- Capital: Warsaw
- Area: 120,696 sq mi
- Population: 38,483,957
- Currency: Polish Zloty
- Language: Polish, English
- National Anthem: Poland Is Not Yet Lost
- Demonym: Pole
- Highest point: Mount Rysy, High Tatra Mountains (8,198 feet)
- Lowest point: Raczki Elbląskie, in the Vistula Lagoon (-5 feet below sea level)
- Economy: Largest economy in Central Europe
- Invasion of Poland by Germany: September 1 1939
- History: The Name Poland Has English History
- Music: The Polish National Anthem Was Written in 1797
- History: A Polish King Was Known as the Father of Europe
- History: The Poles Refused to Co-operate with the Nazis after the German Invasion
- History: Poland Became a Republic in 1918
- History: Oświeçim, Poland Is Home to Auschwitz
- Famous People: Marie Curie Was Born in Poland
- Food: Poland’s Most Famous Food Is Literally a Big Mess!
- History: The “Father of the American Cavalry” Came from Poland
- Music: Frederick Chopin Is Poland’s Most Famous Composer
- Mirosław Hermaszewski Was the First Polish National in Space
- The Creator of Waterproof Mascara Was Born in Poland
- Warsaw Was Not Always Poland’s Capital!
- The Last Polish Monarch Died in Prison
- Białowieża Primeval Forest Is Home to the World’s Heaviest Land Mammal
The Name Poland Has English History
The first in our series of Poland facts tells us how the country got its name. The name Poland is actually an English corruption of the world Polska, which can be translated to mean either Pole or field. Therefore, it means land of the Poles, and refers to the Polonians who were the first people to unite the territories of Poland and who helped to establish the first Polish dynasty, the Piast.
The Polish National Anthem Was Written in 1797
The second in our series of Poland facts tells us a bit about the musical heritage of the country. The national anthem of Poland is known as Poland Is Not Yet Lost, or sometimes as Poland Has Not Yet Perished. It was written by Jozef Wybicki in Italy and was composed in 1797 at a time when the Polish troops were actually fighting on the side of Napoleon Bonaparte.
A Polish King Was Known as the Father of Europe
We are often told in history lessons about how royal families would marry into each other in order to build stronger political and familial alliances, and this was certainly true in Poland. A Polish King called Kazimierz Jagiellończyk, who ruled during the 15th century, became known as the Father of Europe. He had nine children. Of these, four became kings in their own right, one was canonized, one became a cardinal and three daughters were all married off to other royal families, going on to become mothers of some of the greatest dynasties in Western Europe.
The Poles Refused to Co-operate with the Nazis after the German Invasion
The next in our selection of Poland facts tells us about Polish involvement in World War 2. In 1939, the catalyst for the war was Germany invading Poland without any prior notice. Poland, throughout the war, remained the only European country which never collaborated with the Nazis on any level at all. There were no Polish military units that fought alongside the Nazis, and the Polish people never surrendered to the Germans either. In fact, the Polish Resistance Movement in German-occupied Poland was the largest resistance movement in Europe at the time.
Poland Became a Republic in 1918
It wasn’t until 1918 that Poland became an independent country and broke away from Russia, after the end of the First World War. Since 1937, the Polish people have celebrated Independence Day as a national holiday, but official public celebrations of this even were banned from 1939-1989 because Poland was under strict communist rule. Once the communist government fell, it became a true national holiday once more and is now seen as a day of great celebration.
Oświeçim, Poland Is Home to Auschwitz
This next of our Poland facts is a sad reminder of the country’s tragic past. The town of Oświeçim in Poland is the site of the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp, built by the Nazis for the systematic eradication of Jewish people. A staggering 1.1 million prisoners were killed at this camp, many of them poisoned in purpose-built gas chambers, which used the pesticide Zyklon-B, a well-known pesticide, to suffocate them.
