Tag Archives: Poland

Climate clippings 113

1. The Amazon is drying


Since 2000, rainfall has decreased by up to 25% across a vast swath of the southeastern Amazon, according to a new satellite analysis.

The area of concern is 12 times the size of California. The Amazon overall takes up 25% of the global carbon cycle that vegetation is responsible for, so it’s a significant carbon sink. With further drying the Amazon could become a carbon source rather than a sink.

Causes are not clear, but it’s possible that rainfall patterns have moved further north with global warming.

In related news, the re-election of Dilma Rousseff as president is seen as a significant negative for the environment in Brazil.

2. Great Barrier Reef protection plan ‘ignores the threat of climate change’

In its formal response to the Reef 2050 long-term sustainability plan, which was drawn up by the Australian and Queensland governments, the Australian Academy of Science states the strategy is “inadequate to achieve the goal of restoring or even maintaining the diminished outstanding universal value of the reef.”

There is “no adequate recognition” in the 2050 plan of the importance of curbing greenhouse gases.

Professor Terry Hughes, director of the Australian Research Council Center of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies and an academy fellow, said the plan was focused on the sustainable development of four “mega ports” adjacent to the reef, rather than conservation of the reef itself.

The Great Barrier Reef has lost around half its coral cover in the past 30 years. The question now is whether UNESCO will list the GBR as endangered.

3. Limiting global warming to 2°C is unlikely to save most coral reefs

In this recent post I mentioned that “preserving more than 10 per cent of coral reefs worldwide would require limiting warming to below +1.5°C (atmosphere–ocean general circulation models (AOGCMs) range: 1.3–1.8°C) relative to pre-industrial levels”. Following the links, the paper by K. Frieler at al is here.

It annoys me that the dangers to reefs from temperature change and ocean acidification are almost never mentioned, even by greenies. Opposition pollies should be speaking up too! That paper has been around since 2011.

4. Carbon capture and storage research budget slashed

The government has cut almost half a billion dollars from research into carbon capture and storage – which the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) deems crucial for continued use of coal – despite the prime minister insisting coal is the “foundation of our prosperity”.

In the budget the government cut $459.3m over three years from its carbon capture and storage flagship program, leaving $191.7m to continue existing projects for the next seven years. The program had already been cut by the previous Labor government and much of the funding remained unallocated.

John Connor, the chief executive of the Climate Institute, said CCS “has to be one of the clean energy options available because all the modelling says that to avoid temperature rises of more than two degrees, we have to take carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere”.

The first full-scale CCS power plant, the Boundary Dam Carbon Capture and Storage Project in Canada, opened last month.

5. Poland rejects zero coal by 2100

Poland and a bunch of eastern Europe countries “have categorically rejected the target put forward by the world’s top climate scientists to reduce carbon emissions to zero by 2100 to avoid dangerous global warming…”

You might recall that when Poland hosted the UNFCCC Conference of Parties in 2013 it was positively promoting coal.

The EU has not yet apportioned the effort between countries in planning to meet recently announced emissions reduction targets. The fun is about to begin!

6. Roof top solar in San Francisco

New regulations in San Francisco will require new buildings to have roof top solar or gardens or both.

7. Tesla solar supercharging network

Tesla is rolling out a solar supercharging network for electric vehicles throughout the world eventually. Soon they will make a beginning in Australia.

The superchargers provide half a full charge in as little as 20 minutes, and are usually located near amenities like roadside restaurants, cafes, and shopping centers. Usually they have between 4 and 10 stalls.

The $5 billion “giagfactory” to be built in Nevada will generate more than 100% of its electricity needs with wind and solar.

The world is changing!

8. News of energy storage is a big, big deal

So says Sophie Vorrath at RenewEconomy:

The big announcements keep coming from the energy storage sector, with news this week that US behind-the-meter startup, Stem, has been tapped to provide 85MW of distributed energy storage to households in the West Los Angeles Basin.

