POLISH-IRISH CONNECTIONS ARE CENTURIES OLD
Poland is a country of more than forty million people spanning parts of central
and eastern Europe and, of course, thousands of kilometers away from the
Republic of Ireland. Given such a distance the prospect of finding any historic
connectons or anthing uniting the two nations might seem remote to say the
least. Surprisingly a handful of historical facts show that the Poles and the Irish
have many aspects in their own history, uniting the two nations.
Celts on Polish land?
Before any Pole set his foot on the emerald isle, hardy cousins of the Irish
managed to explore the Polish territories. Four hundred years before Christ the
grounds of Silesia were penetrated by the Celtic tribes. Celtic settlements had
been discovered in Radłowice near Orava and Kurzątkowice. Unfortunately, to
this day, these archaeological sites were only researched on a small scale. Many
burial sites were found with valuable objects including utility items and
weapons. The study of the Celtic presence in the Polish lands preoccupied many
local archaeologists, especially Jerzy Potocki (1932-1966) - researcher at the
Institute of History of Material Culture in Polish Academy of Sciences. The
result of these studies and their follow-up was the publication of J.Rozen-
Przeworska of ‘The drop in the Celts' (1979)
Irish-Scottish Christian missionaries arrived in the lands occupied by the Slavic
tribes a long time before the baptism of Prince Mieszko I in AD966. The second
time they appeared in Poland in the early period of Christianity. The monastery
was founded in 11th century in Olesnica (Silesia), and engaged in religious
ministry in the then state of the first Piast. It is likely that Bishop Lambert
(1082-1101) was of Irish origin. It is certain, however, that the first abbot of
Tyniec, Anchoras, was originally Irish - as evidenced by his unique Irish-
Irish emigrants in Polish lands
In the time when England tried to subjugate Ireland by means of terror and
persecution, many Catholics fled the country. Among other things, they looked
for asylum and security in Poland. One of the first immigrants was Bernard
O'Connor (ca. 1666-1698). He arrived in Paris in 1693 on the personal invitation
of Crown Chancellor - Jan Wielkopolski and was appointed as a personal doctor
to King Jan III Sobieski. Bernard did not see any chances to develop his career
in the Polish lands, so after a year he left. But he was very reluctant to his sever
contacts with Poland completely. Bernard repeatedly corresponded with King
John III Sobieski and was constantly interested in the state of his health. By his
correspondence he almost ran a ‘mail-order’ medical practice as he received
letters with a description of the king’s ilness seeking advice from Bishop
Andrzej Zaluski. Unfortunately, the response arrived back too late for His
John O'Connor (not related to Bernard) arrived to Poland with his father in 1758.
John, like Bernard, was a doctor. After arriving in Polish, he was adopted into
the household of the family of Maciej Radziwill. In 1799 he became chair of
practical medicine at the Central School of Lithuania.
A native of Ireland who was also a renowned gardener and classic garden
designer, Dionysius Mikler (Mac Clair) (1762-1853) created some of the most
beautiful parks in Poland (Pulawy, Arkadia). John Mac Clair, father of
Dionysius, took part in the uprising of Catholics in 1777 and only a miracle
saved him from the death penalty. He served in the Prussian army, and then in
the Polish army, where he received the rank of major of artillery. Dionysius
arrived in Poland in 1790 in the hope of finding his father. His search ended
unsuccessfully and after a year staying in Poland his wife – Matilda Milton
(author's family, "Paradise Lost") died. He then married a Pole from Krakow –
Narodosławska and remained in Poland, where he died.
Paul Edmund Strzelecki, and Casimir Markievicz
Poles began to frequently visit Ireland, and even to settle here until the
nineteenth century, just after the first influx of Polish refugees to England after
the November Uprising numbered about 500 people. Later, 180 soldiers of
Polish Legion in Hungary arrived (1849), as well as several hundred participants
of the January Uprising. The most famous Poles from that period were: Paul
Edmund Strzelecki (1791-1873) and Casimir Markievicz (1874-1927).
