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The first event in the Polish history - A.D. 966
 
'Christianization of Poland in April 14, 966' by Jan Matejko

The Baptism of Poland (Polish: Chrzest Polski) - event in 966 that signified the beginning of the Christianization of Poland and the history of the Polish state. It is commenced with the baptism of Mieszko I - the first ruler of the Polish state. In adopting Christianity as the state religion, Mieszko achieved several goals - He strengthened his hold on power, as well as used it as a unifying force for the Polish people. The exact place of Mieszko's baptism is unknown but tradition points Gniezno in Western Poland - the first capital city. Mieszko's action proved highly successful - by the 13th century, Roman Catholicism had become the dominant religion in Poland.

 
The first Polish Saint - Saint Wojciech (Adalbert) - A.D. 997
 
Saint Wojciech (Adalbert)

Poland is truly a land of saints. In its Christian history, it has produced 73 saints. The first was Adalbert, bishop of Prague, who was martyred in 997 while preaching Christianity to the pagan Prussians living in the Baltic Sea area. He was sent there by King Bolesław of Poland who, when he learned of Adalbert's death, sent emissaries to retrieve the body so it could be given a Christian burial. The Prussians, however, demanded a ransom of silver equal in weight to that of Adalbert's body. A makeshift balance was erected with the body on one side and a pile of silver peices on the other. Adalbert was Bohemian. His Polish name was Wojciech and his feast day is April 23.

 
The first University - A.D. 1364
 
Jagiellonian University, Kraków - Collegium Novum

The first University in Poland was Jagiellonian University (Polish: Uniwersytet Jagielloński, often shortened to UJ) located in Kraków. Originally founded as Akademia Krakowska (English: Cracow Academy) in 1364 by Casimir III the Great, it is the second oldest university in Central Europe after the Charles University in Prague, and one of the oldest universities in Europe. It was renamed as the Jagiellonian University in 1817 to commemorate the Jagiellonian dynasty of Polish kings.

 
The first religious tolerance act - A.D. 1573
 
Original act of Warsaw Confederation

The Warsaw Confederation Act of 1573 is the formal beginning of religious freedom in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. Religious tolerance in Poland had had a long tradition (e.g. Statute of Kalisz) and had been the policy of the Polish kings. However, the document gave official sanction to earlier custom. Poland became “a place of shelter for heretics”, a place where the most radical religious sects, trying to escape persecution in other countries of the Christian world, sought refuge. The wording and substance of the declaration of the Confederation of Warsaw of 1573 were extraordinary with regards to prevailing conditions elsewhere in Europe. The document is listed in the UNESCO register „Memory of the World”

 
The first Ministry of Education - A.D. 1773
 
Prince Michał Poniatowski (Bishop of Płock) - President of Commission of  National Education

The Commission of National Education (Polish: Komisja Edukacji Narodowej, abbreviated KEN) was the central educational authority in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, created by the Sejm and king Stanisław August Poniatowski in 1773. It is considered the first ministry of education in history and an important achievement of the Polish Enlightenment. Although it only operated for 20 years, it managed to completely change the shape of education in Poland. Textbooks and manuals published by the commission laid the foundations for Polish language terminology in chemistry, physics, logics, grammar and mathematics. Also, although education was still far from being universal, it reached much wider group of people, including the peasants.

 
The first European Constitution - A.D. 1791
 
'3rd of May Constitution' by Jan Matejko

The Constitution of May 3, 1791 (Polish: Konstytucja Trzeciego Maja) is generally recognized as Europe's first and the world's second modern codified national constitution, after the United States Constitution. It was adopted as a "Government Act" (Polish: Ustawa rządowa) on that date by the Sejm (parliament) of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. May 3 was first declared a holiday (Constitution Day) in 1791. Banned during the Partitions of Poland, it again became a holiday in 1919 under the Second Polish Republic. Banned once more during WW2 by the Nazi and Soviet occupiers as well as during the communist regime after WW2. It was restored as an official Polish holiday in April 1990, after the fall of communism.

