5 Things you didn’t know about Poland

Friday, January 8, 2016


The city with the 2nd largest recorded Polish population is actually Chicago in the USA, only just behind Poland’s own capital city of Warsaw!

As many as 1.5 million people in the greater Chicago area apparently claim Polish heritage or actively self-identify as Polish or Polish-American. Representative of its burgeoning Polish cultural scene, Chicago hosts the Polish Film Festival of America and across the city you’ll see many a Polski Sklep (Polish Shop for the uninitiated) serving everything from delicious cured sausages (kiełbasa) and sharp-flavoured picked gherkins (ogórek), to cabbage stew (Bigos) and assorted flavoursome dumplings (pierogi). Yum!

Nearly 35% of the of the 60 million Poles worldwide actually live abroad

The population of Poland has surprisingly been plateauing since the mid-1990s as birth rate is effectively counterbalanced by migration, which has itself been facilitated by the increased flexibility in the movement of labour and the rich array of available job opportunities abroad.

The top three countries by size of the Polish diaspora are in fact the United States followed by Brazil and Germany, with the UK ranking 8th as of 2013.

Poland (as a part of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth) boasts Europe’s first written, codified constitution

Although it lasted for just 19 months and foreshadowed the 123 year abolition of the Polish state, the ambitious Constitution of May 3rd 1791 had sought to create a more democratic society with a limited, constitutional monarchy in which the people of the land were placed under the official protection of the state.

Unfortunately the burden of progress was felt at home by 1795 when the disapproval of its neighbours led to invasion and partition by Prussia, Russia and Austria, but despite its short observance the constitution was a colossal milestone in the development of European democracy and law that is still felt today.

Wedding celebrations last for up to 3 days with midnight surprises in store

Anyone that has experienced a full-day wedding knows that beside the music, love and laughter there is also exhaustion. Having eaten and drunk your fill, the dancing and general mirth will likely leave you particularly short on energy by the time your bed calls you and can take a day or two to recover from. Well apparently not if you’re Polish; not only do they continue potentially for a further 2 days (at a pretty consistent pace I might add) but on the first night, the festivities accelerate rather than decelerate as the night goes on.

Having gorged on food in abundance and with vodka flowing from some invisible infinite well, cake is brought out as the clock strikes midnight and is then often followed by a great deal more savoury food before the games begin. All manner of games then take place that appear to vary depending on location and imagination, but they are invariably energetic and hilarious. Suffice to say, champagne from the shoe, egg up the trouser leg and chair dancing are all crowd favourites!

Take a second at this point to share a thought for the bride and groom, who unlike at British weddings will not have the option of slipping away before the last guest. If your uncle is still going strong at 4am, you’re going nowhere…

Poland contains 80% of the world’s amber and is by far its largest exporter

Referred to by the ancient Greeks as ‘Holy stone’, Baltic amber is the fossilised resin of a conifer tree that has been extinct for well over 30 million years and Poland now contains around 80% of the world’s remaining deposits.

For thousands of years such amber has been transported south from Poland along the Amber Road to Rome, ferrying vast quantities of the valuable fossilised resin to the great palaces of the ancient world, with discoveries as far flung as Athens, Damascus and the Egyptian burial tomb of Pharaoh Tutankhamen.

Today a booming amber trade still rages with Baltic amber remaining as popular as ever, so the next time you pick up a piece, there’s every chance it came from Poland.

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