Just a week ago, on 11 November, Poland celebrated National Independence Day. On this special day we commemorated the anniversary of restoration of Polish sovereignty. In 1918 after 123 years of partitions Poland regained its freedom as The Second Polish Republic.
A year ago when we prepared the article about National Independence Day, we wrote about how we celebrate it and when it was established. This time we would like to focus on something a bit different. Namely what happened with Poland as a nation during the 123 years of partitions.
It all started in 1795 after the third partition of Poland. In that year Poland disappeared from the map of the world and its territory was divided into three powers: Russian Empire, Habsburg Empire and the Kingdom of Prussia. However, the lives of Poles varied greatly based on the partition they were assigned to.
Poles who lived under Russian Empire’s partition were treated as potential rebels. That is why Government applied the policy of assimilation towards them as well as towards other nationalities. The aim of that approach was to create good citizens of the Russian Empire and to teach them obedience to authorities. The methods they used were mainly persuasion and constraint. A well known example of that was implementation of censorship and russification in schools, administration offices and public life in general. At the same time, urban areas developed quickly due to industrialization and technology progress. The working class came into being in cities whilst villages were becoming more and more underdeveloped.
In the Kingdom of Prussia, Polish people were under strong assimilation actions conducted by the authorities. Among others the process of germanization included using German language in schools and in public life as well as mandatory military service in Prussian Army. Opposite to the Russian Empire, partition farming was developing quickly under Prussian influence. That was mainly caused by enfranchisement of peasants and made the Kingdom of Prussia the richest and most prosperous partition of all.
In comparison to others Habsburg Empire’s partition was the most backward and at the same time most liberal. Industry never entirely developed in the bigger scale and the working class never fully came into being.
The difficult situation of Poles in all three partitions forced many people to migrate. The most popular directions were the USA, Canada and South America. This is the part when everything gets tricky. As they left their homes in search for a better tomorrow they officially were not leaving Poland, as it did not exist. In their emigration documents they were all Germans, Russians, Austrians or Hungarians. That is why many people who are trying to build their genealogical tree hit against the wall. Not many of them are aware that their ancestors were actually Polish. During our work we come across dozens of such cases.
That is why we decided to take this opportunity and write about 11th of November in a different manor. Although our country officially did not exist Poles as a nation survived all these years to finally rebuild their fatherland. Thus it is worth remembering and looking for your Polish ancestors. Keep their memory alive by introducing our rich history and culture to the younger generations.