 
WW2 - Poland First to Fight - A.D. 1939
 
Poland First to fight

Poland was the first country which resisted to Hitler and the only country to fight in the European theatre of war from the first to the last day. On Sep. 1st 1939, 1.8 million German troops invaded Poland on 3 fronts (from the north, the south and the west) 2 weeks later, on Sep. 17th, 1939, 1.1 million Soviet troops invaded Poland from the east. Thousands of soldiers and civilians managed to escape to France and Britain whilst many more went "underground", later forming the "Home Army". A Polish government-in-exile was formed in London. The Polish Army, Navy and Air Force that escaped in 1939 and reorganized abroad, continued to fight the Germans. In fact they have the distinction of being the only nation to fight on every front in the War.  Despite the defeat in 1939, the Poles formed 5 more armies, including 4 in exile: in France (1939), in the UK (1940), and 2 in the USSR (1941, 1943). The 5th Polish army, created at the end of Sep., 1939 in the occupied Polish territory was the “Home Army” - the largest underground resistance army during WW2 (about 400,000 soldiers), which carried out the war’s largest uprising (the Warsaw Rising 1944) which lasted 63 days (read more). For the entire period of the war there also existed the very important “silent front” - supplying the Allies with constant intelligence information about the eastern front, decryption of Enigma machine, providing information about the V-1 rocket, sending over to Britain of the V-2 rocket, the sabotage and destruction of German supply trains and communication centres. Probably up to 2 million Poles served since Sep. 1st, 1939 to May 8th, 1945 in all the Polish military formations - regular armies, partisan troops and underground forces. In the final stage of war the Polish troops on all the European fronts amounted to some 600,000 soldiers. It can be concluded that Poland put in the field the 4th greatest Allied army.

 
The first eastern block country to achieve democracy - A.D. 1989
 
struggle for freedom

Poland’s unique history and culture has shaped the distinctive personality of the Polish people. Poland was the first country in the Eastern block to free its government from 45 years of Soviet domination and change its political system from communism to democracy. Over the recent decades Poland has come a long road. In the 1980s, Europe was divided by the 'iron curtain'. Many thought that the order imposed in Yalta by great powers cannot be moved. The earlier attempts in Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic to start a rebellion were bloodily crushed. But the human desire of freedom and the patriotic pride of Poles were stronger than the threats of the totalitarian system. In 1980 in Poland "Solidarity" was born, the first independent, self-governing trade union in eastern Europe (read more). It was a stone which started a historic avalanche. The awakened hope could not be suppressed, even by the introduction of the martial law. This resulted in in the "Round Table", which brought together representatives of communist authorities and the political opposition. An agreement then was born which is described as the greatest bloodless revolution of the 20th century. Poles designed the change of the political and economic system of their state themselves and peacefully handed over power. The first democratic election was held in June 1989 and in August 1989 the first noncommunist government was formed. Poland used its historical chance well - Polish People's Republic became the history; a free and democratic Republic of Poland was born.

 
The first Pole to....
 

·         travel in Asia was a Franciscan monk known as Benedictus Polonus who in 1246 visited the capital of the Mongol empire as a member of a mission sent by pope Innocent IV;

·         travel in Africa was Jan Laski, king's secretary, who in 1500, on his way to the Holy Land, visited Egypt;

·         reach North America was an unknown wood distiller who in 1585, with five other Poles of the same trade, enlisted on an English ship that sailed to Virginia;

·         reach South America was Krzysztof Arciszewski from Rogalin near Poznan, captain of the Dutch West Indies Company, who in 1629 visited Brasil;

·         reach Australia was the whaler Ksawery Karnicki who in 1790 left a Chilean ship in order to set up a whaling station;

·         reach Antarctica was Henryk Arctowski who in 1898, accompanied by Antoni Dobrowolski, sailed to the White Continent aboard the "Belgica";

·         see the Earth from space was Miroslaw Hermaszewski who in 1978 orbited our planet in Soyuz 30.

 
 
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