Siedlce

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Location
52°09'00"N
022°16'00"E
Country
 Poland
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Description

Siedlce [Polish pronunciation: ['ɕɛdlt͡sɛ] (listen)] (Yiddish: שעדליץ‎ Shedlits) is a city in eastern Poland with 77,872 inhabitants (as of 2018). Situated in the Masovian Voivodeship (since 1999), previously the city was the capital of a separate Siedlce Voivodeship (1975–1998). The city is situated between two small rivers, the Muchawka and the Helenka, and lies along the European route E30, around 90 kilometres (56 mi) east of Warsaw. It is the fourth largest city of the Voivodeship, and the seat of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Siedlce. Siedlce is a local educational, cultural and business center.

History

The city, which is a part of the historical province of Lesser Poland, was most probably founded some time before the 15th century, and was first mentioned as Siedlecz in a document issued in 1448. In 1503, local nobleman Daniel Siedlecki erected a new village of the same name nearby, together with a church. In 1547 the town was granted Magdeburg rights by King Sigismund the Old. Siedlce as an urban center was created after a merger of the two neighboring villages. It was a private town, administratively located in the Lublin Voivodeship in the Lesser Poland Province of the Polish Crown. In the 16th century, and until the mid-17th century, Siedlce prospered, with its population quickly growing and a number of artisans opening their shops here. The period of prosperity ended during the Swedish invasion of Poland (1655–1660), when Siedlce, together with most Lesser Poland's towns and cities, was burned by the Cossacks, Tatars, Muscovities, Swedes and the Transylvanians. After these conflicts, the town belonged to the Czartoryski family, as a dowry of Joanna Olędzka, who married Prince Michał Jerzy Czartoryski. In 1692 Siedlce burned again, and the destruction was used by Kazimierz Czartoryski, the son of Michał Jerzy, to plan a new, modern market square, together with adjacent streets. In the first half of the 18th century, a new parish church was built. In 1775, after Aleksandra Czartoryska married Hetman Michał Kazimierz Ogiński, the town passed over to the Ogiński family. At that time Siedlce emerged as one of the most important cultural centers of the nation. The Ogiński Palace was visited by several notable artists and writers, such as Franciszek Karpiński, and Julian Ursyn Niemcewicz. King Stanisław August Poniatowski visited the palace twice, in 1783 and 1793. Due to efforts of Aleksandra Ogińska, several improvements took place in Siedlce. Among them, a new town hall was built, which now is one of the symbols of the city.

Partitions of Poland

Siedlce remained a private town until the military Partitions of Poland, when it changed hands several times. During the third partition of Poland (1795), Siedlce was annexed by the Habsburg Empire, and became the seat of Kreisamt (1795–1809) in the Austrian Partition. In 1809 Siedlce became part of the Polish Duchy of Warsaw established by Napoleon, within which it was the capital of the Siedlce Department. Following his defeat, during the creation of the Russian-controlled Congress Poland (1815), Siedlce became the seat of a province in the Russian Partition (see Podlasie Governorate). During the November Uprising against Russian domination, the Battle of Iganie (10 April 1831) took place near the town. In the January Uprising of 1863, Siedlce was again an important center of the anti-Tsarist rebellion. In 1867 the Siedlce Governorate was created. Siedlce continued to develop with new administration buildings, a post office complex, a courthouse, and a new prison. In the late 19th century, Siedlce became an important railroad junction, with connections to Warsaw (completed 1866), Brest Litovsk (1867), Małkinia Górna (1884), and Czeremcha (1906). In the beginning of the 20th century, local students launched a protest against the ruthless Russification policies. Subsequently, in 1906 the Russian secret police organized the Siedlce pogrom in order to terrorize the locals. At that time, Siedlce was an important center of Jewish culture, with Jews making up 50% of the population.

