowy and summers — hot and dry to the east. The western Baltic coast around Szczecin-Świnoujście has a more maritime climate with milder winters and more precipitation in summer.


— Many Pol-Ams have gone through life without knowing the English version of their Polish first name was a misnomer. Harriet, Bernice and Stella (or Estelle) are NOT the correct translations of Bronisława, Jadwiga Stanisława just as Stanley, Walter and Chester have absolutely nothing linguistically in common with Stanisław, Władysław and Czesław.


— Poland was the only European country that fought from the first to the last day of World War II, fought on every front of the war’s European theatre and had the continent’s biggest resistance movement and underground state.


— Poland’s most popular foods include bigos, kotlet schabowy (breaded pork cutlet), golonka (boiled pork hock), flaki (tripe soup) and roast chicken with dill-flavored bread and giblet stuffing. In Polonia it is pierogi, gołąbki, kiełbasa & kapusta and czernina (duck soup).


— Poland is a parliamentary democracy with a bicameral parliament comprising the Sejm (lower house and Senate. The Sejm has 460 members and the Senate — 100. The government is headed by a prime minister and the president in terms of authority ranks somewhere between the powerful heads of state of the US and France and Germany’s largely figurehead president.


— According to the online encyclopedia Wikipedia, Jerusalem’s Yad Vashem Institute has awarded Righteous Among Nations medals for rescuing Jews in World War II to: 5941 Poles, 4726 people in Holland, France – 2646, Ukraine – 2139, Belgium – 1414, Hungary – 671, Lithuania – 630, Belarus – 564, Slovakia – 460 and Germany – 427.


— “Konstantynopolitańczykowianeczka” (meaning the unmarried daughter of a citizen of Constantinople) is the longest word in the Polish language. It appears to have been coined simply for that claim to fame, however, since no-one can recall it ever actually being used.


  Poles have long claimed their country is located in the very heart of Europe, but other countries have also rightfully made that claim. It all depends whether the entire geographic continent is considered all the way to the North Pole or just the mainland (without Scandinavia and the British Isles). Whether or not Russia up to the Urals is included also determines Europe’s geographic center.


Cell phone networks now encompass 94 percent of Poland’s territory, and in terms of ATM, Poland ranks No. 8 in Europe.


— Plumbers, truck divers, construction workers, child-minders, housekeepers and waitresses seeking jobs in the European Union countries can except to earn four to five times more than they could in Poland.


— During the 20th century, most Poles moved from the window sill (in winter) to the electric fridge, from whisk to food processor and from pen to computer without experiencing the ice box, egg-beater and typewriter in between.


— Poland has a Baltic coastline 528 kilometers (327 miles) long which includes the major ports of Gdańsk, Gdynia and Szczecin-Świnoujście, seaside resorts, sandy beaches, dunes, cliffs, lighthouses, maritime museums and other tourist attractions. 

— A box of 48 small wooden safety matches which costs 10 groszy (about 3¢ USA) and is probably the cheapest single item available. Book matches are still not widespread.


— Occupying an area of 312,683 km² (120,728 milies²), Poland ranks 63rd in the world in terms of territory. In terms of population (more than 38 million) it is the fifth largest European Union countries, a slot it shares with Spain


— Destroying a stork’s nest was referred to as a major offense in a poem by the 19th-century Romantic poet Cyprian Kamil Norwid. A stork nesting atop a barn or farmhouse has long been regarded as a good-luck omen in Poland.


— Although Norway  covers an area similar to that of Poland (323,900 km²), it has 8.5 fewer inhabitants. Opole voivodship, Poland’s least populous province with only 1,055,667 people, has nearly four times the population of Iceland.


— Śląsk (Silesia), the southern region that over the centuries has been under Czech, Austrian, Prussian and finally Polish rule, is known for its castles, palaces and palatial mansions, although many are now in a state of ruin. Among the grandest are those in Książ, Pszczyna, Kamieniec Ząbkowski and Moszna. The Jelenia Góra region in Poland’s extreme SW corner has more than 20 are found in a 100 kilometer² area.


— The Mighty River Wisła (Vistula), which dissects Poland from south to north, washes the banks of its greatest cities and empties into the Baltic, starts in the south of the country as a mere trickle flowing out of Barania Góra (Ram’s Hill).


— Today’s Olympic training center in Spała (central Poland) was originally built in 1884 as a hunting lodge for the Russian tsar. During WWII, it housed Hitler’s Eastern. Between the world wars it was used by President Ignacy Mościcki, an avid hunter, and continues to serve as a Polish presidential residence.


— Poles always nail a good-luck horseshoe over a doorway open-side down, “aby szczęście spłynęło na tych, którzy pod nią przechodzą” (so good fortune may flow down upon those who pass underneath). Americans nail horseshoes open-end-up so their luck “doesn’t run out”.


— Poland’s winter of 2005-2006, the coldest and snowiest in a generation, left behind millions of dollar worth of infrastructural damage to roads, railways, powerlines and buildings. At least 300 people were found frozen to death, most of them elderly, homeless or inebriated.


— Poland is currently divided into 16 voivodships (województwa), of which the largest in terms of population and territory is Mazowsze (Masovia) which includes the capital city: Warsaw. The voivodship has a population of more than 5,136,000 and covers an area of 9,412 kilometers² (3,634 miles²).


— The smallest of Poland’s 16 voivodships is the Silesian province of Opole in the country’s southwest. Bordering and the Czech Republic, it is tucked in between Lower Silesia, whose capital is Wrocław, and Upper Silesia, whose capital is Katowice.


— Poland neighbors on Russia’s Kaliningrad obvod in the north, Lithuania in the NE, and Belarus and Ukraine in the east. Its southern neighbors are Slovakia and the Czech Republic with Germany stretching along its western flank. Before the collapse of communism (1989-1990) Poland had only three neighbors: The USSR, Czechoslovakia and East Germany.

–Not many words in Polish start with the letter “F”, nearly all of them of foreign derivation. A large Polish dictionary has only 10 pages of “F” words, whilst 215 pages for words starting with “P” and 107 for those in “S”.


— Poland’s temperature rarely exceeds 90°F (32°Celsius), and there is no such thing as a hot, muggy night. Even on the hottest summer days, things usually cool off at night to or below room temperature and at least a slight breeze is common.


— Podlasie voivodship in the NE corner of Poland (including such cities as Białystok, Łomża and Suwałki) is the country’s most ethnically diverse corner. It has the most Eastern Orthodox faithful, Belarussians and Lithuanians, two Tartar villages that still worship in Arabic in their own ancient mosques and numerous Jewish mementoes.


— The next time you reach for a jar of gherkins in the pickle section of your supermarket, you should remember its origin was the Polish word “ogórek” (cucumber, pickle) which probably first went into German as Gurke.

— For foreigners learning Polish the ability to say “w Szczebrzeszynie chrząszcz brzmi w trzcinie” determines how well they have mastered their pronunciation. It is a nonsensical tongue-twister that simply means: In (the town of) Szczebrzeszyn a beetle is buzzing in the reeds.



Robert Strybelul. Kaniowska 24
01-529 Warsaw, Poland

or e-mail to: [email protected]