30 years after she died, is the mermaid returning to Warsaw?
This is modern Warsawa – not bad, huh?
And THIS is the coat of arms of the city:
A mermaid, or siren, is a Syrena in Polish – and this Syrena protects the river Vistula (Wisła) and the capital city of the Poles.
The story of the Warsaw Mermaid (Syrenka Warszawska)
A long time ago, a dense and impassable forest covered the region of Mazowsze.
One day, Prince Ziemomysl who ruled in this region, went out on a hunting trip and lost his way in the forest. He tried and tried to find a way out until he got to the overgrown rushes on the banks of the Vistula river.
In the gentle waves of the river’s waters, the Prince spotted a beautiful creature. The top half of her body was woman-like and the other half from waste right down to the very tip of her fish tail was covered in fish scales. Even though she had a bow and arrow in her hands, she did not aim at the Prince. Her arrow shot through the air and flew far, far ahead and out of the Prince’s sight. Then she spoke to him “follow my arrow and you will find good people who will give you shelter, food and help you find the way back home“. And then she dived into the gentle waves of the river.
Prince Ziemomysl did as the mermaid said. He followed the arrow until he stood at the front of a poor fisherman’s hut. There wasn’t much to share, but the fisherman and his wife made the Prince very welcome not knowing who he really was. Their twins, Wars and Sawa cheerfully played their favourite games with the Prince. He was happy to find such good people living on his land.
The next day it was time to say goodbye but before he left, the Prince told his subjects who he really was. He promised to build a grand town where the fishing village was and to nominate the poor fisherman to be the castellan, who would rule the town on the Prince’s behalf.
Years passed, many houses were built and the town was called Warszawa after the names of the poor fisherman’s twin children, Wars and Sawa. On the town’s crest, the Prince placed the beautiful Mermaid who showed him the way to the fisherman’s hut.
No one ever saw the legendary Mermaid. But they all heard her evening singing and they loved it. Except for the old hermit who lived in the forest on his own. He hated the Mermaid and her singing and believed that she stole people’s souls. He managed to persuade some fishermen that the Mermaid was dangerous and must be caught and brought to justice.
One night they waited for her on the river bank and when she had just started her beautiful lullaby, they threw a fishing net over her. They put her into the hay barn for the night and waited to bring her into the courts early in the morning.
The Mermaid started singing. She knew it was her last song and it was the saddest melody she had ever sung in her life. A young shepherd heard the song and it melted his heart. He felt very sorry for the beautiful creature and decided to free her. He opened the door of the hay barn and let her go.
She was never to be seen after that and no one has heard her singing since. The only proof of her existence is the image in the crest of the city of Warsaw.
(Thanks to Polish4kids.com whose version of the story I edited)
But that’s not what this little story is about – this concerns another Syrena. The FSO/FSM Syrena, built between 1957 and 1972 by Fabryka Samochodów Osobowych in Warsawa.
The factory is now defunct, but in 1977 was responsible for this delight:
Ta-da … the FSO Ogar prototype
Then production shifted to the Fabryka Samochodów Małolitrażowych factory in Bielsko-Biała where it continued until 1983. Total production was 521,311 – 177,234 at FSO and 344,077 and FSM.
Syrena 100 (note position of the single wiper!)
FYI, I can translate Fabryka Samochodów (effectively “builders of cars”) but I had to ask Rajmund’s help with the other bits.
Syrena 101 (not the only one) in the Museum of Municipal Engineering in Krakow
His explanation is best delivered by saying that Małolitrażowych means smaller engines so Fabryka Samochodów Małolitrażowych was the place that built cars with small engines, which is quite true because from 1973 it built the Fiat 126, then moved on to the Fiat Cinquecento, Seicento, Nuova 500, Ford Ka, Fiat Panda, etc.
Fabryka Samochodów Osobowych is a rather less finely defined car maker – maker of cars of all kinds – and was home of the Warsawa, Polski Fiat 125p and Polonez.
Despite all that, FSM no longer builds cars (production at the factory ended with the Chevrolet Aveo in early 2011) while FSO is turning out ALL Fiat 500s, Ford Kas, and the Lancia Ypsilon.
How many of you noticed the backward opening (suicide) doors. The 104 was the last Syrena to “feature” them
So, you may be wondering, when do we get back to the Syrena? About now!
And, seeing the doors are now the right way around, this one was “converted”
As was this one, with apologies for the poor pic
The Syrena was, to my eyes at least, just about THE most attractive car produced in the Communist bloc.
Not only that, they were also built as vans and pick-ups. In fact, the garden centre on the road into Nowy Sącz has a Syrena pick-up usually parked on the roadside.
Now there’s a company which is discussing beginning production of a new Syrena. Here are some pics.
“Santa’s cool new ride”
You can see where inspiration comes from – part old Syrena, part Porsche, part Audi – but will they get the project off the ground? It would be nice if Poland started building Polish-badged cars again. How many people driving Fords, Fiats, GM cars or Lancias know they’re driving Polish already?
Or do they really think we all drive commie-cars?