Thursday, March 23, 2017
   
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History and People

Twenty Years after Chernobyl Nuclear Accident

Chernobyl's nuclear accident occurred on the night of April 25th to 26th, 1986 during its test run. This was just the beginning of my work in the Institute of Nuclear Physics in Krakow, my first real job. After we had heard about the accident my boss handed me a nuclear dosimeter (radiation counter) asking to look around and check the levels of radiation. I was walking on the grounds of the Institute monitoring the level of radiation. I remember this day, I was inspecting the area, sidewalks, roads and even checking the dose of radiation on bottom of peoples' shoes.

Read more: Twenty Years after Chernobyl Nuclear Accident

 

Brotherhood of the Rooster in Krakow (Bractwo Kurkowe)

Washington, D.C. A rare and very rewarding glimpse into the medieval society of Poland was provided here to a large audience on March 17, 2006 at the Embassy of the Republic of Poland under the auspices of Ambassador Janus Reiter and Consul General Pawel Bogdziewicz. Cultural Counselor Mariusz Brymora opened the event by introducing the Rooster King (Piotr Skalski) and his Brotherhood of the Rooster/Shooting Society of Krakow. All were colorfully attired in the complete and correct style of the 16th and 17th century Polish nobility.

Medieval Rooster King - Piotr SkalskiThe Brotherhood/Society was founded in 1257 as Kur's Fraternity and later was also know as the Krakow Shooting Society. It was comprised of craftsmen and merchants whose responsibility was to defend Krakow against the numerous and always threatening invaders. Almost every large Polish city of the times maintained such a defensive militia. They had favored permission from the royal court to wear the finery of the nobility and landed gentry (szlachta), which was not allowed for the other townspeople. They trained first with bow/arrow, then the crossbow, and finally with firearms.

The name designation of Rooster is derived from the targets used by the Brotherhood in shooting contests. Early on live chickens and roosters were used as targets and this practice eventually evolved to the shooting at a wooden rooster (kur) figure. And this is how the original name "Kur's Fraternity" was established, because 'kur' means 'rooster' in colloquial Polish. The association with Rooster became even more apropos with the introduction of firearms since the shape of the hammerlock strongly resembled a rooster/cock's head. So when the hammerlock was pulled back in preparation for firing, the descriptive term used was to "cock' the firearm" hence the moniker connection with Rooster.

From its very founding, the Brotherhood has been dedicated to the proactive participation in the multifaceted civic life and rituals of Krakow and the fostering of religious traditions of the Catholic Church. Specific major objectives include the construction of appropriate monuments, the founding of commemorative plaques, the bestowing of its coveted Brotherhood awards, and to create special and unique flags, banners and standards. Most recently, for example, they have erected sizable monuments to Pope John Paul II in Krakow's Strzelecki Park (2000) and in Rome, Italy for the 25th Anniversary of the Pontificate (2004).

The Rooster King and RetinueThere was very important and official Brotherhood ceremonies conducted at the Embassy event concerning the U.S. Department of State and elder U.S. President George W. Bush. Gifts and special mementos were presented to Michael Sessums, Poland Desk Officer, and to Ann Hall, Designated Consul General in Krakow, who will assume that office later this summer. Janet Garvey, Director for Northern and Central European Affairs, accepted a special Order of the Brotherhood of the Rooster medal on behalf of President Bush, who accepted honorary Brotherhood membership 3 years ago at Wawel Castle when he visited Krakow (many other esteemed and prominent persons have been so honored with honorary membership, including Pope John Paul II). Hannah Reiter, wife of the Ambassador, was also favored with flowers and unique gifts. The evening's closing rituals was proof positive that the Brotherhood was still dynamically upholding its original charter and altruistic mission 749 years after it's founding, and that it will continue to flourish in the future for all the uncountable years to come.

You can find out more about the Brotherhood of the Rooster at their web site: www.bractwo.kurkowe.krakow.pl.

 

   

Nicolaus Copernicus: His Theory and Times

CopernicusCopernicus (1473-1543) was rediscovered many times. When I was still a schoolgirl, the 500-hundred-year anniversary of his birth was celebrated (1973). Every schoolchild had to recite information about Copernicus's life and achievements. Just a couple of months ago, Copernicus's skull was identified. The old debate revived - was he a German or a Pole? This debate is quite fruitless since in Copernicus' times national identification was not the same as it is today. Copernicus was for his all life a faithful subject of the Polish king and a bitter enemy of the Teutonic Order, although he inherited German blood, especially from his mother's side. Copernicus used only Latin in writing his scientific works since Latin was the language of science and of communication with the world community of scholars.

Read more: Nicolaus Copernicus: His Theory and Times

   

Women in Poland's Early History

March is considered the Month of Women. In Poland, Women's Day was celebrated on March 8th. Sadly, the traditions of Women's Day, when all women were given some extra favors from men and beautiful flowers, are fading away. Women's Day is now considered to be a part of the communist tradition because it was celebrated in the majority of Eastern European countries, especially in Soviet Union.

Read more: Women in Poland's Early History

   

Trip from the French Front Home, Part I - From the Memoirs of Franek Gwiozdzik

This is the next part, very adventurous, of the memoirs of Franciszek Gwiozdzik, who served, as all Silesians had to serve, in the Wehrmacht during the World War II.

I had good luck again! Something happened that I would remember for the rest of my life. It was Friday, June 30, 1944. A telephone message came to our commander that "Kanionier (bombardier) Franz Gwiozdzik is to be ready to go at 8 A.M., in full uniform, to report to the regiment command post." I tried to learn what this was about, but I learned only that a supply car would take me to the regiment headquarters.

Read more: Trip from the French Front Home, Part I - From the Memoirs of Franek Gwiozdzik

   

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