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Tuesday 25th June
Poland Information - Page 2
Polish history dates from the ninth century when the Polanie tribe became the dominant Slavic tribe in the region.

Over the years, Poland, lacking in natural barriers, suffered attacks from various tribes. At the beginning of the thirteenth century the Teutonic Knights, a German order of knights, were asked to assist with the protection of the country. By the end of the century the Knights had become a major power and in turn a problem for Poland.

In 1333 Casimir III, later known as "the Great", made treaties with the Teutonic Knights. Louis I of Hungary succeeded Casimir; his daughter Jadwiga became Queen of Poland. Queen Jadwiga married the Archduke of Lithuania who took the title of King of Poland unifying Poland and Lithuania.

By the fifteenth century the territory of Poland-Lithuania included Belarus, part of Ukraine and part of western Russia. Wars followed with Russia and Sweden and by the end of the eighteenth century the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth was economically and politically weak.

In 1772 Poland lost lands to Austria, Prussia and Russia - this was known as the "First Partition". Before the end of the century two more Partitions followed. For a brief time, from 1807, a Polish state was supported by Napoleon. Later the Russians controlled a Polish state which ceased to exist as a separate country in 1863. Many Poles migrated taking with them their national identity and culture.

During the First World War (1914-18) thousands of Poles, many Polish Americans, fought with the Allies in France in the Polish Army. Following the Allied victory Poland became an independent country.

At the start of the Second World War (1939-1945) Germany and the USSR invaded Poland. Six million Poles, one-fifth of the population of Poland, died during the War, of these three million were Jews and three million were Christians, mainly Roman Catholics.

Polish people died in the Katyn Forest Massacre, the concentration camps such as Majdanek, Treblinka and Auschwitz-Birkenau, the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising and the Warsaw Uprising.

Thousands of Polish troops escaped to France, moving to Britain when France suffered Nazi occupation. Many Polish pilots fought as part of Britain's Royal Air Force. Polish sailors and soldiers also fought with the Allies.

After the war Poland came under communist rule. Over the years resistance to the government grew, eventually expressing itself in the trade union "Solidarity". Solidarity was outlawed but strikes forced the government to meet with Solidarity leaders. Elections were held and the first non-communist Prime Minister was appointed. In 1990 Lech Walesa, the most well known of the Solidarity leaders, became Poland's President.

In December 2002 Poland took part in EU accession negotiations with nine other countries (Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, the Slovak Republic and Slovenia). The Accession Treaty was signed on 16 April 2003 with 1 May 2004 the formal entry date. EU enlargement meant the unification of twenty-five countries after over half a century of political division and the "Cold War" which followed World War II.

Since the 1990s Poland has made a successful transition to a market economy. Poland is a full EU Member State.

The agricultural sector provides a relatively small percentage of the Grosss Domestic Product. The services sector is the highest earner.

Agricultural products are wheat, potatoes, vegetables and fruit. Cattle, pigs, poultry and sheep are reared.

Industries include coal mining, iron and steel, shipbuilding, machine building, chemicals, glass, textiles and food processing. The tourist industry is an important source of revenue. (2008)

Two of Poland's greatest artists of the nineteenth century are Jan Matejko and Jozef Chelmonski. Modern artists include Jan Cybis and Jozef Czapski.

Henryk Sienkiewicz (1846-1916) won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1905. He is probably most well known for his historical novel Quo Vadis. Wislawa Szymborska, born in western Poland in 1923, won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1996 for poetry.

Joseph Conrad (1857-1924), born Jozef Teodor Konrad Korzeniowski of Polish parents and exiled to Siberia with his family, became a British citizen. Conrad is famous for his novels and short stories that include Lord Jim, Heart of Darkness and Under Western Eyes.

Frederic Chopin (1810-1849), the composer and pianist born near Warsaw, was another intellectual who had to live away from home because of the political situation. Ignacy Paderewski (1860-1941), a composer and pianist, became the Prime Minister of the newly independent Poland in 1919.

Football is the most popular team game in Poland. Other sports include hiking, rockclimbing, saling and canoeing.

Public holidays include New Year's Day, Christmas Day and Easter. Other days which are celebrated are Labour Day (1 May), Polish Constitution Day (3 May), Corpus Christi (14 June) the Assumption of the Virgin Mary (15 August), All Saints Day (1 November) and Independence Day (11 November)

News is available from Newslink.

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