Paul Edmund Strzelecki, before he came to Ireland was already a well-known
traveler and a great scholar in Australia where he discovered gold and where he
named the highest mountain in Australia, Mount Kosciuszko. He also explored
large parts of New South Wales, Victoria and Tasmania. After returning to
Europe he settled in London, where he was one of the first volunteer of British
Relief Association (BRA), the organization collected funds for most needy
during the "great hunger." In January 1847 he was the representative of the BRA
in County Sligo and Mayo. Subsequently he became a representative of BRA in
Dublin (1847-1848) and directed the distribution of relief to the whole of
Ireland. Strzelecki performed his job conscientiously and with great dedication.
His contact with people affected by hunger and poverty was so close that he
contracted typhoid fever which badly damaged his health.
Over a two-year perioid of humanitarian relief works in Ireland, the highly
praised historian of the "great hunger", Fr. John O'Rourke mentions Strzelecki in
his publication "The Great Irish Famine" (1874). Another Australian biographer
of Strzelecki writes that he has developed a model that the modern distribution
of food aid, which has successfully been used by UNRRA in World War II. In
November 21, 1848, Queen Victoria commended Strzelecki for his humanitarian
work and his great personal contribution to society.
Casimir Markievicz was the husband of a heroine of the Irish liberation
movement - Sinn Féin, who received the death penalty for her part in the Easter
Rising of 1916 but this commuted to life imprisonment due to the fact that she
was a woman. She was the first ever woman elected to the British House of
Commons in December 1918, but never took her seat, and the first women in
Europe to become a government minister. This great women is Constance
Markievicz (more precisely, Constance Georgine Markiewicz), known as the
Countess Markievicz, née Gore-Booth. Casimir Markiewicz was also a great
painter, designer, playwright and theater director.
They met in Paris in 1899, after a year they married and honeymooned in Poland
meeting with his parents in what is now the Ukraine. In the spring of 1901 they
settled in Ireland at Lissadell House, Co. Sligo. In 1901 they had a daughter,
Maeve Alice. Then they moved to Dublin where they began their vigorous
social life. Here too Constance began her political activism. Initially joined the
organization called Inghinidhe na hÉireann. Slowly she became one of the
leading political figures as a woman fighting for Irish independence. Casimir
Markievicz concentrated on the arts and his public debut took place in 1906 at
the Abbey Theatre with his piece "The Dilletante" which enjoyed great success.
From May 1910 he collaborated with the Gaiety Theatre and reportory (of which
he was one of its creators) in Dublin. He came to the history of Irish theatre as a
creator of art - historical drama – with the background of the struggle for Irish
independence ("The Memory of the Dead. A Romantic Drama of 89"). The
premiere took place on 23 May 1910. The drama was a great success and was
played in many theatres around Ireland.
Casimir Markievicz also collaborated with writing or playing pieces by other
authors. Together with Seán O'Casey he wrote the play "Eleanor's Enterprise",
but with Nora Fitzgerald arts "Home, Sweet Home" and "Rival Stars". Among
other things, he directed the plays "Moony Vanny" (M. Maeterlinck), "Devil's
disciple" (G.B. Shaw) and "Last Island of John Bull." He was friends with the
famous Irish director Martin Murphy.
As a painter, Casimir Markievicz was appreciated as a portraitist, but often also
painted landscapes ("Irish Landscape", "Evening in Ireland"). He is the painter
of the portrait of the poet George W. Russell, which was purchased by the
Municipal Modern Art Gallery in Dublin and the Lord Lancester portrait in
coronation robes. He reached acclaim by "Investiture of the Order" with the
portraits of 68 people. His works have been exhibited in Dublin, Cork, Paris,
Warsaw and Krakow.