Interbellum and World War II

In the Second Polish Republic, since the return to independence in 1918, Siedlce belonged to the Lublin Voivodeship (1919–39) in the central part of the country (unlike today) with the provincial capital in Lublin. During the Polish–Soviet War, the city was briefly captured by the Russians, and then recaptured by Poles on 17 August 1920. On 19 August 1920, after the Polish victory in the Battle of Warsaw, Marshal Józef Piłsudski, Prime Minister Wincenty Witos and Minister Maciej Rataj held a meeting in the city. Within interwar Poland, the city remained an important rail junction and was the location of a military garrison, where the 9th Infantry Division was stationed before the German-Soviet invasion of Poland, which started World War II in September 1939. During the invasion of Poland, Germany bombed Polish civilian refugees on the road from Warsaw to Siedlce, and the city was captured and then occupied by Germany until 1944. The Polish government evacuated the Polish gold reserve, part of which was stored in Siedlce, to Polish-allied France. In mid-September 1939, the German Einsatzgruppe V entered the city to commit atrocities against Poles. Siedlce was included within the Warsaw District of the General Government (German-occupied central Poland). During the war, the area of Siedlce was home to a large partisan force of the Home Army and other underground organizations, such as Armia Ludowa. Due to German terror, the town lost one-third of its population, including its entire Jewish community deported to extermination camps during the Holocaust. In late July 1944 (see Operation Tempest), Home Army units freed the town, together with the Red Army. After the war, 50% of Siedlce was in ruins, including the town hall.

Jewish history

Until the Second World War, like many other cities in Europe, Siedlce had a significant Jewish population. At some times, indeed, Jews were the majority of its population. The presence of Jews at Siedlce is attested from the mid-16th century – inn keepers, merchants and artisans. A Jewish hospital existed in the town since the early 18th century. In 1794, a Beit Midrash (study hall) was founded in the town and 1798 the Jewish cemetery was extended, testifying to the increase of the community. These changes coincided with the town coming under Austrian rule with the Third Partition of Poland. Austrian rule lasted until 1809. It was passed to Russian rule in 1815 formally (in 1813 de facto), that lasted for over a hundred years. Until 1819 the Jewish community of Warsaw, 90 kilometres (56 miles) to the west, was formally subject to the authority of the Siedlce rabbis. As a result of Russian discriminatory policies for much of the 19th century – a time when the town's population steadily increased – Jews were the majority of Siedlce's population: 3,727 (71.5%) in 1839; 4,359 (65%) in 1841; 5,153 (67.5%) in 1858; 8,156 (64%) in 1878. Later on, the percentage of Jews decreased due to non-Jewish migration: according to the Russian census of 1897, out of the total population of 23,700, Jews constituted 11,400 (so around 48% percent). The first Polish census, in 1921, recorded 14,685 Jews living in Siedlce. Their number remained steady in the interwar period, and in 1939, on the eve of the Second World War, there were some 15,000 Jews living in the town.In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, secular political and cultural activity was evident among Jews in Siedlce, similar to other parts of Central and Eastern Europe. In 1900 the Bund started activity in the town, as did the Zionist movement, and many of the town's Jews were adherents of the Polish Socialist Party. Between 1911 and 1939, two Yiddish weeklies were published in the town, and a Jewish high school was founded during the First World War. In the last decades of Tsarist rule, many Siedlce activists (both Polish and Jewish) took part in the 1905 Revolution. After a series of attacks on Russians in all of Poland on Bloody Wednesday (15 August 1906) the Russian authorities organized a pogrom in Siedlce in reprisal on 8–10 September 1906, in which 26 Jews perished. In the wake of the First World War the town was affected by the Polish-Soviet War, being occupied by the Red Army in 1920 and taken over by the Polish Army in 1921.

World War II

In 1939, Jews constituted some 37% of the town's population. Germans deported over a thousand Jews from elsewhere in Poland to Siedlce in 1940, especially from Łódź, Kalisz and Pabianice. In March 1941 – still before the formal decision to implement the "Final Solution" which meant the wholesale extermination of the Jews – German Order Police battalions rampaged for three days in Siedlce, killing many of its Jewish inhabitants. In August of the same year the Jews were forced into the new Siedlce Ghetto. It consisted of several small city blocks and over a dozen walkable streets in the city centre. On 1 October 1941 the ghetto was completely cut off from the outside world. In August 1942 some 10,000 Siedlce Jews were deported to Treblinka and murdered there together with a similar number of Jews from three nearby transit ghettos: in Łosice, holding local Jews and families from Huszlew, Olszanka, and Świniarów; in Sarnaki, with Jews from Górki, Kornica, Łysów; and the third transit ghetto with prisoners from Mordy, Krzesk-Królowa Niwa, Przesmyki, Stok Ruski, and Tarków. The town's remaining Jews imprisoned at the "little ghetto" were sent off to extermination on 25 November 1942. The Siedlce Jewish community was not restored after the Nazi defeat, and the town's later history lacked the hitherto conspicuous Jewish component. Survivors of the town's population established an association in Israel which in 1956 published a comprehensive memorial book on the community's history. In 1971 Y. Kravitz, one of the survivors, published his memoirs entitled "Five Years of Living Hell under Nazi Rule in the City of Siedlce".

