Saturday, April 29, 2017
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Modern History XIX - XX

Maria Sklodowska (Marie Curie) Real Life

Marie CurieI was always interested in Maria Sklodowska-Curie life story since she was Polish, she was a woman and she was s famous scientist who won the Nobel award twice.

Maria (Marie) showed a great determination since in her times women were not allowed to study at the Polish universities under the Russian rule. Marie has to work, save money and go to Paris to be able to pursue her dream.

In the series of articles, which are started in today issue, I will try to present her life how it really was, with the limitations of these times, but also with a unique potential for new discoveries by hard-working and talented scientists who were discovering new laws of science by use of newly available technology.

Read more: Maria Sklodowska (Marie Curie) Real Life


Poland as a Pioneer in Petroleum Industry

LukasiewiczIn recent years petroleum influence world politics and economy more than any other energy resource used worldwide. How many of you know that Poland was a pioneer in petroleum mining worldwide. Poland was among the main petroleum producers in the world. In the beginning of XIX century Poland was the 3rd petroleum producer in the world, just behind the US and Russia. Unfortunately, the petroleum boom did not last long. Poland lacked large petroleum deposits resources to remain a worldwide petroleum center.

Ignacy Lukasiewicz, a Pole, was a worldwide known pioneer in development of petroleum industry. Lukasiewicz (1822-1982), Polish pharmacist of Armenian descent invented the way to use kerosene, product obtained in petroleum distillation, for the kerosene lamp, called also paraffin lamp. Kerosene lamp replaced so called Argand lamp based on the whale oil.  Kerosene lamps were much cheaper, since kerosene was much easier obtainable than whale oil. The kerosene lamps were the precursors of the electric bulbs. They were still in everyday use when my grandparents lived and my parents were young. Ignacy Lukasiewicz was also a founder of the first oil well in Poland.

Lukasiewicz was born March 8, 1822 in Zaduszniki near Mielec in Southeastern part of Poland, called Galicia, which then belonged to Austria. His parents belonged to the local intelligentsia. After he graduated from the secondary school he had to start working as a pharmacist's assistant due to a difficult financial situation of his family. Lukasiewicz followed his parents patriotic work and became involved in the patriotic movement which main goal was Poland's independence. For his political activities he was imprisoned in Lwow for a bit over a year. After he was released from the prison in December 1947 he went to study in Krakow and Vienna. He graduated with the degree in pharmacy in 1852 and returned to Lwow.

Read more: Poland as a Pioneer in Petroleum Industry


The Mormons in Poland

    In 1892 missionaries from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (LDS), based in Salt Lake City and commonly known as the Mormons, proselytized in the eastern German Empire. They established congregations in Breslau and the town of Selbongen in East Prussia. Following World War II, border shifts brought Breslau and Selbongen within the new Poland. Germans were expelled westward to make way for Poles to populate the areas. But some Germans managed to stay behind. The Breslau congregations were depopulated and dissolved, but several Selbongen Mormons remained and continued to operate their branch in their little chapel.

    The town, now in northeast Poland, was renamed Zelwągi, and in 1947 the communist authorities stopped the congregation's meetings, saying such gatherings had to use the Polish language. Undeterred, the members learned Polish and resumed services three years later. A 1958 Polish magazine article about the Zelwągi Mormons brought in a few new members, but by 1978 all of the congregants had reportedly immigrated to West Germany and the branch ceased to exist.

Read more: The Mormons in Poland


Old Country Photos

Richard Poremski, a journalist and activist of Polish-American community visited Poland in 1976. He traveled through Polish cities and villages. He captured images of Poland which could not be captured now, since there is so much development and change.


Reflections from the Great Depression in Poland (1930-1936)

Current economic crisis encourages us to reflect on economic depression of the 30s. In Poland the economic crisis started slightly later than in the US, but it lasted longer: 1930-1935.  From the perspective of the World War II which followed Poles tend to see thirties as good years. But the big economic crisis brought lots of misery and poverty, especially in the regions which were poor already, mainly in Southeastern Poland. 

Both of my parents were born in 1930. They were still children in the pre-war times.

My father came from relatively rich family, he was the only child. He grew up partly in the country. He still remembers that the cheap food products made farmers very poor.  But the real misfortune did not affect his family until the WW II when his mother died on tuberculosis, which was accelerated due to the poor diet. They ate mainly rapeseed soup and rye bread. During the war the medical care was also inadequate.  My father became semi-orphan as 12 years old boy. 

My mother was the youngest from seven children in a miner's family in Katowice, Upper Silesia. When she was born the whole family lived in a house which consisted from a kitchen and two rooms, but they only has the access to one room. Like many Poles they had also a small farm with geese, chicken and goats and a small field and garden. Her father, a miner, was forced for early retirement during the Great Depression. He lost much his savings in a bank bankruptcy. Still, my mother's parents were able to expand the house adding the upper floor. Of course, during this time they had to save on food, so the meat or buttered bread was only served on Sundays.

Read more: Reflections from the Great Depression in Poland (1930-1936)


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