Poland's Wedding to the Sea

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Memorial to the 1945 Wedding in Mrzezyno Mrzezyno nuptial memorial 2006.jpg
Memorial to the 1945 Wedding in Mrzeżyno

Poland's Wedding to the Sea was a ceremony meant to symbolize restored Polish access to the Baltic Sea that was lost in 1793 by the Partitions of Poland. It was first performed on February 10, 1920, by General Józef Haller at Puck (Putzig). In the early spring of 1945, following the Polish-Soviet advance into Pomerania, a number of such ceremonies took place in several locations. The most famous 1945 Weddings to the Sea were performed by the soldiers of the Polish Army on March 17, 1945 in Mrzeżyno (Regamünde), and on March 18 in newly captured port of Kołobrzeg (Kolberg).

Poland Republic in Central Europe

Poland, officially the Republic of Poland, is a country located in Central Europe. It is divided into 16 administrative subdivisions, covering an area of 312,696 square kilometres (120,733 sq mi), and has a largely temperate seasonal climate. With a population of approximately 38.5 million people, Poland is the sixth most populous member state of the European Union. Poland's capital and largest metropolis is Warsaw. Other major cities include Kraków, Łódź, Wrocław, Poznań, Gdańsk, and Szczecin.

Baltic Sea A sea in Northern Europe bounded by the Scandinavian Peninsula, the mainland of Europe, and the Danish islands

The Baltic Sea is a marginal sea of the Atlantic Ocean, enclosed by Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Latvia, Lithuania, Sweden, northeast Germany, Poland, Russia and the North and Central European Plain.

Partitions of Poland Forced partition of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth

The Partitions of Poland were three partitions of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth that took place toward the end of the 18th century and ended the existence of the state, resulting in the elimination of sovereign Poland and Lithuania for 123 years. The partitions were conducted by Habsburg Austria, the Kingdom of Prussia, and the Russian Empire, which divided up the Commonwealth lands among themselves progressively in the process of territorial seizures and annexations.

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1920 Wedding to the Sea

As Venice so symbolized its marriage with the Adriatic so we Poles symbolize our marriage with our dear Baltic Sea.

Republic of Venice Former state in Northeastern Italy

The Republic of Venice or Venetian Republic, traditionally known as La Serenissima was a sovereign state and maritime republic in northeastern Italy, which existed for over a millennium between the 7th century and the 18th century from 697 AD until 1797 AD. It was based in the lagoon communities of the historically prosperous city of Venice, and was a leading European economic and trading power during the Middle Ages and the Renaissance.

Marriage of the Sea ceremony Ceremony which used to symbolize the maritime dominion of Venice

The Marriage of the Sea, sometimes referred to as the Marriage of the Adriatic, was an ancient ceremony which used to symbolize the maritime dominion of Venice.

General Haller at the 1920 ceremony in Putzig/Puck [1]

In October 1920, General Jozef Haller was named commandant of the Pomeranian Front of the Polish Army, a unit created to peacefully recover former German Empire's province of Pomerelia, which was granted to the Second Polish Republic by the Versailles Treaty. On 18 January 1920, units of the 16th Infantry Division entered Torun (Thorn), and in the following days, Polish soldiers moved northwards, finally reaching the Baltic Sea coast on February 10. Their progress was slow but steady, with a few incidents of sabotage, carried out by the retreating Germans.

Pomerania Place

Pomerania is a historical region on the southern shore of the Baltic Sea in Central Europe, split between Germany and Poland.

German Empire empire in Central Europe between 1871–1918

The German Empire, also known as Imperial Germany, was the German nation state that existed from the unification of Germany in 1871 until the abdication of Kaiser Wilhelm II in 1918.

Pomerelia

Pomerelia, also referred to as Eastern Pomerania or as Danzig Pomerania, is a historical region in northern Poland. Pomerelia lay on the southern shore of the Baltic Sea, west of the Vistula river and east of the Łeba river. Its biggest city was Gdańsk. Since 1999 the region has formed the core of the Pomeranian Voivodeship. Gdańsk Pomerania is traditionally divided into Kashubia and Kociewie.