He initiated the establishment of Dublin Arts Club and was president and
founder of the Dublin Fencing Club - the first fencing club in Ireland. Perhaps
this incident is related to his painting entitled "Swordsman", which is in Dublin.
Despite his love to Constance and Ireland, Casimir Markievicz was a Pole at
heart and longing for the homeland which resulted in his departure from Ireland
in 1913. He wanted to do something for his homeland, which – like Ireland –
was not yet independent. He never realised that he would not return to Ireland
on a permanent basis ever again. Together with Constance he left his son
Stanislaw, from his first marriage with Jadwiga Spława Neyman who in 1899,
and daughter Alice Mavey from the marriage of Constance. Unfortunately, after
the outbreak of World War I in 1914, Casimir decided to remain in Poland,
where he joined in cultural activities. He was a Polish theatre’s director in
Moscow, Kiev and Warsaw.
Markiewicz visited Ireland several times. For the first time in 1919, when
Constance was released from jail in Holloway Prison in London and for the last
time 10 years later, when he was summoned to his dying wife.
Polish – Irish friendship
It is possible to cite many threads describing the good relations and friendship
between the Poles and Irish. Below I will present three examples that describe
Julian Ursyn Niemcewicz (1758-1841) founded the ‘Friends of Polish
Literarture Association’ in England in 1832. Niemcewicz himself was a well
known Polish politician, poet, journalist and activist. The Association was
founded in collaboration with the Scottish poet Thomas Campbell, and under the
patronage of the King's brother, the Duke of Sussex. Among it membership the
association had a number of prominent Englishmen, Scots and Irish - the Irish
patriots very well understand the Polish political situation after the partition of
Poland between 1772 and 1795 by Russia, Austria and Prussia (Germany).
Emeric Boberski fought in the Hungarian revolution 1848-1849 and later
emigrated to Australia where he eventually became the mayor of the town of
Ararat in Victoria. The Ararat Town Council, with many Irish members
included, adopted a proposal in 1895 in honour of Michael Davitt the famous
Irish politician and promoter of the independence of Ireland. Boberski was asked
to speak at the banquet, said that as a democrat he is an advocate of greater self-
government in Ireland, and added: "I would not be a true son of Poland if I did
not sympathize with Ireland"
On November 6, 1939, the Nazis arrested and imprisoned in concentration
camps aound 183 professors and lecturers at the Jagiellonian University in
Krakow. The reaction of the Irish Red Cross was to request the International
Red Cross in Geneva to examine this matter. Herr Eduard Hempel, German
Minister (Ambassador) at that time in Dublin sent a message on 1 April 1940 to
the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Berlin reporting on the increasing hostile
atmosphere against the Third Reich as a reaction to the arrest of the Polish
Traces of the Poles in Ireland
A participant of the November Uprising, Kazimierz Jozef Czapski (1797-1852),
Knight of the Order of the Golden Virtutti Militari, after the collapse of the
Uprising we find him in Prussia. On December 14, 1832 he went into exile in
Ireland. He organised a petition addressed to the British government from
prominent citizens of Dublin on behalf of Poland. In April of the following year
he moved to London, however, seeing there a greater chance of regaining the
independence by Poland.
John Bartkowski (1811-1893) after the fall of November Uprising emigrated to
France, then England and Ireland. Between 1835 and1848 he taught German and
French at a local school in Londonderry, currently in Northern Ireland. Then he
emigrated again to France where he was a well known political activist.
Edmund Wenceslaus Naganowski (1853-1915) went to Ireland in 1878 and
enrolled in philological studies in Dublin and in 1884 he achieved his Master of
Arts degree. He was a linguist and taught high school in Waterford between
1884 and 1886. In his novel "Hessy O'Grady” he described the ‘spirit’ of the
people of that part of Ireland and this novel was published in Polish and English.
Between 1892 and 1893, Thomas Victor Janiszewski (1867-1939) studied
medicine in Dublin. He was Health Minister in the government of Ignacy Jan
Paderewski (1919), founder of the National Institute of Hygiene in Warsaw and
a professor at Warsaw University. It was in a Dublin clinic that Horodynski Dr.
