June 2022 meeting: The Story of Poland

On 13 June 2022, Hubert Zawadzki spoke about The Land of the White Eagle: The Story Of Poland. The White Eagle is the symbol of Poland and Hubert recounted how its appearance on the Polish flag changed during the country’s history, reflecting its shifting boundaries and political vicissitudes.

Poland’s emergence dates from the 10th century, with the adoption of Christianity in 966. In 1385 it united with Lithuania and there followed 300 years during which their federal union thrived and religious tolerance was established. Yet it was also in this period that serfdom was consolidated, lasting until the 19th century.

In the final decades of the 18th century, Poland’s fortunes waned as its more powerful neighbours, Prussia, Russia and Austria, divided the country among themselves, with the Polish state disappearing in 1795. The 19th century was a period of failed insurrections and high emigration, especially to the USA, but also great artistic and scientific achievements (many by Poles living in exile).

Poland re-emerged after the first World War, only to be divided between the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany in 1939 and occupied for most of World War Two by the latter, with devastating effects. From 1945 to 1989 Poland was a satellite of the Soviet Union.

Over the past 30 years, as an independent country, Poland has forged closer ties to the west, joining the EU in 2004 and enjoying rapid economic development. Hubert concluded that, despite these successes, recent history has left deep scars and a politically polarized society; there may be a bumpy road ahead.

Reports of previous meetings