Site of the 1920 Wedding in Puck - Kashubia Puck miejsce zaslubin z morzem.JPG
Site of the 1920 Wedding in Puck - Kashubia

Early in the morning of February 10, General Haller and his staff, on the way from Torun (Thorn) to Puck, met at Danzig Hbf. rail station with members of Polish community of the Free City of Danzig. Haller, fearing a German provocation, stayed in the train, which was entered by Dr. Jozef Wybicki, grandson of Jozef Wybicki, who handed to him two platinum rings, funded by Polish families of Danzig. One of the rings was later thrown into the sea in Puck.

Free City of Danzig semi-autonomous city-state that existed between 1920 and 1939

The Free City of Danzig was a semi-autonomous city-state that existed between 1920 and 1939, consisting of the Baltic Sea port of Danzig and nearly 200 towns and villages in the surrounding areas. It was created on 15 November 1920 in accordance with the terms of Article 100 of the 1919 Treaty of Versailles after the end of World War I.

After the meeting, the train with Haller and other Polish officials headed for Puck, where it was welcomed by crowds of Kashubians. At the Puck Rail Station the General mounted a horse, heading towards the sea with a unit of uhlans. The symbolic event was witnessed, among others, by Wincenty Witos, Stanislaw Wojciechowski, Maciej Rataj, Pomeranian Voivode Stefan Laszewski, Polish envoy to Free City of Danzig Maciej Biesiadecki, General Kazimierz Sosnkowski, Dr Jozef Wybicki, and the "King of the Kashubians, Antoni Abraham". Main point of the ceremony was marked by a Roman Catholic service, with a sermon told by Reverend Jozef Wrycza. Flag of the Polish Navy was blessed, and then, to the salvo of 21 guns, it was raised on a mast by sailors Eugeniusz Pławski and Florian Napierala. This symbolically meant that from then on, Polish seacoast was guarded by the Navy.

Kashubians ethnic group

The Kashubs are a West Slavic ethnic group native to historical region of Pomerelia (Kashubia) in modern north-central Poland. Their settlement area is referred to as Kashubia. They speak the Kashubian language, which is classified either as a separate language closely related to Polish, or as a Polish dialect. Analogously to their linguistic classification, the Kashubs are considered either an ethnic or a linguistic community.

Wincenty Witos member of Austrian empire council

Wincenty Witos was a prominent member of the Polish People's Party (PSL) from 1895, and leader of its "Piast" faction from 1913. He was a member of parliament in the Galician Sejm from 1908–1914, and an envoy to Reichsrat in Vienna from 1911 to 1918. Witos was also a leader of Polish Liquidation Committee in 1918, head of the Piast party, and member of parliament in the Polish Sejm from 1919-1920.

Maciej Rataj President of Poland

Maciej Rataj was a Polish politician and writer.

Poland's Wedding to the Sea by Wojciech Kossak. Painting of the 1920 ceremony in Puck Zaslubiny Polski z morzem.jpg
Poland's Wedding to the Sea by Wojciech Kossak. Painting of the 1920 ceremony in Puck

General Haller in his memoirs (published in 1964 in London) wrote that on that day, the Bay of Puck was frozen, so local fishermen cut an ice hole, into which Haller threw the ring. Before it fell into the water, the ring rolled on the ice: "Several fishermen ran after the ring, but none of them managed to catch it, and it fell into the icy water. When I asked why they did not catch it, the fishermen prophetically answered they would catch it in Szczecin". After throwing the ring into the water, Haller said the following words: "In the name of the Holy Republic of Poland, I, General Jozef Haller, am taking control of this ancient Slavic Baltic Sea shore". Wojciech Kossak, inspired by these events, painted in 1931 "Polish Wedding to the Sea".

