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The Dutch settlers - Mennonites, who in the 16th and 17th centuries lived in isolated groups, and in 18th century colonized the Mazowsze lands located on the Vistula river, have been dispersed as a result of numerous resettlements. The dispersion was additionally intensified by the fact that the Dutch colonization, beginning in the mid-18th century, lost its uniform ethnic character. "The Dutch or Lower Saxon element still dominates; however, in some settlements, immigrants from other parts of Germany can be seen, even such whose names point towards Polish origins". [1] This state of affairs was also a result of the previously mentioned politics of Friedrich Wilhelm, who was importing colonists from Central and Southern Germany and settling them in Eastern Prussia.

The Mennonites settled in Mazowsze until the end of the 1750es (except for the Saska Kępa episode, which occurred in 1628) and initially the single families inhabited the villages near Płock (e.g. Troszyn, Borki Wiączemin, Świniary) and Warsaw (Kazuń). The majority of residents who participated in the Dutch colonization belonged to the Evangelical denomination; therefore, from the very beginning Mennonites attempted to occupy one village. The area inhabited by one Mennonite family attracted others, and the inflow of subsequent families was easily predictable. It was a quite common occurrence that the majority of farms were purchased by Mennonites from Evangelicals, for example in Sady or Wymyśl Niemiecki. This was not an isolated example, and such activity quickly became a pattern. The Mennonites were always motivated by the desire to establish a congregation in their place of residence and live in a community.

The first village entirely settled by the Mennonites was Kazuń Niemiecki, founded in 1764 and situated near Nowy Dwór Mazowiecki; the above-mentioned village of Wymyśle (since 1840) was the second. Erection of a church was always an indication of group consolidation and population increase in the local area. The oldest preserved building in Mazowsze, which is located in the village of Sady (dist. Słubice) and initially included in the dominion Świniary, dates from 1806 and was mentioned in a written document as early as 1809 [2]. It is impossible to determine the year of erection of the first church in Kazuń. It is known, however, that it was destroyed around 1812 [3]. The current building was erected in 1892. The subsequent church was erected in Wymyśl in 1818, when a group of Old-Flemish completed the process of purchasing Olędry Chermińskie (original name of Wymyśl) land from the hands of the Evangelicals [4].

This village was also inhabited by members of the Old-Frisian church; however, they were not numerous. The differences between these churches consisted in their followers' different relation to the surrounding world. The Old-Frisians were extremely puritan, which was expressed primarily in their dress, habits, and daily life. They criticized Old-Flemish for their bearing: rich dress, immoral - in their opinion - conduct, and excessively luxurious home furnishing. The differences between these two denominations eventually eroded and, beginning in the first half of the 19th century, they merged into one church that gathered all believers in Wymyśl[5].

The first period of Dutch colonization of the Mazowsze region, which lasted from the second half of the 18th century, had a specific character: the colonists usually remained on the settled area not longer than the duration of their first contract, treating the Vistula river villages as a temporary stopover on their way eastward, where decrees of the emperor Joseph II and the tsarina Catherine II created favorable conditions to colonize the Ukrainian regions Powołże and Wołyń [6].

A second wave of settlers appeared between 1800 and 1806. The settlement of colonists from Prussia and overpopulated regions of Germany was managed by the Prussian state officials. At that time, the majority of the remaining villages located in the area of interest were settled: Nowe Grabie near Dobrzyków, Secymin Niemiecki (currently Nowy Secymin) and others.

The last settlements were founded at the close of the 19th century and the colonization was ended through the granting of freehold to peasants. The villages settled under Dutch law in the Mazowsze region survived practically unchanged until the outbreak of World War II.

In the second half of the 19th century the religious life of the Mennonites, not only in Mazowsze but in the entire area of the Kingdom of Poland, underwent dramatic changes that were caused by discrepancies between religious principles and community life conditions[7]. As a result of their increasing wealth, which was associated with a long-term stay in one area, among other factors, one of the fundamental religious principles - the poverty rule - was broken. The changes in land ownership laws had an unquestionable impact on the settlers' departure from religious doctrines - a slackening of morals and an appearance of previously unprecedented intemperance. The right to purchase land and become its owner replaced the earlier, usually 40-year, lease that was included in various settlement contracts. The religious revival that was caused by the crisis in the Mennonite denomination in Mazowsze began in 1860 and was associated with the transformations in the Mennonite communities in Russia, and also with the activities of Gotfrid Alf in Wola Wodzyńsk (founded around 1820). Gotfrid Alf was a preacher associated with the Baptist church.

The previously-mentioned spiritual and moral crisis, which was deepened by the lack of coherence in the Olęder group, lay at the bottom of these changes The communities included, not only settlers who originated in different parts of Germany, Dutch who arrived in Żuławy in the 16th century, but also Poles and Jews, as was the case in the villages located around Płock and Gostyń. Low standards of religious education, which was caused by the shortage of educated teachers and the lack of a central institution that would control the religious life of the entire community, contributed to the deepening of the religious crisis [8]. Unquestionably, the activities of the Baptists and the interactions between members of both denominations, in spite of the doctrinal differences, had a tremendous impact on the revival of the Mennonite church. And precisely these religious disputes contributed to the creation of the Mennonite brotherly church (Mennoniten Bruder Gemeinde - MBG) in Russia. A new doctrine of the Mennonite brotherly church was compiled based on Unger's (a Mennonite from Chorica) perusal of Simon Menno's works, and was initiated by the re-baptism of community members in the river, which was interpreted as sins absolution. The new doctrine's intention was to liberalize life in the community and change the attitude of believers towards members of other religious groups. Simultaneously, the doctrine allowed group members to conduct charitable and missionary activities [9].

