Poland - always in Europe

A thousand years ago, when Poland’s statehood was just budding, the country confirmed its adherence to West European culture. That relationship, with ups and downs, survived the whole millenium.

Poland’s history turned to be as turbulent as that of Europe – royal dynasties changed, cruel wars rolled over the continent, borders were moved, big fortunes came into being, populations were decimated by famine and plagues. Nevertheless, European civilisation did not stop developing as regards sciences, culture, architecture, agriculture and crafts; and eventually an unprecedented industrial growth came with the appearance of new technologies and cities, apparition of new services, tourism, trade contacts, as well as the gradual expansion of motorization and informatics. The majority of these modern age achievements are born in Europe.

Poland always profited from the western culture’s achievements because – thanks to its location – it functioned as a bridge between Western and Eastern Europe. In Poland met and crossed transit trade routes and intermingled western and oriental cultural influences, but it was also a playground for many conflicts and contradictory interests of European superpowers.

Poland’s millenary history preserved much of the rich and diversified cultural heritage shaped by East and West European influences. Those influences became particularly noticeable in the late medieval period, when Poland started to build up its powerful position in Europe. That was the time when Polish students were enrolling into Italian and German universities, and returning home were promoting new ideas and development of mutual political and cultural relations. Those relations became even closer during the period known as the golden age – in Poland united with Lithuania ruled the dynasty of Jagiellons. Polish royal court became home to many western artists and scholars who later spread over moving to various magnate estates and different cities; they are authors of a great number of masterpieces which enchant us also today.

Eastern territories of the Commonwealth were more under oriental influence, coming from Ruthenia and its Orthodox religion as well as from Muslim zone: Poland had a common border with Turkey for quite a long time. At the end of the 18th century the Commonwealth collapsed, but the tradition of common history and culture, enriched by the colourful and multiform heritage of Polish rural communities, has always been fostered. It was the road towards the West that Polish patriots were taking after the partitions and failures of national uprisings. It was there, and not at home, that they could enjoy flourishing intellectual and artistic life. The greatest literary works of Polish Romanticism were created in Paris and during travels to Italy.

Now when the process of extension of the European Union is so much advanced, it is worth remembering that the countries of Eastern Europe are not foreign bodies in the European organism. That is valid not only for Poland but also for the Czech Republic, Hungary, and the Baltic states. What has been artificially separated should become united again.

European tradition is still alive in Poland’s history, culture and art. Prominent Poles, their scientific works and artistic achievements mark the way towards closer coexistence, so important for the future and having such a great impact on the present of our continent.