Recently I was asked to prepare a tour in the LowLands for a group of Friends and their followers. I was given freedom in choosing the route. So I did…
We had wonderful weather, with sun and wind and clouds forming beautiful patterns in the sky.
First of all we visited the church in Palczewo (Palschau). It is the only existing example of a wooden church architecture here in the Delta of the Vistula. It was built in 1712! and still exists! After all the turbulences of history, and the unfriendly post war conditions – it still pleases the eyes of the visitors!
It was built as a protestant church first – so the pre-war pictures show the pulpit in the place of today’s high altar. Also the polychromies on the wooden walls were not visible then. Or maybe the quality of the prewar pictures did not allow seeing the beauty of the place…
Nevertheless, the interior of the church today shows how the Past luckily survived till Present.
Palczewo was first mentioned in writing – in 1321. It was granted privileges in 1344 (in the times of Ludolph Koenig, the Grand Master in Marienburg), and was a very important village – as a ferry across the Vistula operated there. After the 13 years’ war Palczewo was incorporated to the Polish Kingdom as one of villages in the Gdansk domain. In 1772 Poland lost independence, in the First Partition (this was also the year when Capt. Cook set off onto his second “voyage around the world” as G.R Forster of Dirschau wrote later). In 1773 this part of formerly Poland was named now West Prussia. And new outlines of districts were organized by the German-Prussian occupant. So now – Palschau was situated in the district (Kreis) of Marienburg. Such situation lasted till the end of the I WW, when Poland regained independence BUT without its main port – Gdansk (Danzig). This was turned into the Free City of Danzig in 1920 by the decision of the League of Nations.
Still in the 19th century – out of 289 inhabitants there were 31 Mennonites. Among them were: a Claasen, Peter Dau, Isaak Dyck, Adolf and Jakob Harder, a Wiebe and a Wiens, all noted as land owners, and Johann Nickel, noted as a merchant. The Flemish Congregation of Palschau belonged to the Ladekopp-Orlofffelde Mennonite Church.
When Hitler invaded Poland in 1939, at the same time annexing Gdansk – Palczewo fell under the control of Nazi Germany until 1945. In the harsh post-war times nearly no one was left in the village, as nearly all the original dwellers were either expelled or they fled before the approaching Red Army in the last stage of war… New people were settled here by the post-war Polish Communist authorities. Not all understood the simple beauty of the land, neither the rich and diverse history of the region… However it seems that they managed not to spoil what the past left them…
Today it is a little village in the Pomeranian Region, with little more than 200 inhabitants, . The place is neat and clean, and the church has lived to a renovation of the interior, partially financed by the Polish Ministry of Culture and National Heritage (partially forced by the growing number of foreign visitors). Unfortunately ONLY the interior. The outside of the church – still cries for renovation. As it is timber, better the funds are found before it is too late….
We also went to see the amazing water gates in Marzęcino (Jungfer)… This must have been an enormous undertaking.
The water gates were built in late 19th century, to prevent the waters from Frisches Haff bursting into the land during the north and north-east winds. So it was decided to shelter the land – with the water gates. They were built within a huge action of protecting the Delta from the floods. Within few years after the construction the bed of the Frisches Haff retreated, and then in 1940′, Germans dredged the Pillau Strait (in preparation for the aggression on the Soviet Union) which lowered the waters even more.
Today the construction still amazes, even though it is situated in the … dry field 😉