Witold (1865-1954) was trained and in an independent Poland he was a military
physician and director of Technical Research Institute of Aviation.
One of the greatest contemporary biologists, Edward Adolf Strasburger (1844-
1912) was a member of the Royal Irish Academy in Dublin. In the years 1867 to
1869 he did postdoctoral research at the Central School in Warsaw, then at the
universities of Jena and Bonn (Germany). He received many honorary degrees
from academies and universities throughout the world.
In the National Art Gallery in Dublin there are paintings by Konrad
Krzyzanowski (1872-1922) the professor of the School of Fine Arts in Warsaw.
In 1908 at London's Albert Hall he held an exhibition of his work, of which, two
paintings were purchased by the National Art Gallery which also bought the
work of another Pole, Jan Chełminski (1851-1925) working in London, Paris
and New York.
Foreign policy and international relations: Polish and Ireland after the
Second World War
Ireland was one of the few groups of countries did not recognize the communist
government in Warsaw from 1945 which was imposed by the USSR. Until 1976
the Irish government recognized as legitimate only to the Polish government in
exile. In Dublin up to 1976 a Polish Consulate General of the Polish government
in exile in London was operative. It was only in 1957 that Poland and Ireland
established a business relationship. Until 1968 trade turnover between the
countries was minial. The Irish exports to Poland were in small quantities and
Polish exports to Ireland were mainly of coal. Polish-Irish trade relations
increased after the Irish visits of trade missions in 1986, 1971 and 1972. Poland
began to export electronic goods, textiles, and refractory products and in
addition to coal, Ireland began to import agricultural machinery, chemicals and
textiles. At that time Poland provided 80% of the coal imported by Ireland.
In September 1976, Ireland officially recognized the Polish government, and six
months later resumed diplomatic with the establishment of embassies. Polish
interests were dealt with by Ireland’s embassy in Denmark in 1981 and Poland's
ambassador in Sweden. In March of 1978 the first bilateral meeting on industrial
cooperation, science and technology was held. Not surpringly, the main subjects
of cooperation were considered to be agriculture, environmental protection and
waste recycling, and to organize studies in the field of language and culture.
Deputy Foreign Minister of Ireland, Mr Murphy made his official visit to Poland
in November 1986. But only after the fall of communism in Poland and later her
membership of the European Union did diplomatic and economic relations
between our two countries move closer.
The Polish Embassy in Dublin was opened only in 1991. The first person to hold
the office of ambassador between the years 1991 and 1995 was Ernest Bryll,
journalist, writer and translator of Irish literature.
Polish emigration after World War II
After the Second World War attempts to establish contacts and economic and
political relations with Ireland intensified especially in the scientific field. An
example might be that of Jerzy Zarnecki, born in 1915. He was a Polish
historian living in Great Britain since 1945. Between 1960 and 1982 he was a
professor at the University of London, and in 1984 received the title of doctor
honoris causa of the University of Dublin. Well-known Polish artist and
mechanical engineer, Jan Krzysztof Meisner was an employee of the
Department of Design at NCAD / NIHE in Dublin in 1977 and in Limerick in
1979. In 1979 the outstanding work of Janusz Rudowski, a member of the Polish
Academy of Sciences, professor at Warsaw University, was recognised by Royal
College of Surgeons of Ireland
The best-known Polish national who settled in Ireland after 1945 was John
Lukaszewicz (1878-1956) who was born in Lvov. He is known as an eminent
logician, mathematician, philosopher and founder of the Lwow-Warsaw school
of St. Francis. Initially he worked as a lecturer at the University of Lvov and
Warsaw University. He received the title of Doctor Honoris Causa of the same
university, and the University of Muenster, Germany. He founded the Polish
Association of Logistics and the "Collectanea Logica” and he was a member of
the Polish Academy of Sciences. Between 1945 and 1956 he was professor of
mathematical logic at the Royal Irish Academy in Dublin, (1955 - Doctor
Honoris Causa). In 1949 he also taught at University College Dublin, then in
Paris, Belfast and London. In Dublin in 1951 he published one of his key works:
"Aristotle's Syllogistic from the Standpoint of Modern Formal Logic." He is the
creator of many theories upon which modern informatition technology is based.
