Julie Dawn Fox

L is for Lusia, Lodzia and Łódź

Poland-eagle-150squareThis is where my Polish friends might raise their hands in protest.  You see, in Polish there is a letter L and a letter Ł (ł in lower case).  The two are quite separate, but as there are 33 letters in the Polish alphabet and I am constantly short of time, I’m combining them in this post.  To English eyes they probably look very similar, but ł is pronounced like the English “w” in “wet”.

So, the city that I’m going to tell you a little about, Łódź, is pronounced Wooj, or something very like that.  I have never actually visited this city, which is the third largest in Poland, but it has always intrigued me for its name, which translates as “boat”.  This for a city which lies right in the centre of Poland, 84 miles south-west of Warsaw, and doesn’t even have a river running through it.  Apparently the city once had a total of 18 rivers, but they were covered over due to chronic pollution.

A boat, the coat of arms of Łódź- from Wikipedia

A boat, the coat of arms of Łódź- from Wikipedia

The first written record of Łódź appears in 1332 as the village of Łodzia, and in 1423 King Władysław Jagiełło (who you may remember from my J is for Jadwiga post) granted it city rights.  It was always at the crossroads of trade but at this time most of the inhabitants worked on grain farms in the surrounding flat lands. 

Like many another Polish city, the history of Łódź is colourful.  It lost its identity to Prussia in 1793, and then at the Congress of Vienna in 1815, became part of Russian Poland.  The Tzar gave territory deeds to German immigrants to clear the land and build factories and housing.  In 1825 the first cotton mill was opened and the textile boom began, with an eager Russian market on the doorstep.  Łódź has been likened to a “Polish Manchester” due to its prosperity from textiles.  Relationships with their Russian neighbours deteriorated rapidly, climaxing in the Łódź insurrection (or June Days) in 1905, which was violently put down by the Tzarists.

Łódź monument to the 1905 insurrection- from Wikipedia

Łódź monument to the 1905 insurrection- from Wikipedia

Many of the industrialists were Jewish, thus, during the Nazi occupation, the Łódź Ghetto was set up.  It was the last major ghetto to be liquidated due to the value of the goods the occupants produced for the German military.  The Germans requisitioned all factories and machinery and transported them to Germany so that Łódź was deprived of most of its infrastructure.  Refugees from Warsaw flooded into the city and in the aftermath of the Warsaw Uprising, Łódź became a temporary capital.  Apart from Kraków it was the only Polish city not to have been raised to the ground.

It’s not all doom and gloom.  I knew little about Łódź, but even I had heard of the National Film School, founded in 1948, and its famous student, Roman Polanski.  The film industry and new businesses locating in Łódź due to its excellent transport links have aided the slow rebirth of the city.  Renovation is ongoing on Ul. Piotrkowska, at 5km the longest main street in Europe. OFF Piotrkowska is a lively complex of cafes, restaurants and designer shops within 19th century former cotton mill buildings.

Sculpture of pianist Artur Rubinstein on Ul. Piotrkowska- from Wikipedia

Sculpture of pianist Artur Rubinstein on Ul. Piotrkowska- from Wikipedia

OFF Piotrkowska- from "In your Pocket" Łódź guide

OFF Piotrkowska- from “In your Pocket” Łódź guide

Even better news is that the rivers I referred to at the start of this post are now the subject of a restoration project.  Who knows where it all might end for the city of Łódź?  Manchester isn’t doing so very badly.

Lusia and Lodzia

Most of my Polish family live in the neighbourhood of Bełchatów, about an hour south of Łódź.  As usual, when I was in Poland in May, I went to see my lovely Aunt Lusia in Zawady.  She is my Dad’s only surviving sister, and lives close to the farmstead where Dad grew up.  Her portion of land is a good size with a lovely pond and numerous fruit trees.  Lusia tended the huge vegetable plots herself when she was younger, but now much appreciates the help of her daughter Theresa, who lives with her.  Granddaughter Edyta completes the household (if you don’t count the rabbits, of which there are many!)

Lusia and Dad

Lusia and Dad

The pond at the bottom of the garden

The pond at the bottom of the garden

Fruit trees and the neighbours

Fruit trees and the neighbours

Lusia and Dad with Teresa and Edyta

Lusia and Dad with Theresa and Edyta

Most of the family have built houses on land from the original farm, and Lusia is now dividing hers to make life easier.  Her daughter Grażyna and son-in-law Marek live in a high rise flat in Bełchatów (I was there on my visit too!) and are now building a house next to Mum.  A widow for many years, I never met her husband  Zbigniew, but have seen photos of them as a happy young couple.  It will help Lusia to have family so close by.  A third daughter, Irena (who will feature in my letter “I”), also lives in Bełchatów.  One last little thing to share- Lusia’s given name is Otylia.  I’m not at all sure how Lusia comes from this, but that’s just how it is.

Just across the lane from Lusia is the home of Lodzia and her remaining unmarried family.  This is my Dad’s original home and was taken on by the oldest son Zygmunt, when their parents died.  Sadly Zygmunt himself died just months before the family reunion which brought Dad back to Poland.  He had tried so hard to find Dad, and maybe things would have gone differently if he had succeeded.

