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Kalisz ([ˈkalʲiʂ] (listen)) is a city in central Poland, and the second-largest city in the Greater Poland Voivodeship, with 99,106 residents (December 2020). It is the capital city of the Kalisz Region. Situated on the Prosna river in the southeastern part of Greater Poland, the city forms a conurbation with the nearby towns of Ostrów Wielkopolski and Nowe Skalmierzyce.


There are many artefacts from Roman times in the area of Kalisz, indicating that the settlement had once been a stop of the Roman caravans heading for the Baltic Sea along the trade route of the Amber Trail. Calisia had been mentioned by Ptolemy in the 2nd century AD, although the connection is doubted by some historians who claim that the location mentioned by Ptolemy was situated in the territory of the Diduni in Magna Germania.

Middle Ages

Archaeological excavations have uncovered early medieval settlement from the Piast dynasty period, c. 9th–12th centuries. Modern Kalisz was most likely founded in the 9th century as a provincial capital castellany and a minor fort. In 1106 Bolesław III Wrymouth captured the town, and made it a part of his feudal domain. There are also records of Khalyzian settlements from 1139. Between 1253 and 1260 the town was incorporated according to the German town law called the Środa Śląska Law (after Środa Śląska in Silesia), a local variation of the Magdeburg Law, and soon started to grow. One of the richest towns of Greater Poland, during the feudal fragmentation of Poland it formed a separate duchy ruled by a local branch of the Piast dynasty. After Poland was reunited, the town became a centre of weaving and wood products, as well as one of the cultural centres of Greater Poland. In 1282 the city laws were confirmed by Przemysł II of Poland, and in 1314 it was made the capital of the Kalisz Voivodeship by King Ladislaus the Short. Located roughly in the centre of Poland (as its borders stood in that era), Kalisz was a centre of trade. Because of its strategic location, King Casimir III the Great signed a peace treaty with the Teutonic Order there in 1343. As a royal city, Kalisz managed to defend many of its initial privileges, and in 1426 a new town hall was built. The Polish Duke Mieszko III the Old was buried in Kalisz. In the 14th century, Jews of the town were attacked during epidemics by mobs that accused them of poisoning the wells of the town.


In 1574 the Jesuits came to Kalisz and in 1584 opened a Jesuit College, which became a centre of education in Poland; around this time, however, the importance of Kalisz began to decline somewhat, its place being taken by nearby Poznań. The economic development of the area was aided by a large number of Protestant Czech Brothers, who settled in and around Kalisz after being expelled from Bohemia in 1620. In the 18th century, one of two main routes connecting Warsaw and Dresden ran through the town at that time, and Kings Augustus II the Strong and Augustus III of Poland often traveled that route. In 1789, 881 Jews lived in Kalisz, 29% of the town’s population. In 1792, a fire destroyed much of the city centre. In 1793, in the second partition of Poland, the Kingdom of Prussia absorbed the city, called "Kalisch" in German. That year Jews were 40% of the population. In 1801, Wojciech Bogusławski set up one of the first permanent theatre troupes in Kalisz. In 1807, Kalisz became a provincial capital within the Duchy of Warsaw. During Napoleon's invasion of Russia, following Yorck's Convention of Tauroggen of 1812, von Stein's Treaty of Kalisz was signed between Russia and Prussia in 1813, confirming that Prussia now was on the side of the Allies. After the defeat of Napoleon Bonaparte, Kalisz became a provincial capital of Congress Poland and then the capital of a province of the Russian Empire. In the 1820s a special Jewish quarter was created where the third of the town that was Jewish was required to live; it existed until 1862. Prussia and Russia held joint military exercises near the town in 1835. The proximity to the Prussian border accelerated economic development of the city and Kalisz ("Калиш" in Russian Cyrillic) started to attract many settlers, not only from other regions of Poland and other provinces of the Russian Empire, but also from German states. In 1860, 4,423 Jews lived in the town, 34.5% of its residents. In 1881, Russian authorities expelled Jewish residents who lacked Russian citizenship. In 1897, the Jewish population of the town was 7,580, about one-third of the total population.

