November 11 marks the feast day of St. Martin of Tours or, as called In Poland, Marcina. Legend claims that when the church wanted to make Martin a bishop he hid from the pope’s envoy among the geese, but his hiding place was betrayed by their constant honking. Being roasted was supposedly their punishment for revealing his hiding place. Another explanation rests with the fact that Advent, a time of strict fasting, was quickly approaching on the church calendar and gave way to feasting in anticipation of that four week period. Whatever the origin, the feast day has been celebrated with a goose in the oven for those who could afford the luxury.
The domestic goose has been part of a Polish barnyard for centuries. They were kept not only for meat, but also for eggs and feathers. Goose feathers were used to fill down filled quilts called a pierzyna as well as pillows that guaranteed warmth and a good night's sleep. Goose lard was widely used in cooking, but also in folk medicine as a salve on the chest in the treatment of respiratory ailments or in areas of rheumatic pain and joint degeneration.
Geese could be purchased at the local market. The text on the right indicates "geese at the market for St.Martin in Racziborz." The most popular is the white kołuda goose, originating from Kołuda Wielka near Inowrocław.
Here is a recipe for preparing the goose from a Polish cookbook titled “Praktyczny kucharz Warszawski” (Practical Warsaw Cook) dated 1894.
(Take) a carefully cleaned goose, scald it with vinegar, salt it, stuff with apples cut into quarters, add a little marjoram inside, bake in a roasting pan, pouring first with broth or water, and then with the fat that has leaked from it. Sprinkle with flour on top to brown. Cut into neat pieces, place on a platter, and surround it with the filling/ baked apples. You can also stuff the goose with whole potatoes that will bake, together with the goose, or make the filling from thick buckwheat groats, which you cook in boiling water, mix with butter, marjoram and fill the goose. Goose schmaltz left in the roasting pan fried with apples and marjoram and strained into a clean dish, will keep it for a long time.”
The business of scalding the goose with vinegar is curious but marjoram has always been known to aid in the digestion of meat. And the goose schmaltz in not unfamiliar to me either. My mother prepared it whenever she cooked a goose - only without the apples...and applied it liberally to our chests when we had a bad cough.
Last note: Currently, Poland is counted among the largest goose producers in the European Union
Read about my experiences with geese while growing up Polish American
When Jadwiga (the name translates into Hedwig in English) Andegaweńska came to Kraków from Hungary in the early spring of 1384 she took her place in Polish history as the only woman ever crowned king to the Polish throne.
(Queen Jadwiga by Italian painter Marcello Bacciarelli (1768-1771) who painted a set of portraits depicting nearly all Polish kings)
She maintained her position after her marriage to Jagiełło of Lithuania, but in the documents of the time, Jadwiga Andegaweńska was not called the king (rex), but the queen (regina) according to her gender. One of the conditions of the marriage was that Jagiełło convert to Christianity and Christianize Lithuania. He agreed. Their union brought the two countries together into one of the most powerful unions of the time not just through dynastic marriage but through the Catholic faith.
(Baptism of Lithuania depicted by Polish painter Władysław Ciesielski 1845-1901)
During her lifetime, Jadwiga Andegaweńska was not just a figurehead, nor a quiet, praying ascetic. Yes, her faith and religion was at the forefront of her life. She prayed seven times a day, during the canonical hours. These are known as matins and lauds (usually counted as a single hour) said in the middle of the night; prime, at sunrise; terce, 9 a.m.; sext, noon; none, 3 p.m.; vespers, sunset; and compline, bedtime. Every day, without exception, she also took part in the Holy Mass. She fasted rigorously during the 200 days dictated at that time by the church. She brought the Carmelite order to Poland from the Czech Republic, established new churches, donated generously to the monastery at Jasna Góra, and showered those first Lithuanian Catholic churches with chalices, books, monstrances, crosses, paintings, and liturgical vestments. She was also a ruler who combined piety with ambition. She took an active role in church affairs and butted heads with popes and the clergy. She was a patron of the sciences, donating all her jewels for the renewal of the Academy in Kraków to promote study in all fields and established a theological studies department there as well.
