Did You Know That...?
Compiled by Our Warsaw Correspondent Robert Strybel

The first victim of World War II was Franicszek Honiok, a former Silesian insurrectionist. The Nazis killed Honiok, dressed him in a Polish uniform and left his body at the radio station in Gleiwitz (Gliwice), Germany in an attempt to prove a Polish attack—one of Hitler’s excuses for invading Poland.

Large formations of southbound cranes (“żurawie” in Polish) flying from northern Europe to Sudan in Africa are a sure sign of autumn in Poland. Flocks of 100-200 birds fly the 4,000 journey at an altitude of more than 1,000 feet at an average speed of 40 mph.

The Wisła, known as “the queen of Polish rivers”, is called “die Weichsel” in German. “la Vistule” in French and by its Latin name “Vistula” in English, Spanish, Italian and a few other languages.

In 2005, Poland’s Aneta Florczyk, then 23, became the world’s strongest female at World Strongwoman Championships held in Ireland.

Japan’s electronics giant Toshiba plans to build a large factory producing LCD TV sets in Poland as a way of increasing its sales in Europe.

The flags of Indonesia and Monaco are like that of Poland but upside down. Other flags in only white and red but displaying varying designs include those of Austria, Canada, Denmark, Japan, Singapore and Switzerland.

At 3.10 złotys to the US dollar, which has hovered around that level for much of 2006, a 17-ounce bottle of beer and a McDonalds’ cheeseburger each cost 64 cents, an airmail letter to the US -- $1.03 and the cheapest new car (A Fiat 600 2-door hatchback) -- $7,400.

There are 42 different expressions in Polish for the “bocian” (stork), a bird surrounded with great reverence as a good-luck symbol. The most common nickname is the diminutive “bociek”, but the bird is also known as “Wojtuś” (little Al) and “klek” (imitative of the clacking sound it makes with its beak.

At present, 6,563 are studying for the priesthood in 84 Roman Catholic seminaries across Poland. For years, Poland’s biggest priest-producer has been the southern Diocese of Tarnów, where 242 seminarians are now enrolled, followed by Przemyśl Diocese in the SE (173), the eastern Diocese of Lublin (156) and Warsaw Archdiocese (152).

The ongoing Polish invasion of Britain has seen Polish foods spread from corner delis and convenience stores (often run by Indians or Pakistanis), to big supermarket chains such as Tesco and Carrefour and even designer stores like Selfridges and Harvey Nichols.

According to the Polish Yuletide lore of yesteryear, people said the weather on the individual 12 days of Christmas predicted what the 12 months of the New Year would be like. An extremely cold Dec. 27 meant a chilly March and a sunny New year’s Day foretold lots of sunshine the following August.

Polish runner Irena Kirszenstein-Szewińska (born in 1946) was the world’s first athlete to win medals in four consecutive Olympic games: 1964, 1968, 1972 and 1976. She also joined three other record holders of seven Olympic medals: three gold, two silver and two bronze ones.

Poland’s Podhale Highlander Brigade is one of the Polish Army’s elite formations which takes part in international peace-keeping missions and delights audiences at military parades. Distinctive, long, woolen capes and eagle feathers sprouting from their somewhat flat World War I-looking helmets make its members immediately recognizable.

The average 20-year-old Pole is 178 and 166 centimeters tall (males and females respectively). Males of their fathers’ generation averaged 5’9 and those of their grandfathers’ – 5’8. Rural males are ˝” shorter than their urban counterparts.

London’s first Polish matrimonial agency was set up in 2006 by Aleksandra Trębska and is doing a booming business. British males are finding Polish girls better looking, more stylish, elegant, sophisticated and more fun to be with than their English counterparts.

Polish fishermen are upset over the EU calling for a Polish cod-fishing limit of 13,000 tons, some 2,000 tons lower than in 2006. Poland’s fishing fleet accounts for about one-third of the Baltic cod catch.

Homosexual agitators tried disrupt a ceremony dedicating the plaza in front of Paris’s Notre Dame Cathedral to John Paul II. The Polish-born pontiff urged compassion for homosexuals but did not condone same-gender “marriages”, “gay adoption rights” or other deviations from, Christian teachings.

While on vacation, the average Pole spends 56 złotys (app. $18) a day in Poland and 88 złotys ($28) when vacationing abroad. Most Poles earn from 1,000 to 1,500 złotys ($322 - $483) a month. The average monthly industrial wage is 2,400 złotys ($774).

The loyal, affectionate and children-friendly Polish Lowland Sheepdog, a spitting image of the classic “shaggy dog”, is gradually winning new devotees in America. For information on the PON (as it is often known in America from its Polish initials: Polski Owczarek Nizinny), visit website: www.americanponclub.com

Buffalo’s Polonia reacted with disgust to the 1901 assassination of President McKinley by anarchist Leon Czołgosz, the son of Polish immigrants, but the incident stepped up anti-immigrant sentiments and contributed to the 1903 Alien Immigration Act.

Wild boar, roedeer and hare are the favorite game of Polish hunters. Wild duck and geese as well as pheasant and partridge also have their devotees.

Photographing railway stations is no longer illegal in Poland. During the communist period it had been a punishable crime.

Pol-Am net surfers have found the following number of hits for: “Polish concentration camp” (997), “Polish concentration camps” (883) “Polish death camps” (581), “Polish death camp” (1,220) and even “Polish gas chambers” (117).

