Home | Introduction | Download e-book | Conference 2001 | Special thanks | The note of law | Contact
Articles: Poland | Małopolska | Mazowsze | Ziemia Łęczycka | Żuławy | Nizina Sartowicko-Nowska | Ziemia Kwidzyńska | Ziemia Walichnowska | Ziemia Sieradzka | Ziemia Wieluńska
Articles --> Żuławy


The purpose of this project was to develop a preliminary catalogue of historical buildings associated with the Dutch ("Olęder") colonization in the Żuławy Wi¶lane region. The term Dutch colonization is imprecise to a certain degree, because in addition to the colonization processes related to settlers that originated in Netherlands - primarily in Frisia and Flanders, it includes the issues related to the settlers who came from the northern Germany, including Dutch settlers who had previously had settled in Germany. Already in the 16th century Poland, the settlers who came from those regions were referred to as "Holender" or "Olęder". This term not so much described the origin of those people as was associated with the legal aspect of that colonization: it referred to the type of land lease contracts (full or partial emphyteusis), and to a lesser degree, to the faith. Therefore, in my opinion it would be more appropriate to use a lower case letter in the term "holender" in order to indicate its specific meaning. Adjectives, such as "holenderski", should be treated in the same way.

The impact of the olęder settlers, who arrived in the Żuławy region between the 16th and teh18th century, has been acknowledged by all authors writing about the history of the region. Historians emphasized their considerable contribution to developing marshy areas and wastelands, shaping the landscape, and introducing new forms of village layouts or even building types; however, concrete, material objects associated with their presence in the region have not been described in a separate publication, as it was in the case of, for instance, the Mazowsze region. In spite of the fact that the area of Żuławy has an incredible amount of relatively well preserved historical buildings and the whole region can be treated as a monument of a cultural landscape, its material heritage is poorly identified and documented. Currently, the landscape of the Żuławy villages is undergoing rapid changes. Entire homesteads, houses, and outbuildings are either disappearing or are being heavily modified and modernized. It is the last moment to document preserved historical monuments of the region, especially wooden buildings, which are particularly at risk of being liquidated. The most critical problem I encountered was an inadequate documentation of the Żuławy villages in comparison to the amount of the preserved material heritage. The institutions responsible for this situation suspended the cataloguing some fifteen years ago, and even earlier, historical monuments were being registered selectively, without any general scheme. Some villages were described in well-documented monographs, which, currently, due to the progressing deterioration and modifications, are invaluable for historians researching the colonization and its architecture, in other villages, only selected buildings were registered in a record card, some villages only have a brief list of addresses, and finally, there are settlements and regions that have not been described even provisionally. In addition to the financial reasons, this situation was also a result of a strange, non-historical division of the region into two parts incorporated in two separate voivodeships. This division reaches back to 1975 when the region was divided into Żuławy Gdańskie and Żuławy Elbl±skie. This arrangement was "corrected" by another administrative act (1999), according to which a section of Żuławy was incorporated into the Warmińsko-Mazurskie voivodeship, which is a completely separate region in terms of the history, economy, geology, and landscape. Thus, the area lacks a uniform program that would provide guidelines for basic research on its historical heritage. This situation also affects other regional issues.

Preparing a thorough documentation of the historical heritage is also hindered by the specificity of the modern Żuławy, which is an effect of an interruption in the centuries-old cultural continuum, which took place in 1945. War and post-war damages made it impossible to precisely identify the layout and range of villages, administrative affiliation of colonies, or ownership relations in a village. A conversion of some villages or their parts into state farms (PGR) had the most destructive effect on the Żuławy region. In most cases, such a conversion was associated with an invasive transformation of the traditional landscape, which included: modification of a field layout, a traditional farm size, a system of driveways, settlement vegetation, and finally, an unremarkable spatial layout of new farms with dull architecture completely unrelated to the regional styles. The changes in spatial layout made a road system more complicated. Vast areas of Żuławy used to have a dense communication network; after 1945, some of the roads lost their original function and in their place, new routes were marked out, especially in the areas with state farms. Currently, the roads are very poorly marked. The problems left from the previous era include still unorganized or even changing village names. Many settlements, even within a single district, have the same or similar names. Frequently, as I personally observed, this situation contributed to erroneous building records in documentation.

Currently, the Żuławy region is inhabited by non-native people or their descendants. Post-war settlers did not have any family or emotional ties with the region. Obviously this cannot be said about generations that were born and raised in Żuławy, but still, the majority of Żuławy residents are unaware of the local traditions associated with the region, their native village, or even with their own house. So, they have been replacing old houses with no qualms. Such an action is not always dictated by a necessity to replace a depreciated building. Frequently, it is a result of an improved financial situation and a desire to follow the new trends in building styles. The residents of Żuławy do not understand the purpose of inventorying "ordinary cottages" or homesteads often expecting their rights to the property to be questioned or - not without reason - administrative problems and financial charges. Among both the blue-collar users of the historical buildings and more educated residents (teachers or district officials) functions a certain classification related to the material objects of the cultural heritage. They divide historical buildings into to groups: "true" historical monuments and "ruins". The majority of the Żuławy residents are aware of the uniqueness of arcaded houses. Their aesthetic values are increasingly more appreciated, which however, does not prevent their deterioration. The remaining part of the cultural heritage, particularly less spectacular traditional Dutch homesteads, which are often in a poor condition, belong to the second category - "ruins". According to the locals, those buildings clearly reflect the carelessness of their owners, disfigure the surroundings and as a manifestation of poverty, backwardness, and glaring mismanagement of the entire region do not deserve any recognition. However, there are also positive signs. Many locals became fascinated by their acquired cultural heritage; they often try to renovate historical buildings and put a lot of effort into restoring their former splendor. Due to community actions, neglected Mennonite cemeteries have been cleaned up.

