Polish village on the Bosporus

Anna Wyszynska

Once people described the village 'Soplicowo on the Bosporus'. Although today the Polish village in Turley has lost much of its original character it has remained one of the most extraordinary centres of Polish immigrants in the world. At first, the Polish village was called Adampol to honour its founder Duke Adam Czartoryski who gathered many Polish immigrants in Paris after the fall of the November Uprising. Duke Czartoryski established the so-called Main Agency of the Eastern Mission of the Hotel Lambert in Istanbul; its aim was to carry out activities for Poland's independence. One of the first actions of the chief of the Agency Michal Czajkowski was to convince the prince about the need to create a settlement for the former insurrectionists who were dispersed in the East and who could enter future Polish independent troops. The settlers appeared in Adampol at the beginning of 1842 and on 19 March the first cottage was blessed. Adampol gave them a chance to 'anchor' after a life of wandering that often resembled the fate of one of the first settlers in Adampol Kazimierz Probola. He came from Zamosc. In 1831 he fought in the Fourth Cavalry Regiment and was captured by the Russians. He was drafted into the Tsarist army and sent to Caucasia, and from there he escaped to Cherkessia, was again captured and finally handed over to the Kurds. Together with his owner he travelled across Asia Minor but in the battle with the troops of the Egyptian pasha he was captured for the third time. The Egyptian commander got to know the skills of the Polish soldier and appointed him instructor in the cavalry regiment. Probola escaped from Egypt because he was forced to convert into the Islam. Walking through the desert he reached Istanbul, learnt about the attempt to establish a Polish settlement and came to the place in February 1842.
Today Adampol has got the Turkish name Polonezköy, which means 'Polish village', and is called a paradise beauty spot in the advertisements. For over 160 years people have pursued doggedly the aim to settle at this desert-like wildly overgrown place. The incoming settlers lived in shacks and slept on ground. They gradually began building cottages: simple, with one room, to shelter their family and livestock. Czajkowski's report also mentioned accidents and fires, a plague of wolves killing cattle and even people. At the end of the 19th century certain correspondent of some foreign weekly wrote, 'The colony of Adampol is experiencing poverty because of poor crops, extreme pre-harvest scarcity of food'. However, the village gradually became established and spread. The inhabitants include the names of the progenitors of the biggest Adampol clans: the Biskupskis, the Kepkis, the Dochodas and the Wilkoszewskis and then the Ochockis, the Nowickis, the Minakowskis and the Ryzys.
The period of prosperity began towards the end of the 19th century. The inhabitants of Adampol built houses resembling manor houses with a porch, hall and bread oven, whitewashed thatched houses like those described in 'Master Thaddeus'. Like their Polish forefathers they planted orchards and apiaries, sowed seeds and grew potatoes, which yielded extremely large crops on the Asian soil. They celebrated Christmas with the traditional wafer and hay under the tablecloth. On Mary's feast on 2 February a procession with lit candles walked through the village and on the Feat of the Assumption wreaths were blessed. The solid brick church, built in 1912 by Fr Aleksy Siara, was dedicated to Our Lady of Czestochowa. Yet, the picture of the village was not always idyllic. We should add that there were long periods without pastoral ministry, the Polish school was closed for several years and its teachers were coincidental. In spite of that the inhabitants have preserved the fathers' language and their specific vocabulary, full of the 19th century archaic forms, was examined in the 1970s. The picture of the village has been changing since the 1960s, after the inhabitants received ownership right to their plots and the road to the nearby Istanbul was built. There was an increased wave of immigration to big cities and abroad: to Australia, Germany and Poland. The picturesque village is becoming less and less agricultural and becoming a popular holiday place. The aging houses disappear and new 'pansiyony' - pensions, and even a four star hotel with a swimming pool and tennis courts, are built. When the place became part of the landscape park the uncontrolled commercialisation of the place was limited. Currently, in Polonezköy there are several dozen Polish families who run pensions and restaurants. There is also the House of the Memory of Zofia Rizi, the inhabitant of the village who rendered great services to popularising Polish history and literature. The House exhibits old furniture and tools, documents and photographs showing the history of the village. The photos show the thatched houses, which disappeared, the celebrations and the guests who visited the Polish village. These include the first Turkish President Kemal Atatürk and Pope Nuncio Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli (the future John XXIII), who administered the sacrament of confirmation there. There is also a photo of the meeting of John Paul II with the inhabitants of Adampol, which was held in the Apostolic Nunciature in Istanbul in November 1979 during the Pope's visit to Turkey. Among other things the Pope said, 'The Polish colony in Turkey is small but it has a unique meaning. A unique historical significance'. Now perhaps a new chapter of this history is opening because in 2005 some representatives of Adampol signed an agreement of co-operation with two Polish tourist districts: Lanckorona and Stryszow.

"Niedziela" 50/2006

Editor: Tygodnik Katolicki "Niedziela", ul. 3 Maja 12, 42-200 Czestochowa, Polska
Editor-in-chief: Fr Jaroslaw Grabowski • E-mail: redakcja@niedziela.pl