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Panorama of Kraków, former capital of Poland

Welcome to the Poland Portal
Witaj w Portalu o Polsce

Coat of arms of Poland
Map 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 largely completed, Poland is an increasingly active member of NATO and the European Union.

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From Polish history

Monument to Polish soldiers in Crostwitz near Bautzen
The Battle of Bautzen was one of the last battles on the Eastern Front of World War II. It took place on the extreme southern flank of the Spremberg-Torgau Offensive, seeing days of pitched street fighting between forces of the Polish Second Army together with elements of the Soviet 52nd Army and 5th Guards Army on one side and remnants of the German 4th Panzer and 17th Armies on the other. Part of Marshal Ivan Konev's 1st Ukrainian Front push toward Berlin, the battle was fought in the town of Bautzen and its environs along the Bautzen–Niesky line. Major combat took place from April 21 to April 26, 1945, but isolated engagements continued until April 30. The Polish Second Army under General Karol Świerczewski suffered heavy losses, but with the aid of Soviet reinforcements prevented the German forces from breaking through to their rear. According to one historian the Battle of Bautzen was one of the Polish Army's bloodiest battles. Both sides claimed victory and modern views as to who won the battle remain contradictory. After the fall of communism, Polish historians became critical of Świerczewski's command, blaming the near destruction of the Polish force on his incompetence and desire to capture Dresden.
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Polish Yak-18
Credit: Łukasz Golowanow, Maciej Hypś, Konflikty.pl

Yak-18 is a Soviet-made two-seat military trainer aircraft designed by Alexander Sergeyevich Yakovlev. This plane bears the white-and-red Air Force checkerboard, a national marking indicating that it belongs to the Polish Air Force. Yak-18 planes were used in Poland for military training purposes throughout the 1950s. This photograph was taken at the International Air Picnic in Góraszka near Warsaw.

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Stefan Czarniecki
Stefan Czarniecki (1599–1665) was a Polish military commander who rose from a petty nobleman to a magnate holding one of the highest offices in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, something that was unprecedented in Polish-Lithuanian history. In 1664 he attained the office of the voivode of Kijów (now Kiev, Ukraine) and in 1665, a few weeks before his death, he became field hetman of the Crown. Czarniecki's major successes came during the Khmelnytsky Uprising in Ukraine, the Russo-Polish War of 1654–1667, and the Second Northern War. His use of guerrilla warfare against the Swedes is considered one of the main reasons for the eventual Polish victory in the latter conflict. Czarniecki is regarded as a national hero, his status in Polish history best illustrated by a mention in the national anthem.
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A wisent in the Białowieża Forest

The Białowieża Forest, an ancient woodland straddling the Polish-Belarusian border, is one of the last and largest remaining parts of the immense primeval forest which once spread across the European Plain. It is home to the wisent (pictured), elk, wild boars, konik horses, and other animals. Its name, Puszcza Białowieska in Polish and Belavezhskaya Pushcha in Belarusian, comes from the village of Białowieża located in the forest. Historically it belonged to Polish kings and, later, Russian emperors who used it as royal hunting grounds or food reserve for the army. It has been protected since 1538 when King Sigismund I instituted death penalty for poaching the wisent. Today parts of the forest on both sides of the border are protected as national parks, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a Biosphere Reserve.

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