Just the Facts . . .

Here are some items that many people do not know about Poland and her people. Compiled by Wlodzimierz J. Twierdochlebow and printed by the American Institute of Polish Culture newsletter Perspectives, they were reprinted with permission in the November 1990 edition of the Polish American Journal.

Oldest Democracy

  • The oldest democracy in modern European history took root in 15th century Poland; the Polish equivalent of the celebrated English Habeas Corpus Act (1679) was proclaimed in 1430; the parliamentary system of the 16th century Poland was equaled by that of England only in the 19th century.
  • Political and religious tolerance in Poland was for many centuries unparalleled in any other country. Because of this, Poland became in the Middle Ages a refuge for 90% of European Jewry.
  • In the 15th century, Pawel Wlodkowic pioneered ideas of a world guided by the principles of peace and mutual respect among the nations.

First European Constitution

  • For four centuries Poland was a unique constitutional monarchy. The Polish Constitution of May 3, 1791 was the first European written constitution.
  • The political treatise of Wawrzyniec Goslicki "De optimo senatore" (1568) influenced the development of parliamentary democracies down to the American Declaration of Independence and the American Constitution.
  • Poland was the first country in Europe to establish a Ministry of Education, Komisja Edukacji Narodowej (1773).
  • Kazimierz Siemienowicz in his handbook on artillery (1650) presented the world’s first treatise on rocketry, including multi-stage rockets.

Oil Pioneer

  • The world’s first kerosene lamp (1853) and oil well (1854) were built by Ignacy Lukasiewicz in Poland.
  • The first Poles came to the Northern American continent in 1608. They built and operated a glasshouse in Jamestown, Virginia. This was America’s first industry. The same Polish glassmakers staged the first civil rights strike in the history of the U.S. in 1619.
  • It is hardly known that Tadeusz Kosciuszko was instrumental in the victory over the British in Saratoga (1777), the decisive battle of the American Revolution. He chose and fortified the site of this battle.

German Claim

  • Most English language sources repeat the German claim that the Polish Air Force was destroyed on its airfields on September 1, 1939. In fact, there was not a single case of this kind. The Poles destroyed 30% of German planes, while France and England were conducting the so-called "phony war."
  • The most sensational contribution of the Poles in World War II was the solution of the secret Enigma, the super-reliable German coding machine. This permitted Great Britain and the U.S. to read all the secret German and Japanese communications coded by this machine.
  • Poles were the third largest fighting force of the Allies, after the Soviet Union and the U.S. in World War II. But they were not a party to any conferences that decided their post-war fate.

Poland Recognized

  • No nation did so much as Poland to help the Jews during the Holocaust. This is recognized by the Israeli government publication The Roll of Honor.
  • As many gentile Poles as Jewish Poles were killed in concentration camps, public executions, etc. by the Nazis in Poland.
  • The World War II standard mine detector, used by the U.S. and British infantry, was a Polish invention.
  • The first American Nobel Prize winner in sciences was a Pole, Albert Michelson.
  • Rolling mills all over the world use mills invented by a Polish-American, Tadeusz Sendzimir.
  • Another Polish-American, Kazimierz Funk is known as the Father of Vitamin, and the Father of the American "H" Bomb is Stanislaw Ulam.

Polish Leaders

  • The "moon rover" was designed by Mieczyslaw Bekker and the first Polio vaccine was discovered by Hilary Koprowski, both Polish-Americans.
  • The most interesting developments in modern theatre art of the last decade were introduced by the Poles, and Polish composers of modern music lead the world in recent years.

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