Facts About Warsaw
Warsaw is the Capital City of Poland
Warsaw is Poland's largest city. It is located on the Vistula (Wisla) river, and has a population of about 1.7 million. It replaced Krakow as the capital city in 1596.
According to legend the name, Warszawa in Polish, comes from a fisherman Wars and his wife Sawa, a mermaid who lived in the Vistula. The couple fell in love, married and built the city who was named after them. The truth is more prosaic, the city was most probably named after a nobleman named Warcislaw (shortened to Warsz). However the emblem of the city to this day is a mermaid holding a sword and shield, who is the city's guardian.
Warsaw During WWII
The invasion of Poland on Sept 1st 1939 by the Nazis marks the beginning of the World War II. Warsaw was under German occupation throughout the war. The whole city was almost completely reduced to rubble, with over 85% of the buildings razed.
All Jews (about 30% of the population at the time was isolated in a ghetto. On April19th 1943, Jewish fighters started the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. Amazingly they managed to hold out for almost a month against the Nazi forces. When the uprising was squashed most of the ghetto inhabitants were massacred.
The Warsaw Uprising
Warsaw was a center of resistance to the occupation. Much of the damage occurred at the end of the war, after the Warsaw uprising, which began on 1st August 1944. The Soviet army was marching towards the city, pushing the Germans back. However, since Stalin was not exactly friendly to the idea of an independent Poland, the Polish government in exile, did not want the capital to be liberated single handedly by the Red Army. They ordered the Polish underground to rise against the occupation, expecting the Soviets to help when they arrived.
Stalin ordered his troops to stop outside the city, reasoning that Poland would be easier to subdue if the Polish underground army was defeated by the Nazis. The Uprising which was planned to last for 48 hours, and was initially partially successful, lasted 68 days. Eventually the Polish fighters had to capitulate. It is estimated that 150000-2000000 civilians were killed during the uprising, and the rest of the population was expelled. Hitler than ordered that the city be completely destroyed.
The city was finally liberated by the Soviet army in January 1945.
After the war Warsaw was rebuilt by volunteer citizens. Although the buildings in parts like the old city appear to be very old, they all in fact date to 1945. Warsaw is often referred to as the Phoenix City, because it was reborn out of rubble.
Famous People from Warsaw
Marie Curie, who with her husband Pierre did extensive work on radio-activity and discovered the elements radium and polonium, was born Maria Sklodowska in Warsaw, where she grew up and eventually worked as a governess. She then studied physics and chemistry in Paris, where she stayed to pursue research. She was the first woman to be awarded a Nobel prize in physics, and then in chemistry.
Fryderyk Chopin, the famous pianist was born and raised in Warsaw. His father was French, while his mother was Polish.
The Ugliest Building in the City
Warsaw has the dubious honour of having one of Europe’s ugliest and tallest buildings. The Palace of Science and Culture was Stalin’s gift to the people of Poland. It was accepted under duress, since it is a terrible eyesore, right in the center of the city. There was some talk about giving it back to Russia when Communist rule ended in 1989, but sadly the logistics problems proved insurmountable.
Varsovians generally refer to the building as The Clown, Stalin’s Syringe, Elephant in Lacy Underwear or the Russian Wedding Cake. A common joke is that the best view of the city is from the terrace on the 30th floor of the building, since you can see this ancient city without the view being spoilt by Stalin’s gift.
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