The deal, a multi-year agreement awarded to Stem by Southern California Edison (SCE), marks America’s largest distributed energy storage project to date, and the first time energy storage has competed with traditional energy sources like natural gas at this scale.

For its part of the deal, Stem will deploy its advanced, behind-the-meter energy storage technology at customer locations in the Western LA Basin to act as dispatchable capacity to enhance the local reliability of the region.

In other words, using the combination of storage and its proprietary software platform, Stem will allow customers to monitor and manage energy use, which in turn will provide additional capacity to SCE.

9. Billboard banned

You may have heard that Brisbane Airport banned a billboard suggesting to incoming G20 delegates that climate change should be on their agenda. Apparently the billboard was “too political”.


Getup and a bunch of other NGOs are campaigning to have the decision reversed.

The billboard was based on the experience of South Australian grape grower David Bruer, a farmer from South Australia who lost $25,000 worth of grapes in one day when temperatures soared to 45°C last year.

Noel’s translation of Dąbrówka Wielkopolska (fmly Groß Dammer) article in Polish Wikipedia

Noel Cameron-Baehnisch in a rush of enthusiasm has translated the Dąbrówka Wielkopolska (fmly Groß Dammer) article in Polish Wikipedia. This may mainly be of interest to specialists and enthusiasts but the persistent will be rewarded. I’ve added here some images from the article, first the famous folkloric church:


Next to the church stands a belfry:


Here’s the famous chateau, apparently as it appeared in 1858:


This is a more modern version, in a winter mood:


This is a park scene in the chateau complex:


In the centre of the village we find an attractive pond:


Related articles may be found under the tag Bahnisch family history.

Here’s Noel:

My rough translation of the Polish WIKIPEDIA article: found 7/7/2014; translated word-by-word using the Internet on the 9 July 2014. Dabrowka (pronounced “dom-BROOF-kah”) is the village where my Polish ancestors, the Ruciaks (“ROO-chark”), came from; they were Prussian subjects but ethnically very Polish. I assume the information in this WIKIPEDIA article is accurate, though I know it consists of contributions from one person or several people, none of whom can be classified as professional historians. WIKIPEDIA is free; professional history is not.

Dąbrówka Wielkopolska (niem. Groß Dammer [2]) – wieś w Polsce położona w województwie lubuskim, w powiecie świebodzińskim, w gminie Zbąszynek.

Translation notes: Polish is a heavily inflected language; words typically consist of a stem followed by all sorts of complex “inflections” or case endings, like in Greek, Latin, Russian and German).

niem. (abbreviation) = German. wies = village (“-wice” in placenames; wsi = in the village). “w” is a preposition which means in, towards, to, etc.
Village on Polish territory, in the Lubuska Province, District of Swiebodzin, sub-district of Zbaszynek (the modern industrial and railway town just south of Dabrowka).

Państwo Polska [Nation of Poland]
Województwo lubuskie [Province of Lubuska]
Powiat świebodziński [District of Swiebodzin]
Gmina Zbąszynek [Sub-district of Zbaszynek]
Liczba ludności (2010) 1172 [1] [population in 2010]
Strefa numeracyjna (+48) 68 [telephone area code]
Tablice rejestracyjne FSW [car number-plate begins with “FSW”]

Spis treści [List of Contents]
1 Historia [history]
2 Zabytki [monuments]
3 Galeria

4 Przypisy [references]

[Brian – The above images appeared from nowhere. The aren’t in the Word file Noel sent me, or in the back-end copy that generates the post, so I can’t remove them!]

Miejscowość wzmiankowana była już w 1406 jako wieś szlachecka Dambrowca w dobrach zbąszyńskich. W XV w. osada była w posiadaniu rodziny Zbąskich. Niestety we wsi nie zachowała się stara kronika z XIV w. napisana po łacinie i po polsku przechowywana w miejscowym kościele św. Jakuba Apostoła, ponieważ wypożyczona została przez Uniwersytet Humboldta w Berlinie i nigdy już do Dąbrówki nie powróciła [3].