Marie Curie Was Born in Poland
This next of our Poland facts centers on someone who was known worldwide for her advances in science but began her life in the country. Marie Curie was born in Warsaw in 1867 – her birth name was Manya Sklodowska. She, along with her husband Pierre, discovered some of the component parts of Polonium, which they named after Poland. She won the Nobel Peace Prize for Physics alongside her husband in 1903.
Poland’s Most Famous Food Is Literally a Big Mess!
The most famous Polish dish – and some say the oldest – is a meal called Bigos, which has a literal translation of “big mess”, or is sometimes known as “confusion”. It is a huge dish made from lots of different cuts of meat and sauerkraut, stewed together with tomatoes, mushrooms and honey. It is served with mashed potatoes or rye bread and is a hearty meal that was first introduced into the country in 1385 by Jogaila, a Lithuanian Grand Duke who eventually became Polish king Władysław Jagiełło.
The “Father of the American Cavalry” Came from Poland
Casimir Pulaski (1745-1779), also known as Kazimierz, was a soldier who was recruited by Benjamin Franklin to fight against the colonists for the duration of the American Revolutionary War. Born in Warsaw, he followed his father’s footsteps into the military, having first become very interested in the politics of his homeland. Franklin was impressed by Pulaksi’s dedication to defending freedom and recommended to George Washington that he be recruited to help the American cause. However, he was killed during the Battle of Savannah in Georgia in 1779.
Frederick Chopin Is Poland’s Most Famous Composer
Born in Żelazowa Wola, Poland, in 1810, Chopin left Poland in 1830 to move to France. He never returned to his homeland and was buried in the Pere-Lachaise cemetery in Paris after his death in 1849. He remains to this day one of the most celebrated composers of Preludes, Nocturnes, Études and Waltzes.
Mirosław Hermaszewski Was the First Polish National in Space
Born in 1941, and now a retired Polish Air Force Officer, his entry into space took place in 1978, when he was on board the Soyuz 30 spacecraft. Once in space, he spent eight days on board the Salyut 6 space station as part of his work on the interspace cosmos program.
The Creator of Waterproof Mascara Was Born in Poland
Helena Rubenstein is still recognized worldwide today as a giant of the cosmetics industry, but she was born in Krakow in the late 19th century. She developed the first block of waterproof mascara to be sold on the mass market, and also invented and further developed the mascara wand, which is still used every day by millions of people all over the world.
Warsaw Was Not Always Poland’s Capital!
Before Warsaw was the capital of Poland, the city of Gniezno was deemed to be the first capital city of the country. The cathedral in the city has been the home of Polish Archbishops since the 11th century. St Adalbert is recognized as being the first Polish martyr, and he is buried in the cemetery at Gniezno Cathedral.
The Last Polish Monarch Died in Prison
This next in our series of Poland facts surrounds the sorry end of the monarchy. The last king of the country was called Stanisław August Poniatowski, and was also known as Stanislaw II. He is remembered as a great patron of the arts, but also as a ruler who could not save the Polish commonwealth from destruction. He never married and ended up under house arrest in St Petersburg in Russia, dying as a prisoner there in 1798 at the age of 66.
Białowieża Primeval Forest Is Home to the World’s Heaviest Land Mammal
The last in our series of Poland facts tells us about a record-breaking mammal that calls Poland its home. In Podlaskie Voivodeship, you will find the Białowieża Primeval Forest, which is actually a record breaker itself, as it is the last ancient forest to exist in Europe. It is home to herds of European bison. These animals are considered to be the world’s heaviest land mammal, and there are only 800 of them left.
Poland Facts – Facts about Poland Summary
Facts about Poland tells us that the country takes its name from an English corruption of the word Polska. Some very famous people were born there, such as Marie Curie, Helena Rubenstein and Frederick Chopin. Poland is sadly home to one of the most well-known concentration camps used for the mass murder of Jewish people during the war. However, the Polish people were one of the few European countries that did not collaborate with the Nazis.