Poland: Random Facts and Trivia

Some random facts and trivia for the country of the world Poland, history of a Catholic Communist nation, the economy, the heroes of the people.

POLAND

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A Catholic country ruled according to the tenets of materialistic, atheistic Marxism--here is the great Polish paradox from which innumerable incongruities flow. To take just one: The Poles have the only communist army with chaplains. As might be expected, Church-state relations have not always been pleasant. When the communists came to power at the close of W.W. II, thousands of priests were imprisoned. Following their release, the party sought to eliminate the competing ideological leader-ship of the Church by less extreme methods. In 1963, for example, the regime sought to ban the annual pilgrimage to Jasna Gora, holiest of Polish shrines, by creating a false smallpox scare. When the Church celebrated the millennium of Polish Catholicism in 1966, the State tried a subtler method to discourage attendance--for the duration of the weekend observance, state-controlled television aired John Wayne and Marilyn Monroe movies, soccer games, and other favorite programs.

In a communist state with a centrally planned economy, the only business is supposed to be Government-owned, but this is not entirely true of Poland. About 85% of the farms remain in private hands, the drive to collectivize agriculture having been abandoned in the face of fierce peasant resistance. Another anomaly is the existence of thousands of private retail shops, artisan workshops, and other small private businesses.

A poll of youths, taken after 2 decades of communist rule, showed that their heroes were, in order: John Kennedy, Yuri Gagarin, Charles de Gaulle, Pope John XXIII, and Karl Marx.

In one recent year, 59% of medical school graduates were women, as were 50% of graduates in the pure sciences.

When Hitler's armies seized Warsaw in 1939 they erected a brick wall around 1/4 of the city, creating a ghetto for 500,000 Jews. Food rations were gradually reduced to the starvation point. A railroad line was run into the ghetto and the residents were removed to be exterminated at Treblinka and other death camps. The population had fallen to 70,000 when the Jews obtained arms from the Polish underground in 1943 and fought back for almost one month until their inevitable defeat. Before the war, 2.7 million Jews lived in Poland. (Some historians believe that in the Middle Ages, 80% of the world's Jews lived there.) In 1968 an "anti-Zionist" drive sent many of the few remaining Jews to Israel and other countries. By the mid-1970s only 10,000 Jews, mostly older people, remained in Poland.

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