Even though Poland was not her homeland (her claim to the throne came through her relationship to the Piast Dynasty, the first ruling family of Poland, through both her mother and father), she won the hearts of her subjects with extraordinary goodness. Queen Jadwiga paid great attention to hospitals and was generous with alms to the poor. She looked out for the little man, frequently inviting the poor to eat at the castle. A separate table of simple dishes of buckwheat groats, sour rye soup, cabbage, peas, sausages, herring, bread and beer was prepared for them in the utility rooms, which everyone could eat to their heart's content
While Jadwiga Andegaweńska was famous for her piety, she was, after all, a woman of flesh and blood. As a young woman she loved beautiful clothes, jewels, tournaments, dances and banquets. She liked rice cooked in milk with almonds and raisins, fresh cucumbers drizzled with honey and was very fond of the precursor to today’s bagels called obwarzanki - rings of baked yeast dough which can still be bought on the streets of Kraków.
(Example of obwarzanek - smaller and thinner than today's bagel)
She was also fussy about her bread, sending inferior bread away from the table with someone dispatched in great haste to another town 10 kilometers away to buy better bread.
Jadwiga also liked beer! The Queen, despite the fact that she came from Hungary, famous for its wines, preferred beer to wine and was able to drink up to 2 liters a day. (Let’s remember that beer with meals was the staple at the time and water was only something to wash with, not for drinking).
Oftentimes confused with another formidable Polish queen, that of Queen Jadwiga of Śląsk(Silesia) who lived in an earlier century, Jadwiga Andegaweńska Jagiellonczyk was named after that particular Jadwiga but carved her very own story that lives on so many centuries later. She personified the Polish saying of someone who was “do tancza i do różańca” that is, suitable for dancing and the rosary, an all-around person who could enjoy life and be devout at the same time.
She lived less than 26 years. She died in 1399 after a very hard childbirth. She is buried in Wawel Cathedral.
In his homily at the time of her sainthood in 1997, Pope John Paul II proclaimed that “She gave the whole nation an example of love for Christ and man - a man thirsty for both faith and science, as well as for daily bread and clothing. Let us draw on this example today…”
We celebrate her feast day today on October 15. Happy name day to all named Jadwiga and Hedwig!
Sources and credits:
There’s a Polish proverb that says “Lepsze rydz niż nic.” In literal translation it says “Better the Lactarius deliciousus (saffron milkcap mushroom) than nothing at all.” On another level it’s said in situations to indicate that something was gained but not exactly what you wanted or what you got was better than nothing at all. In the mushroom picking world of Poland everyone would prefer to find Boletus edulis, the porcini mushroom, king of forest mushrooms. However, in the absence of porcini, the saffron milk cap will do.
There’s a reason this woman, who just emerged from the forest, is happy to pose for me. She holds in her hand a lovely specimen of the much sought-after Boletus edulis called prawdziwek (translates into “the true one” in Polish) and also called borowik szlachetny or “noble boletus.” It is considered the tastiest of all edible mushrooms whether dried or marinated and was the preferred mushroom for the tables of Poland’s rich and famous. Jan Kochanowski (1530-1584), a famous 16th century poet and author, described the duties of workers on his estate. There were those tending the grain harvests, the vegetable gardens, the dairy barns and then there were those assigned to gather mushrooms. Foraging for mushrooms was not a hobby like it is now but genuinely hard work as it was an important foodstuff from May until first frosts. Mushrooms were eaten fresh, dried for use in the wintertime, and when salt became widely available, they were stored by salting down or pickling.
So what about the second rate saffron milkcap? the Lactarius deliciosus? Why give it such a name if not delicious? As the proverb implies, it’s a consolation prize, something one could enjoy even if not fully what you wanted. Lucyna Ćwierczakiewicz (1826-1901), the famous Polish cookbook author, wrote a lot about mushrooms and didn’t scorn it at all. "Mushrooms are collected twice a year in spring and autumn. The young tender spring mushrooms should be sliced and dried in the sun and will be like fresh when added to vegetables in winter. The fall mushrooms should be dried on a string or in the oven after baking bread or for marinating because they are longer lasting and easier to keep. Rydze begin at the end of August until late into the year. Be careful to get them as frosts can begin early in November and the rydze are lost. “
Besides drying, salting and pickling mushrooms for winter consumption, mushrooms were also collected to trade or to sell at the marketplace to buy items like kerosene, matches or shoes.