One of the grandfathers of German Chancellor Angela Merkel was Polish and hailed from the Poznań region. His surname was Jentzsch, the German respelling of Jętrz.

Poles regularly season pork, goose, duck, sauerkraut and bean dishes as well as pea soup with marjoram and/or caraway which are known to promote digestion.

Polish-born hockey player Mariusz Czerkawski, 34, made his NHL debut with the Boston Bruins in 1994 and returned to that team in July 2006. In between those dates, he has played on such teams as the Edmonton Oilers, New York Islanders and Toronto Maple Leafs.

Southern Poland’s Święty Krzyż (Holy Cross) Monastery, so called because a fragment of Jesus’ Cross is enshrined there, was set up 1,000 years ago thanks to the endowment of Hungarian King Emeryk, who had it built at the site of a former pagan shrine.

In olden times, the only axle grease used on primitive horse and ox-drawn farm carts in the Beskid region of southern Poland were “kozak” mushrooms which became slippery when crushed and stopped the wheels from squeaking, creaking and grating as they turned.

Danish liquor labels in the 1970s read: “Lethal dose: 4.8 parts of alcohol in bloodstream per thousand. Does not apply to Poles and Russians.”

The southern city of Kraków, Poland’s old royal capital until 1596, is the scene of an annual dachshund parade. Many are dressed by their owners in the outfits of Polish highlanders (Górals), fairy-tale characters or popular-culture icons such as Superman or Zorro.

Although there are now 71 breweries in Poland, the market is dominated by three major foreign-owned conglomerates: US-South African SABMiller (Lech, Tyskie), Dutch Heineken (Zywiec) and Danish Carlsberg (Okocim).

Unruly LOT Airlines passenger Tomasz Sołtys was taken into federal custody when his plane landed in Chicago. During his flight from Warsaw, the inebriated passenger demanded the plane’s door be opened so he could have a smoke, shouted abuse, struck a fellow passenger and scuffled with flight attendants.

The January Insurrection was the longest Polish uprising staged to free the country from Russian domination. It began on January 22nd, 1863, and the last insurgents were not captured until 1865.

This year’s Miss Canada, 24-year-old Małgorzata Majewska, is a native of Poland’s Baltic port of Gdynia who emigrated with her parents when she was four. Her favorite foods include “flaczki” (tripe) and “zupa ogórkowa” (dill-pickle soup).

Poland’s elegant Bolesławiec pottery (dinner services, fruit bowls, teacups, vases, etc.) may be viewed and purchased over the Internet from Ohio-based Polish Kitchens Online at: http://www.polishkitchenonline.com

NBA great Patrick Ewing achieved his career because the late Polish history professor Jan Karski (war-time courier from Warsaw) did not flunk him in his history course at Washington’s Georgetown University. The dean convinced Karski that expelling the college basketball star would have a devastating effect on young Afro-Americans.

At a 1934 reception in Berlin in honor of the visiting Polish riding and fencing team, the Poles were shocked when the German chief of staff raised a toast: “To a joint expedition of allied German-Polish military forces against Russia.”

Poured-concrete sidewalks so common in America are virtually unknown in Poland. Instead, paving stones of various size, shape and color are used for laying out walks, strolling paths and drives.

The famous “High Noon” poster showing Gary Cooper as the good sheriff was used by Poland’s Solidarity movement in the June 1989 election campaign that put an end to communist rule.. The Solidarity logo and the date of election day (June 4, 1989) were added to symbolize the union’s fight for justice against overwhelming odds.

Korzkiew, a small locality 13 kilometers (8 miles) north of Kraków, is fast becoming a popular “wedding city” attracting Britons, Irish, Germans and other Europeans. Couples can say “I do” in a quaint 17th-century church and their guests can have the run of a medieval castle for a whole week at a price that draws inquiries even from frugal Scotsmen.

In 1932, Poland became the first European country to decriminalize sodomy (homosexuality), Polish Premier Jarosław Kaczyński said recently. Responding to European Union allegations that Poland was “homophobic”, he added that homosexuals are not discriminated against Poland and gay clubs are flourishing.

There may be as many as 120,000 Poles now living in Norway, according to Polish Embassy spokesman in Oslo, Danuta Szóstak. 25,000 have lived their for many years, another 20,000 arrived during the 1990s and the rest began coming after Poland joined the EU.

Since the death of John Paul II in April 2005, dozens of streets and squares all over Italy have been renamed in honor of the Polish-born Pontiff in such cities as Chiavari, Chiampo, Pontedera, Lanciano, Fabiano, Senigallii, Greccio, Giffoni Sei Casali and Monterotondo. But anti-religious leftists have blocked such a move in Rome.

Kazimierz Michałowski (1901-1981), Poland’s best-known egyptologist, was credited with discovering an early-Christian basilica, palace and episcopal graveyard beneath the desert sands in Faras.

Each year, the Vratislavia Cantans oratorio festival is held in the SW Polish city of Wrocław at the Gothic Cathedral of Saint Mary Magdalene, the world’s largest Polish National Catholic Church. This year, performers from 11 countries presented 173 works by 61 composers.

Foreseeing how dangerous Hitler would become after rising to power, Polish leader Marshal Józef Piłsudski proposed to the French a joint pre-emptive strike against a then still none-too-formidable Germany, but the French refused.