These extensive changes were also met by a response in the Kingdom of Poland. The religious revival also spread over this region as a result of Baptists' missionary activities and contacts with their brothers in Russia. Around 1870 the Wymyśl Mennonites invite two church members from Friedensfeld near Lwów [10]. In the following year, Haindrich Kliwer and Beniamin Schmidt paid a return visit and were ordained deacon and preacher during the visit. Having returned, they began missionary activities and converted many community members. By 1885, the majority of residents already belonged to the newly founded church. In 1907, the Elder of the former Mennonite church adopted the new faith. The remaining few followers of the old Mennonite church were transferred to the administration of the still-active Kazuń Niemiecki church (currently Nowy Kazuń).

Many Polish Mennonites emigrated to America during the interwar period, but those who remained continued cultivating their religion. This right was guaranteed by, among others, Poland's interwar legislation. In that period, according to the 1921 national census, 1500 Mennonites lived in Poland, 736 of whom resided in the Warsaw province. In Gostyń district, 187 Mennonites lived in Wymyśl Niemiecki, 21 in Świniary, 20 in Wąsoszy, 24 in Życk Niemiecki, and 22 in Leonów. In the Warsaw district, 320 Mennonites lived in Kazuń Niemiecki and 73 in other villages of this district. In the Sochaczew district, 30 group members lived in Arciechów and Bieniew. The Masses were held either in churches or in private apartments.

However, the majority of the Olęder settlement residents in Mazowsze were members of the Evangelical dioceses in Warsaw or Płock. The Olęder churches of the Warsaw diocese were located in Kutno in the Kutno district (branch church founded in 1797 with 822 members,1 church and 7 cemeteries), Nowy Dwór in the Warsaw district (founded in 1782 with 2000 members, 1 church, 4 houses of prayer, and 15 cemeteries), Radzymin in the Radzymin district (founded in 1844, with 1147 members, 1 church, 6 houses of prayer, and 6 cemeteries), and Karolew in the Gostyń district (branch church founded in 1871, 565 members, 1 church, and 4 cemeteries), among others. The Płock diocese churches were located in Głąbin in the Gostyń district (founded in 1829 with 3500 members, 1 church, 5 houses of prayer, and 11 cemeteries), in Gostynin in the Gostynin district (founded in 1826, 2500 members, 1 church, 2 prayer rooms, 11 cemeteries), in Wyszogród in the Płock district (founded in 1805, 2000 members, 1 church, 3 houses of prayer, and 8 cemeteries) and in Secymin in the Sochaczew district (branch church founded in 1805, 3000 members, 1 church, 5 houses of prayer and 7 cemeteries) [11].

The villages located on the Vistula riverbanks had a high percentage of residents of German ethnicity. Poles were also present in these villages. Neighborliness, mutual respect, understanding, as well as many aspects of the harmonious coexistence did not prevent the approaching tragedy. The cruelties of war, prejudice, Nazi occupation, and the Jałta agreement were responsible for a nearly complete displacement of the indigenous inhabitants of the Olęder villages. For many, the relocation to the west ended tragically. One of the examples is the Elder of the Wymyśl Mennonite community, Leonard Ratzlaff, who was displaced in 1947 and died in Szczecin. A considerable number of the sect members were interned in relocation camps and from there emigrated to Canada. The residency of Olęders in Poland has irrevocably ended. Whether their heritage will share the fate of the people, only time will tell.

Many buildings that were erected by the settlers survive to the present day in the surveyed area. The majority of them were built at the beginning of 20th century; however, buildings dating as far back as the 19th century are also present. The oldest site is the church located in Sady (dist. Słubice) dating from 1806. In Mazowsze, the number of preserved buildings (both residential and farming) equals 193. These objects are located in 56 of the total 191 Olęder villages [12]. We also registered 53 non-existing objects.

[1] I. Baranowski, Wsie holenderskie na ziemiach polskich, "Przegląd Historyczny", vol. 19, 1915
[2] W. Marchlewski, Mennonici w Polsce (o powstaniu społeczności mennonitów Wymyśla Nowego), "Etnografia Polska", vol. XXX, 1986, p. 137.
[3] Ibid.
[4] E. L. Ratzlaff, Im Weichselbogen. Mennonitensiedlungen in Zentralpolen, Winnipeg 1971, p. 10.
[5]W. Marchlewski, Mennonici w Polsce (o powstaniu społeczności mennonitów Wymyśla Nowego), "Etnografia Polska", vol. XXX, 1986
[6] I. Baranowski, Wsie holenderskie na ziemiach polskich, "Przegląd Historyczny", vol. 19, 1915, p. 71.
[7] E. Kupsch, Geschichte der Baptisten in Polen 1852-1932, Łódź 1933.
[8]W. Marchlewski, Mennonici w Polsce (o powstaniu społeczności mennonitów Wymyśla Nowego), "Etnografia Polska", vol. XXX, 1986, p. 142.
[9] C. J. Dyck, An introduction to Mennonite History, Scottdale 1972, p. 128.
[10] E. L. Ratzlaff, op. cit., p. 60.
[11] S. Grelewski, Wyznania protestanckie i sekty religijne w Polsce współczesnej, Lublin 1937.
[12]In total, 31 cemeteries associated with this colonization were preserved to the present day.

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