A Very Brief History of Poland

 966 Mieszko I converts his dukedom to Christianity and founds the state of Poland.

1025 Bolesław Chrobry (the Brave) is crowned as the first Polish king.

1109 Bolesław Krzywousty (Wrymouth) through successive victories against German troops manages to incorporate large parts of Silesia and Pomerania.

1226 Teutonic Knights invited into northern Poland to help against the Prussians.

1241 Poland invaded by Mongol tribes.

1333 Kazimierz Wielki (Casimir the Great) (III) comes to the throne, heralding Poland’s golden era.

1386 Poland and Lithuania sign a treaty of union. The capital is established in Kraków.

1410 One of the biggest medieval battles is fought at Grunwald (Tannenberg), where the joint Polish and Lithuanian forces comprehensively defeat the Teutonic Knights.

1466 A treaty with the Teutonic Knights gives Poland domination over Prussia and Gdańsk.

1543 Mikołaj Kopernik (Copernicus) proposes the heliocentric theory: that the Earth rotates on an axis and goes round the sun once in a year.

1569 Poland and Lithuania form a Commonwealth. Ukraine is also a part of Poland. The union makes Poland the largest country in Europe.

1587 Zygmunt (Sigismund) III Vasa of Sweden is elected King of Poland; the capital is moved to Warsaw

1610 At the battle of Klutsjino, the Russian Tsar is overthrown by the Poles. Władysław, son of Sigismund, is crowned Tsar in Moscow – the zenith of Polish power. What an opportunity lost!

1652 The Liberum Veto (Latin for “on your bike”) is introduced – one vote could block the enactment of any bill in the Polish Parliament. (Only Poles could have come up with that!)

1683 The legendary siege of Vienna, in which the Polish King Jan III Sobieski manages to crush the Turks and stop the expansion of the Ottoman Empire once and for all.

1772 The first partition of Poland between Russia, Prussia and Austria.

1791 The New Constitution (of 3 May) is granted by King Stanisław (Stanislaus) Poniatowski. The monarchy is made hereditary, and the Liberum Veto is abolished. (Better late than never!)

1794 Tadeusz Kosciuszko fights the Russians and Prussians. The following year Warsaw and Kraków are lost to Russia and Austria. This is known as the Third Partition of Poland, and Poland is wiped off the map.

1807 On his way through Poland to Moscow, Napoleon Bonaparte takes a fancy to Maria Walewska in Warsaw. A year later, a semi-independent Duchy of Warsaw is proclaimed.

1815 Tsar Alexander I grants Poland a constitution, the so-called Warsaw Kingdom, governed by Russia. Galicja (the area around Kraków) remains independent (until 1846) and is then absorbed into Austria.

1918 After World War I, Poland is proclaimed an independent country under Marshal Józef Piłsudski as “Head of State”.

1920 The “Miracle on the Vistula” takes place, as Polish forces under Piłsudski stop the advance of the Bolshevik army into central Europe.

1921 Poland becomes a republic. The following year, the first President, Gabriel Narutowicz, is assassinated in Warsaw.

1926 To restore order, Józef Pilsudski stages a coup.

1939 On 1 September Nazi forces invade Poland, triggering World War II. The Dudziński and Staszewski families leave Poland, in more or less opposite directions…

1944 Soviet-backed Polish provisional government formed, confirmed by a falsified referendum.

1989 Communist government overthrown and Poland adopts a new constitution, establishing itself as a democracy.

2004 Poland joins the European Union.