SM-1 helicopter near PZL factory
|Gmina||Świdnik (urban gmina)|
|• Mayor||Waldemar Jakson|
|• Total||20.35 km2 (7.86 sq mi)|
|• Density||2,000/km2 (5,100/sq mi)|
|Time zone||CET (UTC+1)|
|• Summer (DST)||CEST (UTC+2)|
|Postal code||21-040 - 21-047|
|Area code(s)||+48 81|
Świdnik [ˈɕfʲidɲik] is a city in eastern Poland with 40,186 inhabitants (2012), situated in the Lublin Voivodeship, 10 kilometres (6 miles) southeast of the city of Lublin. It is the capital of Świdnik County. Świdnik belongs to the historic province of Lesser Poland, and was first mentioned in historical records in the year 1392. It remained a village until the end of the 19th century when it began to develop as a spa, due to the good location and climate.
In the early Middle Ages, the area of Świdnik was under the authority of a castellan from nearby Lublin. In the location of the current city three villages existed: Adampol, Świdnik and Krępiec (the name of the city itself was later taken from the village which was located in the immediate vicinity of the PZL Świdnik factory). There are other villages named Świdnik in Poland, as well as Svidnik, a town in Slovakia.
First documented mention of Świdnik comes from the year 1392, and at that time the village was called Świdnik Wielki (Maior Swidnik, Magna Swydnyk). In the early 15th century, Świdnik Mały (Świdnik Minor) appeared in documents, and in 1450, another village, Świdniczek, was mentioned. In 1564, Świdnik Wielki had a folwark, 32 peasants, 14 houses and a public house, and belonged to Lesser Poland's Lublin Voivodeship. After the Partitions of Poland, all three villages briefly belonged to the Habsburg Empire (1795 - 1807). In 1815, they became part of Russian-controlled Congress Poland. During the January Uprising, several skirmishes between Russian units and Polish rebels took place in the area of Świdnik. The biggest one was the Battle of Fajsławice (August 24, 1863), in which 63 Poles were killed. The battle is now commemorated by a monument. In 1877, Świdnik received its first rail connection, on the newly completed Vistula River Railroad. In 1905 - 1914, a red brick station was built; it now is the oldest public utility building in the city.
During World War I, heavy fighting between the Russians and German and Austro-Hungarian units took place in the area of Świdnik (August 1914, July 1915). On July 30, 1915, the city was captured by the Austro-Hungarian Army, and remained under Austrian occupation until November 1918. A World War I military cemetery is located in the outskirts of Świdnik. In late 1918, the town became part of Lublin Voivodeship, Second Polish Republic. At that time Świdnik developed as a spa, due to its unique microclimate. Świdnik's district of Adampol was popular among residents of Lublin, who came here in the 1920s and 1930s for vacation.
Before World War II an airfield was built, which probably influenced the postwar decision of the government of the People's Republic of Poland to locate the PZL Świdnik plant here in the early 1950s. In 1937, the government of Poland purchased 136 hectares of land from the Daughters of Charity of Saint Vincent de Paul, and in the autumn of the same year, construction of the complex of School of Civilian Pilots of the Airborne and Antigas Defence League was initiated. The school unofficially opened in late June 1938, and first pilot training was carried out in the autumn of 1938. The size of the Świdnik airfield was 800 x 750 meters, and official opening of the school took place on June 4, 1939. Both the airport and the school were bombed by the Luftwaffe on September 2, 1939, but the Wehrmacht did not capture Świdnik until September 17. During World War II, the Germans used the airport and its facilities for their military purposes; it was one of main centers of the Luftwaffe in initial stages of Operation Barbarossa.
During the war, numerous Polish resistance units operated in the area of Świdnik, with the most important Home Army. In October 1941, Germans opened the Majdanek concentration camp, located in the village Majdan Tatarski, between Świdnik and Lublin. Furthermore, at the Krępiec Forest near Świdnik, numerous executions took place, in which as many as 30,000 were murdered. Victims were both Polish and Jewish, they were from the Majdanek Camp, the Lublin Castle prison, also from the city of Lublin itself and local cities and villages. Largest execution took place here on November 3, 1943, when German units shot 18,000 Jews. The massacres are commemorated by a monument-tomb, unveiled in the 1970s. In July 1944, Świdnik was seized by the Red Army. The Soviets immediately used the airport, which had been damaged by the Germans before their retreat. On August 11, 1944, first Soviet plane with captured members of legitimate Polish government (see Government Delegation for Poland) took off to Moscow. The Soviet Air Forces used the Świdnik airport until spring 1946.
In 1949 first trees were cut in the location of the future Transportation Equipment Factory (Wytwórnia Sprzętu Komunikacyjnego, WSK). The factory, opened in 1951, quickly became one of the main centres of helicopter production both in the Eastern bloc and Europe. In 1957 the factory was formally renamed WSK "PZL-Świdnik". In the 1950s, a number of new blocks of flats for the workers was built, which resulted in quick population growth. In 1951, a high school was opened, and in 1952, production began at the factory. In 1951, the population of the settlement was 2,800, by 1955, it grew to almost 7,500, with town charter granted to Świdnik in 1954. The first helicopter produced here, the Soviet-designed SM-1 (Mil Mi-1), flew in 1956 - around 1,800 were produced in Świdnik. In 1965 production switched to the Mil Mi-2, of which 5,450 were produced over the next three decades. The factory was its exclusive manufacturer. In the 1980s the factory started producing helicopters of Polish design - PZL W-3 Sokół and PZL SW-4 Puszczyk.
Świdnik was designed to be a perfect Communist town (see Urban planning in communist countries). New districts were built in the 1960s and 1970s, with schools, health centers, hospital, and a cinema. Following the example of Nowa Huta, for years Communist authorities did not allow the construction of a Roman Catholic church, despite pledges of residents. The government finally relented in 1977, by then, the population of Świdnik was well over 20,000.
On July 8, 1980 a strike started in the WSK factory, which quickly spread to other factories in the Lublin region and essentially brought its economy to a standstill. The Communist government eventually managed to quell these mass protests by granting the workers many of their demands. However, the pressure for change generated by the strikes in turn led to the August strikes in Gdańsk and elsewhere on Poland's Baltic Sea Coast, which shortly after led to the emergence of the Solidarity movement. During the Martial law in Poland, the town was an important center of both active and nonviolent resistance. On December 13, 1981, the workers at PZL Świdnik began a strike action, in protest of the Communist government. The plant was immediately surrounded by security services and Polish Army tanks and armoured vehicles. The strike was broken on December 15, when armed forces entered the factory. In the summer 1982 the town became famous across Poland for the so-called Świdnik Walks (Świdnickie spacery), in which its residents went for walks with their families and children at the time of the main news broadcast (Dziennik Telewizyjny, at 7:30 p.m. daily), in protest of Communist propaganda and lies.
Though now there are no expressways or motorways in the Lublin region of Poland, some are being built. The S17 and the S12 are being built out of the national roads nr. 12 and 17. These will bypass Świdnik as a double road, and are meant to be completed by 2015/16. The Lublin Airport in Świdnik is serving the whole voivodeship. Świdnik also has a rail station on the major line which goes from Lublin towards Chełm and the border with the Ukraine.
The city is home to Avia Świdnik, a sports club, which independently runs two departments - men's football and men's volleyball.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Świdnik.|
- Official Website of the town (Polish, English)
- English page of the PZL-Świdnik company
- Large photo gallery