World War I and interwar period

In 1902, a new railway linked Kalisz to Warsaw and Łódź. With the outbreak of World War I, the proximity of the border proved disastrous for Kalisz; it was one of the first cities destroyed in 1914. Between 2 and 22 August, Kalisz was shelled and then burned to the ground by German forces under Major Hermann Preusker, even though Russian troops had retreated from the city without defending it and German troops – many of them ethnic Poles – had initially been welcomed peaceably. Eight hundred men were arrested and then several of them slaughtered, while the city was set on fire and the remaining inhabitants were expelled. Out of roughly 68,000 citizens in 1914, only 5,000 remained in Kalisz a year later. By the end of the Great War, however, much of the city centre had been more or less rebuilt and many of the former inhabitants had been allowed to return.After the war Kalisz became part of the newly independent Poland. On December 13, 1918, the First Border Battalion, composed of volunteers from Kalisz and Ostrów Wielkopolski, was sworn in Kalisz, before joining the ongoing Greater Poland uprising (1918–19) against Germany. The reconstruction continued and in 1925 a new city hall was opened. In the 1931 Polish census, Kalisz had a population of 15,300 Jews, nearly 30% of the town's total population. In 1939 the population of Kalisz was approximately 81,000. The Jewish population of Kalisz at the time was 27,000.

World War II

After the German invasion of Poland in September 1939, the proximity of the border once again proved disastrous. Kalisz was captured by the Wehrmacht after Polish resistance, and the city was annexed by Germany. In revenge for resistance, the Wehrmacht carried out massacres of Polish defenders, who were executed both in the city and in the nearby settlement of Winiary (today, a district of Kalisz). Over 1,000 people were arrested as hostages. Numerous Poles were arrested and murdered during the Intelligenzaktion aimed at annihilation of the Polish intelligentsia. Around 750 Poles from Kalisz, Ostrów Wielkopolski, and other nearby settlements were imprisoned in the Kalisz prison from September 1939 to March 1940, and most were murdered in a large massacres in the Winiary forest. In November 1939, the Einsatzgruppe VI Nazi paramilitary killing squad murdered 41 Poles at the local Jewish cemetery; among the victims was pre-war Polish mayor of Kalisz, Ignacy Bujnicki. In April and May 1940, many Poles arrested in the region, especially teachers, were imprisoned in the local prison, and afterwards deported to the Mauthausen and Dachau concentration camps, where they were murdered. In Kalisz, the Germans established a Germanisation camp for Polish children taken away from their parents (Gaukinderheim). The children were given new German names and surnames, and were punished for any use of the Polish language, even with death (e.g., a 14-year-old boy Zygmunt Światłowski was murdered). After their stay in the camp, the children were deported to Germany; only some returned to Poland after the war, while the fate of many remains unknown to this day.By the end of World War II approximately 30,000 local Jews had been murdered, and 20,000 local Catholics were either murdered or expelled to the German-occupied territories (General Government) or to Germany as slave workers. In 1945 the population of the city was 43,000 – approximately half the pre-war figure. Following the war, Jewish Holocaust survivors returned to the city, by 1946 numbering some 500. By the late 1940s only some 100 remained, and those few who stayed blended into Polish society.


In 1975, after Edward Gierek's reform of the administrative division of Poland, Kalisz again became the capital of a province – Kalisz Voivodeship; the province was abolished in 1998, however, and since then Kalisz has been the county seat of a separate powiat within the Greater Poland Voivodeship. In 1991 the city festival was inaugurated on 11 June to commemorate the confirmation of the incorporation of the city in 1282. In 1992, Kalisz became the seat of a separate diocese of the Catholic Church. In 1997 Kalisz was visited by Pope John Paul II.The town was the site of the former 'Calisia' piano factory, until it went out of business in 2007. The factory building was transformed into the Calisia One Hotel, which opened in 2019.In November 2021, Polish far-right nationalists held an anti-semitic rally in Kalisz attended by hundreds of people. They burned a red-covered book meant to symbolize the 1264 Statute of Kalisz, historic pact protecting Poland's Jewish rights.

