How I longed for East Prussia! Winter was gloomy and long, yet very busy with unexpected tours, and expected trainings. Some translations, and lectures made me quite busy – so my favorite place on earth had to wait… Till yesterday, when I took my camera and went east. To East Prussia.
As the road through Paslęk and Orneta is under permanent construction, I decided to drive though Młynary, a small town, situated on the boundary of the Oberland (Upper Prussia) and Warmia. And this was not the best of my ideas. I nevertheless ended up in Orneta, cursing the road works, and narrow roads under renovation – where the big lorries and trucks tried to fit in like a cat in a matchbox… This however was not the worst of all. The worst hit me on the way, when I drove through the villages.
Today’s life in the former East Prussia is difficult, the villages are poor (and so are the people). Many places are being sentenced to social death and abandonment by the new political system in Poland; the residents are not able to get out and away from the gloomy and sad reality and seem to have no bright future. The lack of future means also the lack of historical consciousness. This results in a thoughtless destruction of what the Red Army did not destroy in 1945, nor did the Communists – during the long years of the regime. So, the once splendid palaces of East Prussia, many richly equipped churches – all are slowly decaying. Not speaking of the cemeteries, which are continually treated as German and are unwelcome. Those thoughts accompanied me, when I stopped village after village, taking pictures of what is still left. Some places I remember as unharmed… Untill a mysterious fire or collapse of walls. So symptomatic for this land.
Why is it like this? Well, after WWII, Stalin divided former East Prussia, taking the port of Königsberg (after destroying it thoroughly), and leaving the farmlands to Poland. After the flight of the original residents of the region – new people were brought in by the Communists. They came from the poor areas of Lithuania, and south Poland, brainwashed with propaganda. Not many understood how rich historically is this land. And here I am not speaking of the times of the Teutonic Order, nor the later German nobility like the Eulenburgs, or the Zu Dohna, or Dönhoff.
I am speaking of a much older times. Prussia’s history dates long before the German settlement. It is the history of the Old Prussians. Also there were many outer influences – as this was (is) the land “en route”. So when we speak of this region – we also need to speak about Truso. It was a port, where influences from all around the then world were found during the archaeological excavations. For those who want to find more – read the notes on Wulfstan of Hedeby.
By the way – nowadays in England’s Brittish Museum there is a wonderful exhibition about the Vikings. Do not miss the display of the artefacts found in Truso (near Elbląg east of Gdansk), which have been sent to the Museum, to enrich the exhibition.
But – so as not to complain too much about the sad reality – I must state, that there is also a “light in that tunnel”. Some of the young generation residents of this absolutely magic land – are already very much conscious of the historical inheritance. They re-enact the medieval battles, life, Prussian jewelry, household, customs, language, etc. They also save and keep what still can be saved.
And to be honest – there is much more history in this land – worth international attention. This land witnessed Napoleonic battle of Heilsberg in 1807. The First World War also did not spare this area… Not to speak of the numerous castles (some in ruins) built by the Teutonic Order…
Every year brings more tourist interest in this land. Scenic landscape, historical heritage, unpolluted environment, and still existing splendid monuments of engineering, art, and architecture – all that make the North East province of Poland worth visiting.
HERE are some photos I took on the way. Everywhere here is far. Even if it takes only 10 kilometers to drive – because of numerous curves of the roads – the distance seems longer. Everything here is at the world’s end 😉
HERE are photos I took in a bell tower of a church en route. Wooden beams surprise, especially when one knows the tragic history here in 1945…
HERE are photos of an absolutely stunning shrine in the middle of a little village with some 90 residents…
HERE are my photos of Gładysze – Schlodien, a palace that survived the fire march of the Red Army, but was burned down after 1985 !!! It is very hard to have any compassion or any other “civilised” feelings towards the locals, knowing their attitude to this historical place! It could have been an attraction for tourists, now it is a source of bricks for the local communities 😦
HERE are my photos of the unfinished construction of the Masurian Canal.
HERE are photos I took in the famous Wolf’s Lair – known for the July 1944 plot.
Of course, we continue to be very interested in your travels and and observations and reports! Thank you for all your postings.
Elfrieda and Hardy
Wow! This is quite unexpected, someone leading tours where my wife’s family was living before the war (in Ostróda). You mentioned Paslęk, where my wife and her three older sisters spent 9 -10 months in 1945, surviving without parents (who were taken by the Soviets into Russia), and I imagine it looks much better than it did back then.
We’ve published two books about all that (see http://www.prospectavenuebooks.com). And see my blog at prospectavenuebooks.wordpress.com. I am now subscribed to your blog and waiting to read more about your travels!
How wonderful to find someone who is, like me, from here! 😀
I can imagine the memories of 1945 must have been too traumatic for your Wife…
I will gladly go to your blog, and will read with great interest!
Lots of greetings!