Market in Krakow 1931. Images from Narodowe Archiwum Cyfrowe.
I grew up listening to my mother talk about the forests of Poland where she picked berries and mushrooms with her siblings. She used the proverb Lepsze rydz niż nic a lot. It’s her I think about when on mushroom hunting excursions with my cousins in Poland.
In the third photo, my basket is the empty one behind the bouquet of heather I had picked. There were only two mushrooms left in my basket by the time my cousin finished throwing out all the non-edible ones I had picked. Embarrassing, since even little Tomek knew his mushrooms but as the proverb says, it's better than nothing at all.
Hitler’s invasion of Poland in September 1, 1939 marked the beginning of World War II. Over the next five years, the conflict would take more lives and destroy more land and property around the globe than any previous war. In Poland alone, it cost the lives of an estimated 6 million people among them 3 million Jews murdered in Nazi concentration camps as part of Hitler’s planned and carefully executed “Final Solution,” now known as the Holocaust. Photos taken by a German photographer now part of Narodowe Archiwum Cyfrowe(National Digital Archives) in public domain.
The assault by air destroying railroad lines.
Germans attacking an undetermined village.
Germans in trenches waiting to attack Warsaw.
Bombing of the Citadel, a Polish Army garrison,training center and depot in Warsaw
German soldiers on Grojecka Street in Warsaw by September 26,1939
Let us not forget.
The year 1410 saw one of the greatest battles of the Middle Ages under the command of Polish King Władysław Jagiełło(1386–1434) when he defeated the troops of the Teutonic order at the Battle of Grunwald. The King’s banner in battle was adorned with the image of Our Lady of Częstochowa. On the lips of Polish soldiers was the song Bogurodzica (Mother of God), becoming the first act of giving Poland’s armed forces to Our Lady of Częstochowa.
Our Lady of Częstochowa on roadside shrine. Łysaków, Poland. Edward Knab photo.
In the time of the “Deluge” when Swedish armies invaded the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth and it was thought that the country was lost to the foreign invaders, the one place that still resisted the Swedes was the holy monastery at Jasna Góra- the most sacred place in Poland containing the icon of the Black Madonna, Our Lady of Częstochowa.
Close up of depiction of Seige of Jasna Góra in 1655 by Polish artist Janaury Suchodolski. 1845. Wikipedia photo.
On 1 April 1656, during a Mass in the Latin Cathedral (also known as Archcathedral Basilica of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary) in Lwów (today Lviv, western Ukraine),King John II Casimir entrusted the Commonwealth of Poland and Lithuania to the protection of the Blessed Virgin Mary, whom he announced as The Queen of the Polish Crown and of his countries. ” Great Mother of God, Most Holy Virgin. I, Jan Kazimierz, for the love of Your Son, King of kings and my Lord and Your merciful King, having fallen at Your Most Holy feet, I choose You today as my Patroness and Queen of my countries.” Polish troops went on to victory.
King Michała Korybuta Wiśniowski ( reigned 1669- 1673) vowed the same at Jasna Góra on December 7, 1669. In his war against the Ottoman empire, he begged the mother of God “Support me and this Kingdom – not mine, but yours, in all troubles.”
When King Jan Sobieski III (reigned 1674-1696) began his fight against the Turks at Vienna in 1693, he also entrusted his kingdom to the protection of the Blessed Virgin Mary and saved Europe from Muslim domination. With Mary's name on their lips, and her likeness painted on their armor and flying high on their banners, the kings and knights of Poland fought against the Tartars, the Turks, the Swedes and all foreign invaders.
King Jan Sobieski wearing a ryngraf, originally used as plate armour worn in battle to protect the throat. Wikipedia photo.
During the 123 years of partitions of Poland, when Poland as a country was erased from the maps of Europe, Our Lady of Częstochowa at Jasna Góra became a symbol of identity and unity. Poles in all three partitions regarded Jasna Góra as a symbol of their national sovereignty and in spite of the political situation, remained alive in the nation’s collective consciousness. “Our Lady” was the sovereign of the country, the Queen of Poland and the Grand Duchess of Lithuania and nothing could change that.