London Capital of the United Kingdom

London is the capital and largest city of both England and the United Kingdom. Standing on the River Thames in the south-east of England, at the head of its 50-mile (80 km) estuary leading to the North Sea, London has been a major settlement for two millennia. Londinium was founded by the Romans. The City of London, London's ancient core − an area of just 1.12 square miles (2.9 km2) and colloquially known as the Square Mile − retains boundaries that follow closely its medieval limits. The City of Westminster is also an Inner London borough holding city status. Greater London is governed by the Mayor of London and the London Assembly.

Bay of Puck Place

The Bay of Puck or Puck Bay, is a shallow western branch of the Bay of Gdańsk in the southern Baltic Sea, off the shores of Gdańsk Pomerania, Poland. It is separated from the open sea by the Hel Peninsula.

Szczecin Capital city in West Pomeranian, Poland

Szczecin is the capital and largest city of the West Pomeranian Voivodeship in Poland. Located near the Baltic Sea and the German border, it is a major seaport and Poland's seventh-largest city. As of June 2018, the population was 403,274.

The 1920 wedding to the sea took place north of the Port of Puck, in the area which belonged to the Naval Airforce. A commemorative post was later erected there, with a Polish eagle and the date. The post was destroyed during the 1939 German Invasion of Poland. Its replica now stands in the Port of Puck, next to the bust of General Haller.

On February 11, 1920, a day after the symbolic wedding, Kashubian fishermen invited Haller to Wielka Wies (now Władysławowo), to carry out another ceremony, this time in the open waters of Baltic Sea. Haller accepted the invitation, and entered a cutter "Gwiazda Morza" ("Star of the Sea"). This made the General a very popular person among the locals. Haller himself purchased a plot of land near Wielka Wies, founding a district called Hallerowo. The town of Władysławowo was created after a merger of Wielka Wies and Hallerowo.

1945 Weddings to the Sea

In the early spring of 1945, a number of symbolic Weddings to the Sea took place along the Baltic Sea coast. The most well-known such ceremonies were on March 17, 1945, at the town of Mrzeżyno (Regamünde), and on March 18 at Kołobrzeg (Kolberg). This is what Polish historian Hieronim Kroczynski wrote in his book "Polskie tradycje morskie 967-1945" ("Polish Naval Traditions 967 - 1945"):

"In early 1945, the First Polish Army, formed in the Soviet Union, and subordinated to the Soviet 1st Belorussian Front, reached Pomerania, the ancient land of the Piasts, which was to become Polish again. During the Pomeranian Operation, as our units approached the sea, Polish soldiers remembered the historic 1920 Wedding to the Sea. The 1945 ceremony took place in war situation, as until the end of the war, the 10-kilometer wide strip of coast was officially regarded as frontline. The headquarters of the First Army decided that its units were to organize their own weddings. These ceremonies took place from March 15 to April 6, along the Baltic Sea coast from Dziwnow (Berg Dievenow) to Gdynia (Gdingen). In the spirit of the 1920 tradition, rings were thrown into the water, and oaths of allegiance to the sea were sworn by the participants. Furthermore, in several cases flags of military units were dipped in water. On March 17, 1945, First Warsaw Cavalry Brigade had its own ceremony at Mrzeżyno, and on March 18, main ceremony of both First and Second Army took place at Kołobrzeg".

The flag on the left marks the site of the 1945 Wedding in Kolobrzeg Kolobrzeg Pier and Jan Szymanski Boulevard 2007-05.jpg
The flag on the left marks the site of the 1945 Wedding in Kołobrzeg

Polish historian Hieronim Kroczynski from Kolobrzeg, who has been investigating Polish weddings to the sea says that the first ceremony of this kind in 1945 took place on March 8, near the village of Grzybow, west of Kolobrzeg. On that day, a patrol of the 16th Infantry Regiment reached the shore. Colonel Wladyslaw Jurak, who had been a schoolteacher before the war, told the soldiers about the 1920 wedding, and the group spontaneously decided to repeat the ceremony.