Zbaszyn = German Bentschen, an important town just SE of Dabrowka; many families left the Bentschen district for South Australia. Neubentschen (New Bentschen) = Zbanszynek.

This place was mentioned as early as 1406 as the wies szlachecka (noble village = village owned by an aristocrat) of DAMBROWCA in the Zbaszyn Town records. W XV. wieku (in the 15th century) this settlement (osada) was the possession of a Zbaszyn family. Unfortunately the village no longer has its stara kronika z XIV w. (14th-century Old Chronicle), written in Latin (po lacinie) and Polish (po polsku) and stored in the Church of Saint James the Apostle (Jakuba Apostola) – because it was borrowed (wypozyczona) by the Humboldt University in Berlin (the oldest and most prestigious university in Berlin) and nie powrocila (never returned)!!

Osada zbudowana na planie tzw. owalnicy z charakterystycznym placem wewnętrznym, zwanym nawsiem.

z = the preposition means with, from, about, out of, because of, in, etc.
Settlement built on a so-called oval (owalnicy) plan with characteristic … … [too difficult for me to translate the rest].

Mimo bezpośredniego sąsiedztwa z niemieckim obszarem etnicznym i procesów germanizacyjnych, polska ludność autochtoniczna stanowiła zawsze większość mieszkańców zachowując polską mowę i obyczaje. W 1905 we wsi mieszkało 1.038 osób, w tym 90,1% Polaków oraz 9,7% Niemców [4].

niemieckim = the stem niem plus a complex inflection and case ending = German.

Despite (mimo) the closeness of ethnically German territory and the process of Germanification (procesow germanizacyjnnych), the native population always (zawsze) preserved (zachowujac) its polska mowe i obyczaje (Polish language and customs). In 1905, we wsi (in the village) were 1038 people, of whom 90.1% were ethnically Polakow (Polish) and 9.7% ethnically Niemcow (German).

W 1910 jako dominium Gross Dammer miejscowość należała do Bernharda von Britzke. Mimo protestów polskiej ludności w 1919 pozostała w granicach Rzeszy na mocy decyzji komisji międzyalianckiej. W latach 1815-1945 Dąbrówka Wielkopolska należała do powiatu międzyrzeckiego (Kreis Meseritz).

In 1910, the “dominium” of Gross Dammer was owned by the aristocrat, Bernhard von Britzke (von is the aristocratic adjective and Britzke looks like a Slavic name; Bernharda is in the genitive case): in other words, the village was owned by Von Britzke, who obviously lived in the big palac (chateau). Despite (mimo) the protests of the Polish population in 1919, it remained inside the border of the Rzesz (Polish form of Reich), because of a decision by an international commission. In the years 1815-1945, Dabrowka belonged to Kreis Meseritz (the Prussian District of Meseritz Town).

W latach 1929–1939 we wsi działała polska szkoła, w której nauczało 3 nauczycieli, a uczyło się 140 dzieci [5]. Szkoła po raz pierwszy wzmiankowana była w 1640. W miejscowości istniało także przedszkole polskie założone w 1935 roku, z 70 dziećmi.

In the years 1929-1939, the village operated its own Polish school (polska szkola), in which 3 teachers (nauczycieli) taught about 140 dzieci (children). The school was pierwszy wzmiankowana (first mentioned) in the year 1640. There was also (takze) a Polish kindergarten (przed-szkole polskie), founded in 1935, with 70 youngsters (dziecmi).

W 1939 na 1.287 mieszkańców wsi Polaków było 986. We wsi w 1923 powstaje Polskie Towarzystwo Gimnastyczne Sokół założone przez Stanisława Mizernego, które posiadało męską i żeńską sekcję sportową. W miejscowości istniał także oddział regionalny Związku Polaków w Niemczech, Przysposobienie Rolnicze, Chór Polski oraz Kółko Rolnicze.

