Poland ,officially the Republic of Poland, is a country in Central Europe, bordered by Germany, the Czech Republic , Slovakia, Ukraine, Belarus, Kaliningrad Oblast (a Russian exclave) and Lithuania. It has a population of over 38.5 million people. The prevailing landscape in Poland is lowland. Uplands and highlands are located in the more mountainous south. Poland's highest peak, Rysy in the Tatra Mountains, is nearly 2,500m high. The Vistula, Odra, Warta and Bug are Poland's main rivers. In the north we border with the Baltic Sea. There are over 9,300 lakes in Poland.
A Polish state was established in 966, when Poland’s ruler Mieszko I converted the country to Christianity. In XIIth century Teutonic Knights came to Poland under the pretext of converting the population but in 1410 they were defeated at a very important battle of Grunwald by Polish king Wladyslaw Jagiello. In 1795 the Polish country was partitioned by three more powerful neighbours and it disappeared from the maps for 123 years. Poland regained its independence in 1918. Poland suffered the vast destruction during World War II and more than six million Polish citizens died in the war. During the Revolutions of 1989, Poland's communist government was overthrown and Poland adopted a new constitution establishing itself as a democracy and renaming itself the "Third Polish Republic".
Art and Music
The greatest Polish painter was Jan Matejko, who produced monumental portrayals of customs and significant events in Polish history. He painted e.g. ‘The Battle of Grunwald’. He is also well known for painting the gallery of Polish kings. Another Polish painter is Wojciech Kossak, who painted ‘The Raclawice Panorama’.
The best known Polish classical music composer was Frederic Chopin. His works are popular all over the world. He also spent part of his life in France. All of Chopin's works involve the piano and are technically demanding. Another prominent musician was Wojciech Killar. He died in December 2013. He composed film music for directors such as Andrzej Wajda , Krzysztof Zanussi and Roman Polanski. He created one of the best pieces of the traditional dance called ‘polonaise’.
One of the best known authors in Poland was Jan Kochanowski, who became the first Polish author to write most of his works in Polish rather than in Latin. He wrote laments, songs and epigrams. He was inspired by his daughter’s death. She died when she was a child and a lot of Kochanowski’s poems are dedicated to her. Another great Polish author is Henryk Sienkiewicz, who received the Nobel Prize for his novel “Quo Vadis”. His books of The Trilogy: “With Fire and Sword”, “The Delunge”, and “Sir Michael” are very popular too. They describe the history of Poland in 17th century. Another famous poet is Adam Mickiewicz. He was a principal figure in Polish Romanticism. He’s known for his national epic poem called “Sir Thaddeus”. Poland has a long and distinguished history of producing world-class poets. Among the best known are the "three bards" (prophets)— the three national poets of Polish Romantic literature: Mickiewicz, Krasinski and Słowacki. They were widely considered to be the three visionaries, who not only voiced the Polish nation's sentiments but foresaw its future. Poland has had two Nobel-laureate poets: Czeslaw Milosz and Wislawa Szymborska. Joseph Conrad (1857–1924), son of the Polish dramatist and poet, won world-wide fame with English-language novels (e.g. ‘Heart of darkness’) and stories that include elements of the Polish national experience.
The most popular sport in Poland is football. Poland, together with Ukraine, was responsible for organizing football Euro Final in 2012. Although our team didn’t achieve any success, it was good fun for everyone who loves this kind of sport. In Polish history we’ve had many sport champions. In 2012 Polish National Volleyball Team won the World League in Bulgaria. We’ve got one of the best volleyball leagues in the world. We have had many successful ski jumpers. Adam Malysz was probably the best ski jumper, having won a great number of international tournaments. Now he’s started his career as a car racing driver and he has taken part in Paris-Dakar race a few times. The first Polish Formula One driver, Robert Kubica, has brought awareness of Formula One Racing to Poland. Poland has made a distinctive mark in motorcycle speedway racing thanks to Tomasz Gollob, a highly successful Polish rider. The national speedway team of Poland is one of the major teams in international speedway and is very successful in various competitions. Highly successful Justyna Kowalczyk has made lots of people start doing cross-country skiing. Other popular sports include handball and boxing. Poles have significant achievements in mountaineering, in particular, in the Himalayas, especially in the winter gathering Eight-thousanders.
Other famous Poles
Mikolaj Kopernik (Nicolaus Copernicus 1473-1543) – astronomer who first claimed that the Earth was not the centre of the Universe (’the man who stopped the Earth and moved the Sun’).
Maria Sklodowska-Curie - (1867 – 1934) a physicist and chemist who conducted pioneering research on radioactivity. She was the first woman to win a Nobel Prize, the only woman to win in two fields, and the only person to win in multiple sciences.
Lech Walesa - a Polish politician, trade-union organizer, philanthropist and human-rights activist. A charismatic leader, he co-founded Solidarity (Solidarnosc), the Soviet bloc's first independent trade union, won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1983
John Paul II - was the head of the Catholic Church from 16 October 1978 to his death in 2005. He was the second longest-serving pope in history and was one of the most influential leaders of the 20th century. He is recognised as helping to end Communist rule in his native Poland and eventually all of Europe. John Paul II significantly improved the Catholic Church's relations with Judaism, Islam, the Eastern Orthodox Church, and the Anglican Communion
Roman Polanski – world famous film director (‘Chinatown’, ‘Rosemary’s Baby’, ‘The Pianist’, ‘Oliver Twist’).