Points of interest

Among the historic architecture of the city are: Ogiński Palace complex with the Aleksandria Park, the Holy Cross Chapel (Ogiński Chapel) and the present-day State Archive old town hall Siedlce Cathedral St. Stanislaus Church Polish Post Office (Classicist) former guardhouse (Classicist), now housing a public library Classicist building of the former theater Neoclassicist building of the National Bank of Poland (architect: Marian Lalewicz) District Court Resursa Obywatelska preserved old townhouses

Culture

The city is a cultural hub for the entire province, with festivals, exhibitions, and concerts of country-wide significance. The town has three museums and three public libraries. The principal animators of culture operating in the city are the Culture and Art Center (CKiS) and the Municipal Cultural Centre (MOK). There are two movie theatres; the art-house cinema run by the CKiS, and the multiscreen cinema Novekino network. A number of artistic groups operate in the city, including the dance companies LUZ and Caro Dance, the Choir of the City of Siedlce, and the ES Theatre. The city also has an art gallery located at the University. A painting by El Greco, "The Ecstasy of St. Francis", is preserved there. It is the only El Greco painting in Poland. Among the media outlets which operate in this area are the local television (TV Siedlce) and the Catholic radio station Radio Podlasie. Siedlce is the location of the regional headquarters of the TVP Warsaw/TVP Info, RDC (Radio For You) and Radio Eska.

Sport

The city's most popular sports clubs are: MKP Pogoń Siedlce – football club, currently playing in the Polish third division, also playing in the past in the second division MKS Pogoń Siedlce – rugby club, playing in the Rugby Ekstraliga, finishing 2nd in 2014 and 3rd in 2017, 2018 and 2019 WKS 22 pp Siedlce – defunct football club, which played in the top division in the 1930s

Education

Higher learning

Uniwersytet Przyrodniczo-Humanistyczny w Siedlcach (University of Natural Sciences and Humanities in Siedlce) Collegium Mazovia Innowacyjna Szkoła Wyższa (Collegium Mazovia Innovative Higher School) Wyższe Seminarium Duchowne Diecezji Siedleckiej (Seminary of the Diocese of Siedlce) Instytut Teologiczny w Siedlcach (Institute of Theology in Siedlce)

Notable secondary schools

I LO im. Bolesława Prusa (Bolesław Prus High School) II LO im. Św. Królowej Jadwigi (St. Queen Jadwiga High School) I Katolickie Liceum Ogólnokształcące im. Świętej Rodziny (Holy Family Catholic High School) IV LO im. Hetmana Stanisława Żółkiewskiego (Hetman Stanisław Żółkiewski High School) Zespół Szkół Ponadgimnazjalnych nr 1 im. Stanisława Staszica (Stanisław Staszic High School Complex) Zespół Szkół Ponadgimnazjalnych nr 3 im. Stanisława Staszica (Stanisław Staszic High School Complex)

International relations

Twin towns — Sister cities

Siedlce is twinned with:

Notable residents

Bohdan Arct (1914–1973) – fighter pilot, writer Artur Boruc (born 1980) – a football goalkeeper Richard Burgin (1892-1981) – Jewish composer who attended St. Petersburg Conservatory and became the concert master for the Boston Symphony Orchestra Vladimir Chelomei (1914–1984)– Soviet Academician and scientist in the field of mechanics and control processes; Designer of missiles, spacecraft, and space stations; Founder and the General Constructor of OKB-52 (now NPO Mashinostroyenia). Lidia Chojecka (born 1977) – Polish middle-distance runner who specializes in the 1500 metres and sometimes 3000 metres Aleksander Fogiel (1910–1996), theatre and film actor, director, theatre director and designer Izrael Hieger (1901–1986) – biochemist Aleksandra Klejnowska (born 1982) – weightlifter Bolesław Prus (1847–1912) – writer, novelist, a leading figure in the history of Polish literature and philosophy Jacob Stodolsky, Yiddish poet and editor, member of the Introspectivist Literary group in early 20th century Przemysław Truściński (born 1972) – artist Leon Wyczółkowski (1852–1936) – painter Louis Waller (born 1935) – Australian law professor Agata Wróbel (born 1981) – weightlifter, 2000 Summer Olympics silver medalist Maciej Rosołek, (born 2001) - footballer
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