Dr. Wacław Olszak (29 May 1868 – 11 September 1939) was a Polish physician, activist and politician from the region of Zaolzie, Czechoslovakia. He was a mayor of the town of Karviná for seven years. Ten days after outbreak of World War II he was murdered by Nazis.

Wacław Olszak
Waclaw Olszak.jpg
Wacław Olszak
Mayor of Karviná
In office
Personal details
Born(1868-05-29)May 29, 1868
Šenov, Austrian Silesia
DiedSeptember 11, 1939(1939-09-11) (aged 71)
Karviná, Nazi Germany[1]
Resting placeKarviná
Spouse(s)Maria Olszakowa (née Krus)
ChildrenWacław, engineer
Feliks, engineer
Alma materUniversity of Vienna

Olszak was born in Šenov as a tenth child of a peasant. After elementary school he attended the German gymnasium (high school) in Cieszyn, from which he graduated in 1889. He went to Vienna to study medicine at the University of Vienna. He graduated in 1895. After returning to his region, Olszak started to work as a doctor in Karviná, becoming the first Polish doctor for coal miners in that town. He also worked as a doctor at the château in Fryštát for count Larisch-Mönnich, and as a family doctor for many local German engineers and administration workers. Olszak however, working mostly with poor coal miners and their families, helped to organize a social help for them.

Olszak was a member and co-founder of various Polish organizations in Zaolzie. He was a member of the general committee of Związek Polaków w Czechosłowacji (Association of Poles in Czechoslovakia) and Związek Śląskich Katolików w Czechosłowacji (Association of Silesian Catholics in Czechoslovakia). After World War I, as a member of the Association of Silesian Catholics, he took active part in the work of the National Council of the Duchy of Cieszyn, provisional Polish political body working for joining Cieszyn Silesia to independent Poland.[2]

Olszak was regularly elected to the city council of Karviná and in 1929 became a mayor, beating in the elections Czech candidate Oskar Kučera. On 6 July 1930 he hosted in the town the Czechoslovak president Tomáš G. Masaryk and welcomed him in Polish. President Masaryk later made a speech in both Polish and Czech languages.[3] On 4 July 1936 Olszak contested in next mayoral elections but lost to Czech candidate Antonín Krůta.[4] After the elections Olszak worked again as a general doctor for coal miners, he maintained this position after Poland annexed Zaolzie in October 1938.

On 1 September 1939 World War II started and Wehrmacht entered also Zaolzie region. Dr Olszak was arrested by Nazi authorities on 2 September. On 7 September he was called out to one of local coal mines to a reputed accident. Upon arrival he was seriously beaten by Gestapo and local German coal mining administration. He was transferred to the hospital, where he died on 11 September. Bleeding to the brain was given as a cause of death in the official documents.[4] His funeral was highly restricted by Nazi German authorities who were aware of Olszak's popularity. Although crowds of locals followed the funeral procession, only four people were allowed to enter the cemetery - wife, two sons and priest. He is buried at a cemetery in the Doly (Kopalnie) district of Karviná.

Streets in Cieszyn and Karviná are named after him. His son Wacław became an internationally acclaimed engineer and construction theorist; his son Feliks became a metallurgical engineer.[5]


  1. ^ The town of Karviná was a part of Czechoslovakia in 1920-1938. In October 1938 it was, together with whole Zaolzie region, annexed by Poland. After outbreak of World War II it was captured by Germans and became part of Nazi Germany.
  2. ^ Nowak 2008, 22.
  3. ^ Słowik 1999, 20.
  4. ^ a b Słowik 1999, 22.
  5. ^ "Olszak". Nowa Encyklopedia Powszechna PWN. IV. Warszawa: PWN. 1997. p. 638. ISBN 83-01-11967-5.


  • Nowak, Krzysztof (2008). "Polacy przejmują władzę. Rada Narodowa Księstwa Cieszyńskiego". In Krzysztof Nowak (ed.). Pierwsza Niepodległość. Cieszyn: Urząd Miejski Cieszyn. pp. 18–53. ISBN 978-83-89835-40-6.
  • Słowik, Józef; Tadeusz Hławiczka; Kazimierz Santarius (1999). Dr Olszak i jego następcy. Albrechtice u Českého Těšína: Polskie Towarzystwo Medyczne w Republice Czeskiej. ISBN 80-902252-3-3.