During the Uprising of 1863-1864(also known as the January Uprising), an insurrection principally in the Russian partition to restore the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth, every insurrectionist wore a small scapular with the picture of Mary as a reminder that through her intercession, Mary was the nation’s hope for regaining its freedom and becoming an independent nation again.
In 1920, during the Polish-Bolshevik War with the Red Army, Polish soldiers again asked the Mother of God for help, and ended with a sensational victory in Warsaw called “Cud nad Wisła, the “Miracle on The Wisła.” According to the soldiers' reports, it was the intervention of Mary and her appearance over the site of the battle that caused the victory. In memory of the event which took place August 13-25, Polish Army Day was established in 1923, to be celebrated on August 15, the Feast of the Assumption of Mary into heaven, the day she was to have appeared in the battle. In 1950, the communist authorities changed the date to October 12, but in 1992, in a free and independent Poland, August 15 again became Polish Army Day.
In 1939 with the outbreak of World War II, Poland’s men and women went underground, became a resistance force called Armia Krajowa (the Home Army, abbreviated AK) and fought the German occupiers throughout the five-year struggle. Their vow begins with: “In the face of Almighty God, and the Blessed Virgin Mary, Queen of the Polish Crown, I swear to be faithful to my homeland…”
In 1944, in the battle for Monte Cassino in Italy, considered to be among the most important land battles of World War II, it was the soldiers of the 2nd Polish Corps, led by General Władysław Anders, who ultimately opened the way for the Allies to march on Rome. An image of Our Lady of Częstochowa was on the field altar for holy masses after the battles.
Throughout the centuries, the protection of Our Lady of Częstochowa has been sought by knights, confederates, insurgents, legionnaires, scouts, partisans, and soldiers in the fight for a free and independent Poland. She was their constant source of support and hope. She was their supreme hetman, the spiritual high commander, of Polish armies in battle.
Some of the above are excerpts from forthcoming book titled Spirit of Place: Roadside Shrines of Poland. Available October 2022.
You can listen to Bogurodzica, Poland’s oldest hymn here www.youtube.com/watch?v=ziCfs5tES_Y
On August 1, 1944 at 5pm Poland’s Home Army (in Polish, Armia Krajowa, abbreviated as AK) began what has been called the greatest and most tragic uprising in European history.
Photo. The emblem of the Warsaw Uprising with a P and W stands for Polska Walczy (Poland Fights)
The Warsaw Uprising was a heroic 63 day struggle
by Poland’s underground resistance Home Army and civilian non-combatants to liberate Warsaw from Nazi occupation.
Although the Polish attack was planned as a two-to-three day revolt until the Russians could arrive with additional support, the Russian support never materialized and the short coup turned into a brutal and bloody two month struggle for the Home Army. The Germans used tanks, aerial bombardment and long-range artillery on the insurgents. They began rounding up people from the houses in the districts which they still controlled and shot them - women, children and the elderly were not spared. They executed tens of thousands of Polish citizens in what is now referred to as the Wola Massacre.
Polish civilians murdered in Wola, a district in Warsaw August 5 through the 7th, 1944. Source:www. pl.wikipedia.org
The genocide was intended to crush the Poles spirit for the fight but it didn't work. The people of Warsaw wanted their city, their country back in their own control and endured incredible hardships and sacrifices including lack of water, power, food, ammunition, death and destruction. The battle raged on.
Photo: The iconic image of the destruction of Holy Cross Church on the main thoroughfare of Warsaw. It was interpreted by Poles as Christ pointing to the heavens and gave the underground resistance, courage and hope. Source:pl.wikipedia.org/wiki/BazylikaŚwiętego Krzyża w Warszawie
After the war was over and Poland was handed over to the Soviets, the Warsaw Uprising could not be discussed. The Soviets had never come to the rescue of Poland during one of its darkest hours even though they were stationed at the other side of the Wisła River and could see the smoke and flames rising from the city. Members of the Home Army that had managed to survive the war were hunted down, executed and secretly buried so that no traces of them remained, so that the treachery of the Soviets could not be discussed, so that memorials would not be erected in their honor. The Warsaw Uprising never received the attention it deserved until the end of communism when Poland became a free and independent country.