City neighborhoods


There are 19 Catholic churches, five Protestant churches, and one Eastern Orthodox church in Kalisz. Synagogues were built in Kalisz beginning in 1698, and a New Synagogue was built in 1879. Before World War II there were 25,000 Jews in Kalisz, but most of them were murdered by Germans in the Holocaust in Poland and by the summer of 1942 the Jewish community in Kalisz was entirely destroyed.


Kalisz is a centre of education in the region. It is home to 29 primary schools, 15 junior high schools, and five high schools. Seven colleges and a dozen or so vocational schools are also located there. The city is also home to branches of Poznań University, Poznań University of Economics, and Poznań University of Technology, as well as other institutions of higher education. It is a home to the Henryk Melcer Music School.


Although there is little heavy industry within the city limits, Kalisz is home to several large enterprises. It has the Winiary (part of the Nestlé group) and Colian food processing plants and the Big Star jeans factory. Two plane engine production factories, WSK-Kalisz and Pratt & Whitney Kalisz (a branch of Pratt & Whitney Canada), are located in Kalisz.


SSK Calisia Kalisz – women's volleyball team, 2nd place in 2003/2004 season and 1st place in 2004/2005 season KKS Kalisz – men's soccer team playing in the III liga.


Kalisz railway station was built in 1902 as the destination of the Warsaw–Kalisz Railway. It is currently served by Przewozy Regionalne and PKP Intercity.


The name Kalisz is thought to stem from the archaic kal, meaning swamp or marsh.

Notable people from Kalisz

Adam Asnyk (1838–1897), poet Meir Auerbach (1815–1878), Polish-born Israeli, author and the first Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem Shabbethai Bass (1641-1718), author and founder of Jewish bibliography Wojciech Bogusławski (1757–1829), actor, theater director and playwright Bolesław the Pious (1224/27–1279), duke of Greater Poland Krystyna Borowicz (1923–2009), actress Juliusz Bursche (1862–1942), bishop Maria Dąbrowska (1889–1965), writer Janina David, born Janina Dawidowicz (born 1930), writer and Holocaust survivor Solomon Eger (1785–1852), rabbi Agaton Giller (1831–1887), patriotic activist Stefan Giller (1833–1918), poet, an epigone of the Polish Romanticism Cyprian Godebski (1765–1809), freedom fighter and poet Avraham Gombiner (1635–1682), Jewish rabbi and scholar Adam Hofman (born 1980), politician Simon Horontchik (1889–1939), Polish-Yiddish novelist and short story writer Julian Klemczyński (1807–1851), composer Augustyn Kordecki (1603–1673), prior of the Jasna Góra Monastery and hero of The Deluge Alfred Kowalski (1849–1915), painter Yehiel Krize (1908-1968) Polish-born Israeli painter Jerzy Kryszak (born 1950), actor Theodor Meron (born 1930), Polish-born American president of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia and judge in the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda Bonawentura Niemojowski (1787–1835), journalist Wincenty Niemojowski (1784–1834), journalist Ladislaus Pilars de Pilar (1874–1952), poet Leopold Pilichowski (1869–1933), realist painter Zofia Poznańska (1906-1942), anti-Nazi resistance fighter Stanisław Saks (1897–1942), mathematician, member of the Polish Underground State, killed by the Gestapo Wojciech Siemion (1928–2010), actor and director Zdzisława Sośnicka (born 1945), singer Mischa Spoliansky (1898–1985), composer Jerzy Świrski (1882–1959), vice admiral Alina Szapocznikow (1926–1973), sculptor and Holocaust survivor Stefan Szolc-Rogoziński (1861–1896), traveler and explorer Alicja Tchórz (born 1992), swimmer Marta Walczykiewicz (born 1987), sprint canoer, Olympic medalist Chaim Elozor Wax (1822-1889), Hasidic rabbi and philanthropist Stanisław Wojciechowski (1869–1953), president of Poland Jan Ptaszyn Wróblewski (born 1936), musician Iga Wyrwał (born 1989), glamour model Eve Zaremba (born 1930), Polish-born Canadian writer

International relations

Twin towns — Sister cities

Kalisz is twinned with:
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