In 1939, of the 1287 village residents, 986 considered themselves to be Polakow (Poles). In the village, in 1923, was founded a branch of the POLSKIE TOWARZYSTWO GIMNASTYCZNE “SOKOL” by Stanislaw Mizern, which had male and female sporting sections. (This “Falcon” Polish Gymnastics Society was part of the Pan-Slavic Movement.) The village also (takze) had a regional branch (oddzial) of the non-political Zwiazku Polakow w Niemczech [Union of Poles in Germany], a Przysposobienie Rolnicze [agricultural college], a Chor Polski [Polish choir] and a Kolko Rolnicze [agricultural “circle” or club].

W 1934 roku, utworzono stały obóz Arbeitdienstu. W 1935 miasto Lipsk rozpoczęło tuż przy Dąbrówce budowę osady niemieckiej pod nazwą Limbach, dla uczczenia SA-manna Limbacha, zabitego w walce nazistów z komunistami. Wg oceny niemieckiej gazety “Deutsche Allgemeine Zeitung” osada ta powstała w celu wzmocnienia żywiołu niemieckiego “muszącego ciężko walczyć na Pograniczu z mniejszością polską”[6]. W lipcu 1938 roku, nastąpiło uroczyste poświęcenie 20 gospodarstw, wielkości 20 ha każde przeznaczonych dla niemieckich kolonistów-członków SA i SS [5].

[In 1933 Hitler ruthlessly grabbed power and strangled German Democracy.] In 1934, an Arbeit-dienst camp was set up. In 1935 the City of Leipzig (Lipsk) began to construct osady niemieckiej (German settlements), called Limbach after an SA soldier of that name, killed in Nazi action against German communists. (SA = Nazi Brownshirts.) According to the German newspaper (gazety) “Deutsche Allgemeine Zeitung”, the settlement was founded to strengthen the German presence in those border districts z mniejszoscia polska (with Polish minorities). In lipcu (July) 1938, there was a ceremony to dedicate 20 gospodstw (farms), each of 20 hectares, mainly for niemieckich kolonistow (German colonists) who were czlonkow (members) of the SA and SS. [You can be sure these colonists left quickly in 1944, of their own volition! Limbach is now called Samsonki, about 3 km east of Dabrowka.]

Podczas wojny, polskojęzyczna ludność Dąbrówki była przez Niemców wysiedlana i zsyłana do obozów koncentracyjnych, dotyczyło to szczególnie polskich działaczy społecznych i narodowych, np. Jana Budycha współorganizatora Banku Ludowego i jednego z organizatorów polskiej szkoły w Dąbrówce Wielkopolskiej. Łącznie zginęło 12 osób [7].

During the War (“wojn” is the stem for “war”), polskojezyczna (Polish-speaking) residents of Dabrowka were arrested by the Germans and sent to obozow koncentracyjnych (concentration camps), especially Polish social and nationalist activists (dzialaczy), such as Jan [John] Budych, managing-director of the local People’s Bank and one of the organizers of the local Polish schools (polskiej szkoly) in Dabrowka. Lacznie (in total) zginelo (were murdered) 12 osob (people), by the Nazis, including Jan.

(The surname Budych is significant because Carl Albert Budich [sic: “BOO-dik”] (1839-1911) married Franziska Naida (1845-1891) in 1863 in South Australia: Franziska was the niece and namesake of Franziska Baehnisch nee Ruciak (Ruciack); Fran Naida’s mother was Severina Ruciak, Fran Baehnisch’s sister. The Budich (Budick) surname is still found in South Australia. So are the surnames Naida (Nayda) and Ruciack. All these families left Dabrowka district and so missed out on the trauma and horrors of two idiotic ultra-nationalistic World Wars. Instead, they had the privilege of helping to destroy an out-of-control ultra-militaristic Germany, then watching from afar the formation of two new and peaceful Germanys, one free, one not free, next to a proud and independent, if not free, Poland.)