A final commentary…
Briefly I tried to make international contacts and relations between the Polish
and Ireland since the time of the Celts. As the development of materials
available to me, I discovered that the Poles and the Irish were very much in
common. Until recently I was of the opinion that concrete cooperation between
the Polish and Irish society was established after May 1, 2004, when Poland was
included in the membership of the European Union. In fact, reviewing the
history, I come to the conclusion that the two nations have more that unites than
divides us. Likewise, we had to fight for our independence, as well gave our
blood in defense of our own identity, with a view to better life and our posterity
the memory of ancestors. It is really just the distance what separates us. More
and more Poles have fluent English, but also the Irish show interest in the Polish
language, traditions and culture. In the era of Europeanization of the two nations
should fight for the common good, the agreement at the level of diplomatic and
economic relations in order to assess the future of this cooperation positively.
Perhaps from the present generation will grow some prominent individuals,
comparable to Bernard O'Connor, Constance Markiewicz, or Edmund
Editorial addendum ….. As Bartosz has outlined the historical connections
between this country and Poland, the following piece on the Poles in Dublin
certainly brings home that connection, especially for this Society.
‘LORD ONUFRY ZAGŁOBA IN DUBLIN’
Back in the blisfully extravagent pre-recessionary times the September 2006
issue of ‘Ireland’s Genealogical Gazette’ reported on the great influx in to
Ireland of tens of thousands of migrant workers from the new member states of
the European Union and that the makeup of the Irish workforce had changed
rapidly. The largest element in this migration of well educated and mostly
skilled workforce came from Poland and the Baltic nations of Latvia, Lithuania
and Estonia. These countries joined the European Union during Ireland’s
presidency in 2004 along with the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary,
Slovenia, Cyprus and Malta.
In the height of what was known as the ‘Celtic Tiger’ economy there was hardly
a bar, restaurant or shop in the Dublin region that hadn’t Polish staff members.
Certain Catholic churches organised services in Polish and in 2006 the Polish
Embassy announced that it was assisting with setting up a Polish School in
Dublin. Polish shops serve this once vibrant community with traditional
foodstuffs, some of which, are actually manufactured in Ireland by Polish
bakeries. During this period Dublin’s evening newspaper “Evening Herald”
published a Polish section each week and, of course, we have the weekly
So not surprisingly a Polish social and cultural scene has emerged, including the
first Polish bar in the City Centre – ‘Bar Zagłoba’ on Parnell Street.. In 2005
Alan Wren of Dún Laoghaire, who was a co-owner of the Bar at that time,
approached the Society regarding the design of an emblem or logo for the new
bar. Intrigued by the history and lore surrounding the name chosen for the
enterprise, the Society contacted the Polish-Canadian Herald George Łucki for
In 2006 to mark the occasion of the opening of Dublin’s first Polish Bar the
Genealogical Society of Ireland presented Bar Zagłoba with a coat-of-arms
designed by George Łucki (Canada) and drawn by Andrew Tully (South Africa)
of the International Association of Amateur Heralds. Both heralds had designed
the Arms for the President of the Society, Tony McCarthy, FGSI, in 2005.
Indeed, Andrew Tully was appointed in November 2009 as the Honorary Herald
of the Society.
The Arms depict the wonderful and complex personality of Henryk
Sienkiewicz’s famous character Lord Onufry Zagłoba. Clearly George Łucki
had some fun in heraldically portraying this colourful gentleman in a typical
Polish style. George Łucki explained his design as follows.
