By Robert Strybel, "The Polish Answer Man"
Poppies first made their way to Poland in the Middle Ages from Hungary and
Bohemia, To this day they play an important role in various sweet dishes and
cakes, especially those associated with Christmas. Although educated people
were aware of the opium connection in other countries, the variety available in
Poland was regarded mainly as a culinary ingredient. Regarding poppyseeds
mainly as a pastry filling or something to sprinkle on bread and rolls, French
travelers to Poland centuries ago were surprised to see Poles eating a
poppyseed filling or pudding (containing nuts, raisins and honey) by the
spoonful. In the Polish public mind, poppies were associated not so much with
their sedative qualities, but rather had a certain ritual significance symbolizing
abundance and fertility. They were and continue to be an absolute must on the
Poles’ single most important family occasion of the year – Wigilia or Christmas
Eve supper. There they may appear in such dishes as:
In the political/cultural realm, "Czerowne maki na
Monte Cassino" is the name of a popular World War II vintage song
about the capture of the Nazi stronghold in Monte Cassino monastery in
Italy. The Polish Second Corps of Gen. Władysław Anders routed the Germans
after English and Australian troops had failed, thereby opening the
Allies' march on Rome. But the casualty rate was very high. The song states
that "The Red Poppies on Monte Cassino are all the redder because they fed
on Polish blood..."
In Stalinist Poland (1945-1956) the song was banned because
it lauded the Free Polish Forces in the West.