Poland: Baby W’s Heritage

For the past year, we have been referring to the location of our adoption as “Eastern Europe” and have been intentionally vague about the specific country for matters of privacy related to adoption regulations.  However, now that we have our approval and are preparing to travel, we are excited to share with you about the incredible country that will give us our son:

POLAND

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The more I learn about Poland, the more I love and admire it.  It is an fascinating country with a unique and often dark history that is overshadowed by an indescribable resilience and fight to survive.  From its earliest of days, Poland has been through the wringer (to say the least), but countless times has come out stronger and more beautiful, against all odds.  Again and again and again and again.

Historically, Poland has been kicked around and abused by practically everyone who came near it.  Throughout history, it has been in a constant state of being taken over by other countries.  It has had a front-row seat to the darkest moments of human brutality, been devastated by countless wars, was completely wiped off the map from 1762-1916, and faced long periods where of the use of their language and celebration of their culture was punishable by death.

Yet somehow, Poland – it’s people, culture, and language – survived.  Over forty times, Poland was dominated by another nation, yet managed to fight back and rebuild between each of these dark moments, someone preserving its identity in the face of virtually never-ending and unimaginable opposition.

“History shapes the mind-set of any nation, but this point has a special significance in the case of Poland.  The suppression of their culture, traditions, religion, and language in various periods of their history has had a strong effect on the way Poles view themselves and their relations with others.  From their checkered past has come the Poles’ indomitable spirit.  They have lost many battles but not the war, and their vibrant culture and economy are proof of this.”  -Poland: The Essential Guide to Customs & Culture

 

(Mostly) Fun Facts About Poland

  • Poland is divided into 16 provinces, called “wojewodztwa”.  The country of Poland is slightly smaller than Germany in land size.
  • Sometimes rain in Poland has a red or orange hue, due to strong winds that blow sand all the way from the Sahara Desert.
  • Poland borders Belarus, Czech Republic, Germany, Lithuania, Russia, Slovakia, and Ukraine.
  • The currency of Poland is called “zloty”.
  • Poland has one of the best and most elaborate environmental protection systems in the world.  This was motivated by several native species dying out due to illegal poaching.
  • Between the twelfth and fifteenth centuries, Poland was known as a land of religious tolerance, where each group could practice its faith without fear – this was extremely rare during this time period.
  • One of the most influential aspects of Polish culture is the Roman Catholic church, with 95% of the population identifying with this religion.
  • World War II caused Poland to lose 1/3 of its population, after losing over 1 million people in World War I.
  • In addition to (and often instead of) celebrating birthdays, the Polish celebrate their “imieniny”, or “Name Day”.  Nearly all Polish are named after Catholic saints, so “Name Days” are celebrated on the commemorative day recognizing their saint.  The names associated with each day are listed on all Polish calendars.  “Name Day” parties are celebrated much the way we celebrate birthdays.  Want to wish someone well on their “Name Day”?  Easy!  Just say … “Wszystkiego najlepszego z okazji imienin”!  (But not five times fast, or your tongue will fall off).  Although we are giving Baby W a new name, we plan to celebrate his Name Day every year to honor his birth name and his heritage.

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  • The Polish alphabet contains 32 letters, and the Polish language is notoriously difficult to learn.
  • 90% of Poland’s youths complete at least secondary education and 50% of the population has an academic degree.
  • It is estimated that more than six million Poles including soldiers died in concentration camps, labor camps, prisons, and forced labor during the five years of Nazi occupation as a part of World War II.  Auschwitz, the largest extermination camp and concentration camp, is located in Poland and is now a site of pilgrimage and monument to the prevention of war and suffering.  We plan to visit Auschwitz while in Poland.

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  • The time zone in Poland is seven hours ahead of our time in Iowa.
  • Poland has more winners of the “World’s Strongest Man” competition than any other country.
  • In addition to being neighbors with Germany, Poland was a target of Hitler’s because was the center of the European Jewish world with 3.3 million Jews living in Poland.
  • Poland wrote the first European constitution, second in the world only to the United States.
  • Warsaw is the capital city of Poland.

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  • Poland has produced 17 Nobel Prize winners.
  • Nazi-occupied Poland was the only territory where the Germans decreed that any kind of help for Jews was punishable by death. Up to 50,000 Poles were executed by the Nazis for saving Jews.  Despite this, Poles represent the biggest number of people by nationality to rescue Jews during the German Nazi-organised Holocaust, up to around 450,000 from certain death. Poland holds the world record with the most people at 6,135 being awarded the title of Righteous among the Nations by the State of Israel.
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  • Poland has been invaded or has fought for freedom in insurrections 43 times from 1600 to 1945.
  • Because of its long history of being invaded by outside nations, Poland is extremely nationalistic.  It’s ethnic makeup is 97.6% native Polish.
  • Well-known Polish individuals include Fryderyk Chopin, composer; Marie Curie, scientist and first female to win the Nobel Prize; Nicolas Copernicus, astronomer; Pope John Paul II; Wernher Von Braun, scientist (“October Sky”, anyone?); Oscar Hammerstein I, publisher and theater/opera house builder.

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Can’t wait to be there!

 

 

 

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