Lodzia has her sons Bolek and Piotrek helping on the substantial plot of land.  Dad remembers taking the cows to a stream when he was a small lad, but the cows are long gone (as is the stream, strangely enough).

A slightly blurred photo of Lodzia and Bolek at Jadwiga's home

A slightly blurred photo of Lodzia and Bolek at Jadwiga’s home

You will have seen Lodzia on my blog before.  She is my lovely cousin Jadzia’s mum and we traditionally have supper at Jadwiga’s home, pictured above.  The farmhouse is now very run down and Lodzia does not have an easy life.  She also has the care of a blind son, Adam, who suffered the injury in an explosion many years ago.  Life is never all roses, is it?  My Polish family have had their share of tragedy, but they go on smiling and welcoming us each time.

 This post is part of my Personal A-Z of Poland, for which I owe thanks to Julie Dawn Fox.   I have put links to Wikipedia and my other posts for anyone who is interested.  The logo below will take you to Julie’s A-Z page, and I’m also linking to Frizz’s LLL-challenge, even though, as usual, I’m late!  MMM arrived this morning.


J is for Jadwiga


This is a novelty, isn’t it?  For anyone new to my blog, you won’t have a clue what I’m up to, or why.  Old friends might just remember the logo.  I’ll explain a little later.

Jadwiga is a Polish feminine name (pronounced Yad-viga).  The diminutive, or affectionate family form, is Jadzia.  The name originates from the German Hedwighadu meaning “battle” and wig meaning “fight”.  You might not realise the significance of this until I tell you about Jadwiga, Queen of Poland.

Jadwiga, "king" of Poland- image from Wikipedia

Jadwiga, “king” of Poland- image from Wikipedia

Jadwiga was queen of Poland, or rather “king”, from 1384 till her death on 17th July, 1399.  She was a sovereign in her own right rather than a mere royal consort, entitling her to the title of king.

Jadwiga was the daughter of Louis 1 of Hungary and Poland, and Elizabeth of Bosnia.  When Louis died in 1382 his eldest daughter Maria was elected queen of Hungary, but the Poles opted to end the union between the 2 countries by choosing Jadwiga as queen.  She was then just 9 years old. After 2 years of negotiations with her mother, and civil war in Poland, Jadwiga came to Kraków to be crowned.  In 1386 she was married to Jogaila, grand duke of Lithuania, to form an alliance of territories much larger than the one with Hungary, changing the balance of power in Central Europe.

Coat of arms of Jadwiga- image from Wikipedia

Jadwiga’s coat of arms- from Wikipedia

The marriage opened the way to the conversion to Christianity of the largely pagan Lithuanians.  Jogaila was baptised Władysław in Kraków before the marriage took place, and they ruled jointly, but with Jadwiga as the leading figure.  She led 2 successful military expeditions, helping Poland to regain lost territories.  When Jadwiga died from childbirth, her husband became Władysław II Jagiello, founding the Jagiellonian dynasty.

Jadwiga was a great patron of religion and scholarship.  From the sale of her jewellery she financed the restoration of the Kraków Academy, which became the world renowned Jagiellonian University.

After her death, Jadwiga was venerated throughout Poland as a saint, and was said to have performed miracles.  Details of these and more of Poland’s convoluted history are to be found in the above links to Wikipedia.  She was finally canonised by Pope John Paul II in Kraków on June 8th, 1997.

Jadwiga's tomb, in Wawel Cathedral, Krakow- from Wikipedia

Jadwiga’s sarcophagus, in Wawel Cathedral, Kraków- from Wikipedia

And now to my personal interest in the name Jadwiga. Time to meet my lovely cousin, Jadzia.  She is one of the daughters of my Dad’s older brother, Zygmunt, who died just months before the family were reunited, and so was never able to greet him on his return to Poland.  I have recounted Dad’s wonderful story in Exploring the Polish Connection, and have already introduced some of my cousins in this A-Z series.

Jadzia with some of her delicious homemade cake

Jadzia with some of her delicious homemade cake

Jadzia, Mam and brother Bolek

Jadzia, Mam and brother Bolek in her lovely dining room (Dad in foreground)

I have many times sampled Jadzia’s wonderful hospitality, and been present at the weddings of both of her children, Ania and Krzysztof.  On each occasion our time together has been too brief.  Jadzia has a little English and I have a very little Polish.  When we exchange emails we do so in our native languages and leave the other to puzzle out the meaning.  Ania is fluent in English, and of course, my Dad is an old hand at Polish.

In writing this post I am linking back to the original A-Z Personal Challenge begun by Julie Dawn Fox.  Life has overtaken me a little so I’ve been slow in reaching completion.  I have pages dedicated to my A-Z’s, both for Poland and for Portugal, at the top of the page, so you can see just how far I’ve progressed.  I would also like to enter this post in Frizz’s A-Z.  I have his permission.  When I began this challenge I hadn’t even “met” Frizz.  Since then he has enhanced my world enormously.