A grim day, with the clouds at ground level and even a bit of damp snowfall led to some Wikipedia surfing. You know … one thing sparks your interest and next thing it’s a couple of hours later and you know all sorts of stuff you don’t need!
This time, prompted by an article on Polish Forums, I was reading about Kresy Wschodnie, aka Poland’s Eastern Borderlands. Anyone knowing their Polish history knows that Poland was carved up between Russia, Prussia and Austria in the late 1790s and did not regain independence until 1918 (when she was promptly invaded by the Soviets, who were defeated at the Battle of Warsaw). You’ll also know that the post WW1 borders were far to the east of their present positions – but do you know HOW far east?
I found this map. It shows a grey area – the Kresy, lost to the Soviets after WW2 – and a pink area – formerly German and alllotted to Poland after WW2.
Lwow (L’viv) and Wilno (Vilnius) appear in what WAS Poland, as do the German cities of Wrocław (formerly Breslau) and Gdansk (formerly Danzig) in what WAS Germany.
One thing that does not appear is Königsberg. The former capital of Prussia and later of East Prussia, became a Soviet posession after WW2 and was renamed Kaliningrad – the surrounding area being Kaliningrad Oblast and still today a part of Russia, though separated from it. The Oblast borders Poland to the west and Lithuania to the east.
Incidentally, though just lines on a map these lines affected millions of people – not just waking up in a different country but actually being forced to move to the country which fit there ethnicity – ethnic Poles forcibly moved from Ukraine to Poland, ethnic Germans moved from Poland to Germany, ethic Ukrainians (including the local Lemko, post WW1 and later) forced to move east. In it’s day, Lwow was a very important Polish city, and western Ukraine still has a significant ethnic Polish minority, despite Soviet efforts to clear ’em out.
What makes all this a bit scary is the suggestion in Poland that if Russia continues its present course Poland should offer all the people of Kresy her protection and citizenship, expanding Poland, NATO and the EU right up to Russia’s doorstep.
Now, what is it they say about “living in interesting times”?