The research on the material heritage of the Żuławy Wi¶lane region is also hindered by the lack of preliminary works on the subject. As of now, practically, no thorough list of specific categories of historic buildings has been drawn up. The existing documentation of arcaded houses, windmills, Gothic churches, or Mennonite cemeteries by no means includes all objects; surveyors catalogued only the most valuable buildings or those known from the pre-war literature. This catalogue presents results of a preliminary survey of the condition of historical buildings and cultural landscape associated with the Dutch colonization according to its definition, which will be provided in the section preceding the catalogue. Here, I would like to emphasize that the colonization process was only one of many aspects of the rich cultural heritage of the Żuławy region. Description of all objects that can be associated with the Dutch settlement with high probability exceeds the scope of this publication, whose main purpose is focused rather on popularization of the subject and emphasizing the need for more detailed research.

The most characteristic architectural feature of the Dutch colonization is a Dutch house or a homestead. The literature on the subject includes an in-depth description of the Dutch homestead. All authors writing on Żuławy cite the building classification of the region developed by O. Kloeppel, but the images included in such works are most often limited to the spectacular arcaded houses. It seems probable that in addition to the lack of basic inventory, factors responsible for this situation include the fact that it is impossible to clearly determine the relations between the form of a building and its original owner.uilding and its original onono clearly determined more detailed examination of the subject. The displacement of Żuławy inhabitants in the late 1940s interrupted not only the regional traditions, but also the continuum of legal records regarding the property, which taken over by the post-war settlers. For the current owners, the only source of knowledge about the history of their houses are the accounts of the first post-war settlers, who, for some period, lived in the area with the pre-war residents (facing innumerable problems) or second-hand stories of descendants of the original owners, who visit the are for sentimental reasons. Finding the names of the pre-war owners or relations between the old building numbers and the current ones requires long and arduous efforts. Another difficulty is a frequent lack of correlation between a person's surname and his or her religious faith. The majority of Mennonite families trace their origin to area of the former Netherlands; however, many surnames listed in the Mennonite records were used by Dutch, Germans, or even Poles. Furthermore, the houses often changed hands, particularly in the 19th century, that is, precisely in the period when most of them were erected. Researching the history of several homesteads would provide an invaluable amount of historical material. Therefore, for the purposes of the catalogue, I selected representative Dutch homesteads making an assumption that even if the property was not owned by a Dutch or a Mennonite, the form of a homestead would not have been affected. At this point, I would like to emphasize that in spite of the fact that the Dutch homestead was very common in the areas covered by the emphyteutic (Dutch) colonization, it cannot be treated as an exclusive feature of the colonization in Żuławy. Houses of the Dutch type were also present in tenement villages, which in the 17th and 18th century had no Mennonite residents. Also, this type of a building is very common in the neighboring regions (Powi¶le or Wysoczyzna Elbl±ska). In the case of detached houses, if surveyors found that the original owner had a Mennonite surname (this refers to the cases when surnames was not clearly of Dutch origin), a building in question or an identical building located in a different settlement, where the owner's name was unknown, was included in the catalogue as an example of a house, which might have been inhabited by a family of Dutch settlers. I realize my method, which assumes the existence of a relationship between the Dutch colonization tradition and Dutch surnames of house owners (mostly names of Mennonites, who settled in the Żuławy), may raise doubts. The historical buildings are still quite numerous and providing description of all examples was impossible due to the limited scope of the publication; therefore, I selected the most representative, the least modified, and the most prominent examples. A lot of historical buildings are covered in greenery or are surrounded by modern buildings and it is impossible to display them.

The basic method used to prepare the catalogue included field surveys and comparison of their results with archival materials located in conservation offices in Elbl±g and Gdańsk. The materials were collected between August and November of 2006 and demonstrated that, on one hand, many existing buildings of high value have not been registered and probably will never be documented due to their poor condition, and on the other hand, that some of the buildings that have been documented no longer exist.

Home | Introduction | Download e-book | Conference 2001 | Special thanks | The note of law | Contact
Articles: Poland | Małopolska | Mazowsze | Ziemia Łęczycka | Żuławy | Nizina Sartowicko-Nowska | Ziemia Kwidzyńska | Ziemia Walichnowska | Ziemia Sieradzka | Ziemia Wieluńska

Copyright 2005 © jerzyszalygin@wp.pl