W 1945 wieś została przyłączona do Polski. W uznaniu zasług w zachowaniu polskości wieś, w 1973 została odznaczona Krzyżem Grunwaldu II klasy. W latach 1945-1954 siedziba gminy Dąbrówka Wielkopolska. W latach 1975-1998 miejscowość administracyjnie należała do województwa zielonogórskiego.

In 1945, the village (wies) was attached to Poland. In recognition of its meritorious behaviour as a polskosci wies (Polish village), in 1973 it was awarded the Grunwald Cross (Second Class). (In the battle of Grunwald, in 1410, the Poles crushed the Teutonic Knights.) From 1945-1954, it was in the sub-district (gminy) of Dabrowka. From 1975-1998, it was administered by the Province of Zielona Gora. [1998 marks the end of Communist Poland.]

Siedziba Parafii Niepokalanego Poczęcia Najświętszej Maryi Panny i św. Jakuba Apostoła.

Seat of the Parish of the Niepokalanego Poczecia (Immaculate Conception) Najswietszej Maryi Panny (of the Blessed Virgin Mary) and of Saint Jakub Apostol (James the Apostle).

Zabytki [Monuments]
Według rejestru Narodowego Instytutu Dziedzictwa na listę zabytków wpisane są [8]:

According to the National Heritage Institute’s list of registered monuments:

kościół parafialny rzymsko-katolicki pod wezwaniem Niepokalanego Poczęcia NMP, z połowy XVII-XVIII wieku
zespół pałacowy: pałac, neorenesansowy z lat. 1856-1859; park, z połowy XIX wieku.

kosciol (pronounced “KOSS-ya-choo-wa”) = church. parafialny = parish (adj.). rzymsko-katolicki = Roman Catholic. pod wezwaniem = called. z polowy XVII-XXIII wieku = [built in] mid-17th century to 18th century.
Chateau complex: the palac [“PAH-wah-ts”] or chateau, Neo-Renaissance, [built] in 1856-1859. And the chateau’s park, mid-19th century.


1. Kościół par. pw. Niep. Poczęcia NMP [parish church called the IC of the BVM]
2. Pałac [palace or chateau]
3. Park w zespole pałacowym [park in chateau complex]
4. Staw w centrum wsi [pond in centre of village; staw is pronounced “STAH-ff”.]
5. Neorenesansowy pałac [Neo-Renaissance chateau]
6. Pałac na ilustracji z 1858 r. [chateau illustrated in 1858 year]
7. Dzwonnica przy kościele parafialnym [belfry beside the parish church]

[Brian – again the images appeared from nowhere. Curious because what we have here is not co-extensive with what appears in the linked article.

Przypisy [References]

Reference [4] is the most interesting one:

Na podstawie danych ze spisu powszechnego z 1905 r., wg deklarowanego języka ojczystego i religii; część ludności zadeklarowała inny język ojczysty. Gemeindelexikon für das Königreich Preußen. Heft V. Provinz Posen, Berlin 1908.

Based on data collected by the Census (spisu) of 1905, based on stated (deklarowanego = declared) jezyka ojczystego (native language = mother tongue) and religii (religions); segment of population declaring “other” (“inny”) native language. Parish Lexikon for the Prussian Kingdom. Volume 5. Province of Posen (Poznań in Polish). Berlin, 1908.

