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Welcome to the Poland Portal — Witaj w Portalu o Polsce

Cityscape of Kraków, Poland's former capital
Cityscape of Kraków, Poland's former capital
Coat of arms of Poland

Poland is a country in Central Europe, bordered by Germany to the west; the Czech Republic and Slovakia to the south; Ukraine, Belarus and Lithuania to the east; and the Baltic Sea and Russia's Kaliningrad Oblast to the north. It is an ancient nation whose history as a state began near the middle of the 10th century. Its golden age occurred in the 16th century when it united with the Grand Duchy of Lithuania to form the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth. During the following century, the strengthening of the gentry and internal disorders weakened the nation. In a series of agreements in the late 18th century, Russia, Prussia and Austria partitioned Poland amongst themselves. It regained independence as the Second Polish Republic in the aftermath of World War I only to lose it again when it was occupied by Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union in World War II. The nation lost over six million citizens in the war, following which it emerged as the communist People's Republic of Poland under strong Soviet influence within the Eastern Bloc. A westward border shift followed by forced population transfers after the war turned a once multiethnic country into a mostly homogeneous nation state. Labor turmoil in 1980 led to the formation of the independent trade union called Solidarity (Solidarność) that over time became a political force which by 1990 had swept parliamentary elections and the presidency. A shock therapy program during the early 1990s enabled the country to transform its economy into one of the most robust in Central Europe. With its transformation to a democratic, market-oriented country completed, Poland is an increasingly active member of NATO and the European Union.

From Polish history

Swiderian tanged points
The Stone Age in what is now Poland lasted about 500,000 years and involved three different human species: Homo erectus, Homo neanderthalensis and Homo sapiens. Stone Age cultures ranged from early human groups with primitive tools to advanced agricultural societies, which used sophisticated stone tools, built fortified settlements and developed copper metallurgy. As elsewhere in Europe, the Stone Age human cultures went through the stages known as the Paleolithic, Mesolithic and Neolithic, each bringing new refinements of the stone tool making techniques. The Paleolithic human activities were intermittent because of the recurring periods of glaciation. A general climate warming and the resulting increase in ecologic diversity was characteristic of the Mesolithic (9,000-8,000 BCE). The Neolithic brought the first settled agricultural communities whose founders migrated from the Danube River area starting ca. 5,500 BCE. Later the native post-Mesolithic populations also adopted and further developed the agricultural way of life (4,400–2,000 BCE).

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A star chart depicting the constellations Serpens, Serpentarius, Scutum Sobiescianum, and Taurus Poniatovii
Credit: Sidney Hall

Plate 12 from Urania's Mirror, a set of star charts published in Britain in 1824. The two constellations to the left of Serpentarius (Serpent-bearer, now called Ophiuchus) were named by Polish astronomers after the coats of arms of their kings. Scutum Sobiescianum (Sobieski's Shield), created by Johannes Hevelius in honor of King John III Sobieski, who bore the Janina coat of arms, is now known simply as Scutum. The now-obsolete Taurus Poniatovii (Poniatowski's Bull) was named by Marcin Odlanicki Poczobutt for King Stanislaus Augustus Poniatowski, who used the Ciołek coat of arms.

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A typical zapiekanka served on a paper tray

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Selected biography

Witold Pilecki in a colorized photograph
Witold Pilecki (1901–1948) was a Polish soldier, founder of the Secret Polish Army resistance group and member of the Home Army during World War II. He was the only person to volunteer to be imprisoned at the Auschwitz Concentration Camp. While there, he organized inmate resistance, and as early as 1940, informed the Western Allies of Nazi Germany's Auschwitz atrocities. He escaped from the camp in 1943 and took part in the Warsaw Uprising. Pilecki was executed in 1948 by communist authorities. Until 1989, information on his exploits and fate was suppressed by the Polish the communist regime.

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St. Nicholas Orthodox Church in Białystok

Białystok is the largest city in north-eastern Poland, located close to the Belarusian border. Originally part of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, it was annexed by Prussia in the Third Partition of Poland in 1795 only to pass into Russian hands with the Treaty of Tilsit of 1807. Under Russian rule, it enjoyed an economic boom fueled by development of textile industry. The city was predominantly Jewish, but most of Białystok's Jewish population was exterminated by the Nazis during the city's German occupation in 1941–1944, despite its resistance in the Białystok Ghetto Uprising. In addition to textiles, Białystok is a large producer of alcoholic beverages and home of the Żubrówka vodka.

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Holidays and observances in May 2019
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