Polish cavalry in Warsaw. A Polish cavalry troop before the Russian church in Warsaw. Polish cavalry has for several hundred years been among the best in Europe. It has figured prominently in the fighting to save Poland from the Russians. Photo from American National Red Cross Collection, 14 September 1920. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/anrc.12439
We recently posted about the newly digitized photographs from the American National Red Cross Collection, sharing an overview and selections from this vibrant and massive resource.
I took a personal interest in these newly uploaded images as they represent a great addition to our accessible corpus of images of Poland. Not only does this collection put forth heart-wrenching portraits and scenes, but it also includes images of the architecture of Poland as it stood before the destructive toll of the Second World War. Of particular interest to some may be the images of Warsaw’s Old Town, which suffered dearly in WWII.
The photographs also provide valuable insight into a nation in transition and with a rich history. These images can be useful for researchers looking to identify cultural characteristics of Poland and its people, as well as fascinating for those with Polish heritage or a personal interest in the resilient country.
The captions that accompany each photo add more detail than typically comes with our historic photo collections. The information provides a rich understanding of the situations depicted. Below are some photos of Poland and its people which attracted my attention.
No papier maiche [sic] sets here. The most elaborate motion picture “sets” were readily found in Poland without the aid of a corps of carpenters and studio workers by Ernest B. Schoedsack, formerly of Los Angeles studios, when he set out to film “Harvest skies of Poland”. He is seen here photographing a colorful peasant wedding dance in front of the thatched cottage of the bride’s “folks”. Photo from American National Red Cross Collection, 23 September 1920. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/anrc.12537
Poland’s tribute to America. Krakovie Place, Warsaw, one of the quaintest spots in Warsaw is Krakovie Place, at the head of Nowy Swiat, one of the main streets. The name of the place originated from the fact that this spot was formerly the gate of the old city which opened into the main highway to Cracow, the former capital. Many of the oldest buildings in the city with their distinctive architecture stand around this square. In the center is a pillar bearing the statue of Sigsimund, the ancient Polish hero. Photo from American National Red Cross Collection, 31 August 1920. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/anrc.12324
American sailing delayed. Held for over a week in box cars on the Polish border, 1,200 demobilized Polish-American soldiers had a hard time waiting to get into the port of Danzig, on the Baltic sea, to sail for the U.S.A. But the arrival of the American Red Cross from Warsaw, bringing them a carload of clothing, tobacco, chocolate and extras, as send-off before sailing, took all the kinks out of their trouble. First the closing of the Kiel Canal and then a small overflow revolution in Danzig tied things up. This picture shows one of the main streets during the uprising. Photograph by American Red Cross, June 1920. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/anrc.11518
Poland’s oldest soldier. M. Krasinski, a veteran of Napoleon’s Moscow campaign, who told American Red Cross relief workers in Kieff, that he was born in 1792 and is thus 128 years old. Photo from American National Red Cross Collection, 10 August 1920. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/anrc.12080
Unhappy child of Poland. Six years of almost continuous warfare in Poland has left its mark on the faces of the young Republic’s children. This young girl resembles thousands in this unhappy, disease ridden land, her expression reflecting the misery she has experienced in the tender years of her life. It is children like this that the American Red Cross has been reaching with food, clothing and a friendly smile. Photo from American National Red Cross Collection, 10 August 1920. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/anrc.12143
Oliver Twist’s friend. There are millions of little Oliver Twists in Poland who are being helped from starvation into happy plenty by women like this Polish helper in an American Red Cross food station. This kitchen cares for the food wants of 500 children. Photo from American National Red Cross Collection, 10 August 1920. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/anrc.12058
Photographing music. It was the proudest moment in the life of the Polish peasant orchestra when Ernest B. Schoedsack, formerly a Los Angeles camera man, turned his machine upon them and assured them that they would soon be playing on the screen in America. The orchestra was playing for a peasant wedding which forms one of the scenes in “Harvest skies of Poland”. Photo from American National Red Cross Collection, 23 September 1920. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/anrc.12535