Cześć ich pamięci. All honor to the memory of those who died for a free and independent Poland.
For those interested: A Polish film with English subtitles is available on Netflix titled Warsaw 44. The true story of a group of scouts called Szare Szeregi (Gray Ranks) during the Nazi occupation of Warsaw. The liberation of one of its members through maverick military action in broad daylight known as ''Action at the Arsenal," was the single biggest feat undertaken by a youth resistance organization in all of occupied Europe during WWII.
Painting by Polish artist Lela Pawlikowski titled "Matka Boska Jagodna" 1939
For many centuries the Feast of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the Roman Catholic Church was celebrated on July 2. The feast day commemorates the day that Mary, pregnant with the infant Jesus, visits her cousin Elizabeth, who is also pregnant. Elizabeth immediately knows that the child Mary carries is the one who will be sacrificed for the world. Elizabeth cries out “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb.” (Luke 1:42-45) This holy day was established in 1263 by St. Bonaventure of the Franciscan Order and then introduced by Pope Boniface in 1389 throughout the Church. As a result of the reforms of the Second Vatican Council in 1969, the Feast of the Visitation is now celebrated on May 31, ending May - the Marian month.
In Polish folk tradition July 2nd, the Feast of the Visitation, was also called Matka Boska Jagodna, Our Lady of Berries. The day is associated with a legend in which a pregnant Mary walked many miles along lonely paths in order to visit her cousin Elizabeth. During the long journey, Mary's main food was the berries growing in the forest. Folk tradition dictated that until July 2 picking berries from the forest was to be avoided so as not to take the food from the pregnant Mary, who traveled to visit Elizabeth.
This refraining from picking and eating the berries of the forest, such as raspberries and blueberries, until that date was especially important to the pregnant women of Poland. This small sacrifice (because berries were already present and ripe for plucking by Feast of St. John the Baptist, June 24) was a way of asking Mary for the grace of giving birth to a healthy and strong child. Our Lady of Berries was seen as the guardian of mothers and pregnant women, especially those who had problems with pregnancy, miscarried or had still births. Mary would also provide protection for the still born children in the afterlife.
Our Lady of Berries (Matka Boska Jagodna) depicted in folk art. National Ethnographic Museum in Warsaw.
Our Lady of Berries also became the patron of forest berries and orchard and garden fruit, all beliefs captured by Polish poet Leopold Staff :
Matka Boska Jagodna, Panienka Maryja,
Która owocnym, rodnym drzewom sprzyja,
Chodzi po sadzie kwitnącym i śpiewa
Pocałunkami budząc w wiosnę drzewa.
Nocą wieśniaczki jej śpiew słyszą we śnie,
Wieść, aby jagód nie jadły przedwcześnie,
Każdą jagodę z ust matce odjętą
Da zmarłym dziatkom Panna w jagód święto…Leopold Staff
Our Lady of Berries, Virgin Mary,
Who favors fruitful, fertile trees,
Walks in the flowering orchard and sings
Kissing trees awake in spring.
At night, the peasant women hear her singing in their sleep,
A message that the berries should not be eaten prematurely,
Every blueberry abstained from mother's mouth
The Virgin will give deceased children on the feast of berries ...
The Visitation is the subject of much devotional art. The Visitation of the Virgin to Saint Elizabeth Workshop of Goossen van der Weyden. National Gallery London
St. Anthony of Padua( Św. Antoni Padewski) is the patron saint of innumerable churches, parishes and sanctuaries all over Poland and it is estimated that over 198 towns derive their name from the name of St. Anthony. There is hardly a church in Poland without an altar or a statue of this saint not to mention roadside figures and chapels. The chapel of St. Anthony, carved in salt in Wieliczka, one of the oldest chapels in the mine dating to the 17th century. The first mass said in the chapel for the miners, who also took him on as a patron because they searched for “white gold,” i.e,, salt, was in 1698.
Chapel of St. Anothony in Wieliczka Salt Mine from old postcard. Public domain.
St. Antholny proved to be an excellent preacher and a person with deep theological knowledge. He began to preach the word of God earnestly as an itinerant preacher. He is usually invoked in finding lost or stolen things. “Św. Antoni, dopomóż odszukać koni!” St. Anthony help us find our horse, says the old proverb/prayer that was invoked with lost (or sometimes stolen) horses.