News of this event reached headquarters of the 6th Infantry Division, to which the 16th Infantry Regiment belonged. Soon, General Michal Rola-Zymierski found out about it, and on March 10, 1945, text of the oath taken during weddings to the sea was printed by a Polish Army newspaper "Zwyciezymy": "I swear to you, Polish Sea, that I, a soldier of the Homeland, faithful son of the Polish nation, will not abandon you. I swear to you that I will always follow this road, the road which has been paved by the State National Council, the road which has led me to the sea. I will guard you, I will not hesitate to shed my blood for the Fatherland, neither will I hesitate to give my life so that you do not return to Germany. You will remain Polish forever".

Soon afterwards, a number of weddings took place:

Mrzeżyno (Regamünde)

On March 17, 1945, two fully armed regiments of uhlans of the First Warsaw Cavalry Brigade stood ready at the main market square at Gryfice (Greifenberg). Following the order of their commandant, Major Stanislaw Arkuszewski, the soldiers headed towards Mrzeżyno, via Trzebiatow (Treptow an der Rega). After reaching the coastline, corporal Sochaczewski and uhlan Kobylinski rode their horses into the water, throwing two rings, which they had received from Major Arkuszewski. At the same time, uhlans of the 2nd and 3rd Regiments said the following words: "We swear eternal allegiance to the sea". Some sources claim that the oath was taken only by Major Arkuszewski.

The tradition of the 1945 wedding is still alive in Mrzeżyno. Every year, patriotic events take place on March 17, and the ceremony is repeated by mounted reenactors, with rings thrown into the sea.

Kołobrzeg (Kolberg)

First Soviet units appeared in western suburbs of Kołobrzeg (Kolberg) on March 4, 1945. The Battle of Kołobrzeg began on the same day. By March 17, the Germans were pushed back to the beach and the sea, and in the night of March 17/18, the defenders of the city decided to abandon their lines, and evacuate most units to Swinemünde. The ceremony took place on March 18 in the evening. Polish historian Pawel Pawlowski, manager of the Museum of Polish Weapons at Kołobrzeg says that the town was chosen for the main 1945 Wedding to the Sea due to its symbolic importance, as the Germans turned it into a fortress (Festung Kolberg). Furthermore, Nazi propaganda turned the 1807 Siege of Kolberg into a myth, making an expensive film about it.

The decision about the main Kołobrzeg ceremony was taken on March 18 in the morning, after the hostilities had ended. On the same day in the evening, soldiers of the 7th Infantry Regiment of the First Polish Army were to take part in the wedding, which was organized by Colonel Piotr Jaroszewicz, who later became the Prime Minister of Poland. The ceremony began at 4 p.m. Central European Time, or at 6 p.m. Moscow Time, which was used by Soviet forces and Communist Polish troops. At this hour, some 200-300 soldiers of the 7th Regiment stood by the ruins of a fort near the entrance to the Port of Kołobrzeg. Specially constructed stand was filled with political officers, while the nearby lighthouse was in ruins, blown up by German engineers. The evening was cloudy, and soon it became to get dark. The ceremony began with a Roman Catholic service, then Polish national flag was raised, followed by a speech of Major Stanislaw Russijan, commandant of the 7th Regiment. The orchestra played Polish anthem, and another speech was given by Jaroszewicz, who said, among others:

"Remember this day, as it is history. Future generations will talk about this event with respect, like we talk about our great ancestors. You are creating history, like once it was created by Boleslaw Chrobry and Wladyslaw Krzywousty. You have gone the right way, from the Oka river to the Baltic, you have not chosen the wrong way, through the sands of Iran, and the swamps of Italy. That is why you have captured Kołobrzeg".

The ring was thrown into the sea by Corporal Franciszek Niewidziajlo, who himself was born in Kresy, near Zbaraz. Niewidziajlo also gave a speech, saying: "We have come here, to the Sea, after a hard and bloody effort. We see that our effort has not been wasted. We swear that we will never leave you. By throwing this ring into your waves, I am marrying you, because you have always been and always be ours".

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