The symbolism of the arms draws on the Henryk Sienkiewicz’s portrayal
of this colourful character from his epic trilogy, “With Fire and Sword”,
“The Deluge”, and “Lord Wołodyjowski” depicting the heroism and
tragedy of a series of seventeenth century wars that engulfed the
Commonwealth of Both Nations, Poland and Lithuania.
His Grace Lord Onufry Zagłoba, a hard drinking, tall tale spinning
blackguard of indeterminate age and origin, was a man who certainly
enjoyed the company of anyone who would treat him to fine beverages
but also loved his homeland and when necessary would risk his own life
to protect those he loved and honour his word given to a friend. When
asked about his own armorial bearings Zagłoba replied that he bore the
arms called Wczele (Checky Or and Argent—Polish arms have proper
names derived from their war-cries) that improbably canted with the scar
he bore on his forehead. These arms form the bordure enclosing these
arms. There was actually a historical noble family of the same name
which bore arms of the same name and these are displayed in the
escutcheon placed over the quartered shield. Between these arms on a
quartered field are the arms of his friends. It would be impossible to
understand Lord Zagłołba in isolation from his friends.
In Polish heraldry the quarterly field is often used to display one’s
genealogy—that is the arms of each of the grandparents. We don’t know
Zagłoba’s ancestry but we know he loved his friends as his family. In the
first quarter the arms Rawicz of Barbara Jeziorkowska – Wołodyjowska
whom he courted and truly loved but who instead married his dear friend
and companion Michał Wołodyjowski whose arms Korczak are placed in
the third quarter. Of course heraldry usually marshals the arms of husband
and wife beside one another but I am sure that our hero would insist that
the more senior second quarter be given to Kniaziówna (Princess) Helena
Kurcewiczówna (the well-born fiancé of his friend Jan Sktrzetuski the
hero of the siege of Zbara ) who he saved from the Cossack Bohun,
brought across rebel lines and adopted as though a daughter. Skrzetuski’s
own arms Jastrzębiec are placed in the fourth quarter.
Unlike the heraldry of countries like Scotland where family arms are
differenced to identify each individual, Polish arms link together many
related noble families who all share a common heritage and thought of
each other as cousins. Arms didn’t belong to individuals rather individuals
belong to arms. In this sense these arms speak of all of the individual’s
who shared Lord Onufry Zagłoba’s improbable adventures, experienced
his wit and bravado and shared his company in good times and difficult
ones. It is my fond hope that these arms symbolize the desire of the
Proprietors and Patrons of this establishment to share the adventures and
companionship of life far from their homeland together with neighbours
and friends from both their old and new homes.
As Bar Zagłoba became the home base for many Polish soccer teams in Dublin,
George Łucki’s description of Zagłoba ‘as a hard drinking, tall tale spinning
blackguard of indeterminate age and origin’ and as ‘a man who certainly
enjoyed the company of anyone who would treat him to fine beverages’ it is no
wonder that his name adorns this important venue in the Polish social life of
Dublin – and long may he do so.
Within a bordure checky Or and Argent quarterly: I Or a crowned maiden
vested Gules astride a bear passant Sable; II Gules the Kurcz rune Argent
enclosing dexter a mullet of six and sinister an increscent Or; III Gules three
bars couped Argent; and IV Azure a horseshoe inverted enclosing a cross patty
Or and overall on an escutcheon Azure a horseshoe pierced in pale by a scimitar
Argent hilted Or. George Łucki and Andrew Tully (2006)
Published in 2009 in ‘Féil-Scríbhinn Liam Mhic Alasdair – Essays Presented to Liam Mac
Alasdair, FGSI’ edited by Rory J. Stanley. ISBN: 978-1-898471-67-7
© Genealogical Society of Ireland 2009
Bartosz Kozłowski, MGSI, is currently the Director of Internet Services on the Board of the
Genealogical Society of Ireland and can be contacted at email@example.com