The history of praying to St. Anthony for lost items can be traced back to an incident in Anthony’s own life when he had lost a book of psalms that was very important to him for teaching students in his Franciscan order. A novice who had grown tired of living religious life decided to depart the community and also took Anthony’s psalter with him. Upon realizing his psalter was missing, Anthony prayed it would be found or returned to him. The novice became conrite over his actions and was not only moved to return the psalter to Anthony but returned to the Franciscan Order as well. Shortly after his death people began praying through Anthony to find or recover lost and stolen articles.
St. Anthony of Padua is generally depicted in a brown Franciscan habit, having taken vows with the Franciscan order who spread his popularity throughout Poland. He is typically portrayed holding the child Jesus (who was to have appeared to him) in his arms, or a lily (symbol of a pure life devoted to God), or a book (he was canonized as a Doctor of the Church) or all three. His feast day is celebrated today, the 13th of June.
Excerpted from upcoming book: Spirit of Place: The Roadside Shrines of Poland by Sophie Hodorowicz Knab
Photo of St. Anthony shrine by Michał Zalewski located in Zwiartów, Lublin region, eastern Poland.
On this day, Hans Frank, Governor of the General Government of occupied Poland during World War II, writes in his diary:
“…Upon the demands from the Reich it has now been decreed that compulsion may be exercised in view of the fact that sufficient manpower was not voluntarily available for service inside the German Reich. This compulsion means the possibility of arrest of male and female Poles… General Fieldmarshal Goering some time ago pointed out in his long speech the necessity to deport into the Reich a million workers. The supply so far was 160,000. “ (Documentary Evidence 2233-A-PS)
Frank announced that under his program, 1,000,000 workers were to be sent to Germany, and recommended that police surround Polish villages and seize the inhabitants for deportation.
Photo credit: Poland in Photographs 1939-1944 . Collection of the New York Public Library.
The ”compulsion” and “possibility of arrest” took the form of establishing people quotas. The counties and districts of the General Government were mandated to deliver an established a number of Poles who would be transported for work in the Reich. The summons sent to Poles to present themselves for work in the Reich stated: ”In the event that you do not fulfill this obligation, members of your family(parents, wife, siblings, children)will be placed in camps for criminals and will not be released until you present yourself. We also remind you that we have the right to seize your, as well as your family’s movable goods and fixed properties. Beyond that…you can be sent to a penal jail, a heavy labor jail or sent to a concentration camp.” (Seeber)
Polish slave laborer and his family liberated by the 1st U.S. Army near Meggen, Germany. Photo courtesy of the Still Pictures Branch National Archives at College Park, Maryland
In this quest to keep Hitler's war effort running at top speed Hans Frank sent men, women, and then entire families as laborers to Germany. The slave labor program was designed to achieve two purposes. The primary purpose was to satisfy the labor requirements of the Nazi war machine by compelling foreign workers, in effect, to make war against their own countries and its allies. The secondary purpose was to destroy or weaken peoples deemed inferior by the Nazi racialists, or deemed potentially hostile by the Nazi planners of world supremacy.
To quote the American and British Prosecuting Staff before the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg, Germany, regarding the Nazi foreign labor policy: it consisted of mass deportation and mass enslavement. It was a policy of underfeeding and overworking foreign laborers, of subjecting them to every form of degradation and brutality… It was, in short, a policy which constituted a flagrant violation of the laws of war and the laws of humanity.
Documentary Evidence 2233-A-PS. Trial of the Major War Criminals before International Military Tribunal.
Seeber, Eva. Robotnicy przymusowi w Faszystowksiej Gospodarcze Wojenny p.352-353
Nazi Conspiracy and Aggression Volume 1 Chapter X - The Slave Labor Program, The Illegal Use of Prisoners of War.
Knab, Sophie. Wearing the Letter P: Polish Women as Slave Laborers in Nazi Germany 1939-1945. Hippocrene Books, Inc. 2016
One of the biggest moments in my life was being able to sign for my very own library card. When I'm not reading, researching and writing I'm riding my bike, sewing or gardening. I love flea markets, folk art, and traveling to Poland.