Polish history is traced back only as far as 966AD, yet it has packed some exciting times into a little over 1,000 years.
At the time of the partition in 1795, Poland has already had a constitutional monarchy (1370) and comprised a large land area including Lithuania (the Commonwealth of the Kingdom of Poland and the Grand Duchy of Lithuania from 1569 to 1795), invaded by Sweden in The Deluge (1655 – 1660) and in 1795 divided between three neighbours – Prussia, Russia an Austria. Quite literally, Poland – once one of the largest, most powerful and most advanced states in Europe – was wiped off the map!
At the end of World War 1 Poland was put back on the map, rather to the east of where it is today – cities like Wroclaw (Breslau) were in Germany, while Lviv (Lvov) was in Poland. Regaining independence was, in some eyes, not as difficult as retaining it – the Soviets promptly invaded, only giving up after the Battle of Warsaw in 1922.
All went fairly well until 1939, when Germany and Russia both invaded Poland and divided the country between them.
Over one million Polish servicemen and –women escaped to continue the fight alongside the allies, only to have Churchill and Roosevelt hand them (and the land they’d fought for) over to Stalin in 1944/5.
At least 1945 saw Poland’s borders re-drawn, albeit behind the Iron Curtain. Breslau became Wroclaw and Lvov became the Ukrainian city of Lviv. Danzig, a Prussian free city became Gdansk. Many of these cities had seen furious fighting during WW2, and have subsequently been re-built. Krakow is notable for having survived virtually unscathed – which gives it the advantages and disadvantages of being an original medieval city.
During the first 50-odd years of the 20th century, Poland’s population saw many changes – borders shifted and populations were moved. The Lemko population, a Rusyn ethnic group, fearing absorption into Poland, went so far as to form the Lemko-Rusyn Republic at the end of 1918, cantered on Florynka, in Nowy Sacz County. Seeing its future with Russia, the leaders of the erstwhile Republic worked for union with Russia, which proved to be impossible, then to become an autonomous province of Czechoslovakia with Carpathian Ruthenia.
Subsequent population movements forced by the Polish and Soviet governments (check out Operation Vistula) when he numbers of Poles and non-Poles were forced to re-settle to suit shifting borders, reduce/remove separatist elements and in Poland’s case to re-populate the lands it acquired from Germany at the end of WW2 saw most of an estimated 130 to 140,000 Lemkos displaced. Permission to return was only granted in 1955, but the current estimate is that only 10 to 15,000 Lemkos now live in their southern Polish homeland.
Lemkivshchyna, or Lemkovyna, is the homeland of the Lemkos. The area is approximately 140km long and 25-50km wide and lies along the current border between Poland and Slovakia, plus part of Ukraine. Pre 1918, it had been under the control of Great Moravia, medieval Poland then, in 1772, part of the Austrian province of Galicia following the first partition of Poland. Only the southern section, southwest of the Carpathian mountains and in Slovakia has remained recognisably Lemko.
How is this relevant to the 1904loghouse? Well, Florynka is just up the road, and the house is believed to have been built by a Lemko family.