And finally, I must tackle the text of one of the 3 plaques I photographed in 2004 on the outside of the parish church. Our Polish guide Bolek told me the 12 listed people had died in WWII. I had always guessed that they were young men compulsorily drafted into Hitler’s armies and then killed in action. But I know better now. And I must apologize to the families of the 12 martyrs, who are my very distant cousins, for the misunderstanding. This is what happens when a family forgets how to speak Polish. Please pardon any bad transcription errors because it is very hard to read the beautifully carved text on the marble plaque. When I read about Jan Budych’s fate in the WIKIPEDIA article, I began to understand the following:

Boże zbaw Polskę. God bless Poland.
Bohaterom Dąbrówieckim. To the Martyrs of Dabrowka. (bohater = martyr.)
Milość. Wierność. Cześć. Love, Fidelity. Honour.

Jan Budych, Tomasz Budych, Marcin Bimek, Walenty Berent, Wojciech Berowicz, Jan Flejsierowicz, Wojciech Golek, Jan Golek, Antony Kwaśny, Stanisław Kędziera. Piotr Malysiak, Wojciech Młodystach.

Some of the surnames are Germanic or partly so (Flejsier = Fleischer?). Młodystach is very prominent in the South Australian Phone Book today: now spelt Modistach but unmistakably Polish; in modern Polish, the l-with-stroke ( ł ) is pronounced like the English ‘w’ sound – “m-WOR-dee-stah-k”.

Za Waszą Wiare i Wolność. For Your Faith and Freedom.
Życie Swe Oddali. They Gave Their Lives. (word-for-word, Lives Their They-Gave.)

This is an echo of Poland’s unofficial National Motto, which dates back to the disastrous 1830 Polish Insurrection: Za Naszą i Waszą Wolność (For Our and Your Freedom). The 12 Martyrs of Dabrowka not only fought for their own Freedom but for the Freedom of Everyone, then and now, for you and me.

Męczarniach Więzień i Obozów. Tortured to death in Prisons and Camps.
Miłosier Bądż ——-. Mercy Be ——–. Probably “upon their souls” or “upon all”.

And I can’t read the last line on the plaque.

Finally, Reference [2] makes reference to the “Rodło”. I GOOGLEd this and read a fascinating story of adaption and survival. Kaczmarek died in exile in Washington DC in 1977; Kłopocka died in Communist Warsaw in 1982. Prussia had long before banned the use of the White Eagle as a Polish symbol inside Prussia. Hitler seized power in early 1933, so it seems the symbol was adopted before he rose to dictatorial power, despite what the English WIKIPEDIA article implies. I have edited the text slightly. In Polish, the Vistula is called the Wisła (”VEE-s-wah”). Rodło = “ROR-dwor”.

The Rodło is a Polish emblem used since 1932 by the Union of Poles in Germany. It is a stylized representation of the Vistula River and Kraków as the wellsprings of Polish culture.

After Adolf Hitler had seized power in Germany, Nazi emblems were soon compulsory nationwide. The swastika became the national emblem of the Third Reich and Poles from the Union of Poles in Germany could not use their national symbols anymore, because they were prohibited. Dr. Jan Kaczmarek approached the supreme council with the following proposal:

“Our acceptance of the swastika and the German Greeting [the Nazi Salute] could only signify agreement to total Germanisation. Therefore we must find a way, without risking the accusation of anti-state activity, of not accepting Heil Hitler and the swastika (…) we should at last have our own national symbol, which would enable us publicly to set ourselves free from the Nazi swastika.”

The Rodło graphic was conceived by graphic designer Janina Kłopocka who sketched the course of the Vistula River, cradle of the Polish people, and Royal Kraków, cradle of Polish culture. The white emblem was placed on a red background – the Polish national colors. It was adopted in August 1932 by the leadership of the Union of Poles in Germany.

This clever modern image combines the Rodło on the right with an explanatory graphic on the left.

Polish image_cropped

The Polish WIKIPEDIA article says in part:

… i zewnętrznie wyglądające jak pół zmodyfikowanej swastyki, a jednocześnie nią nie będące. W ten sprytny sposób, Polacy w Niemczech uniknęli przyjęcia symboliki nazistowskiej.

… and outwardly looked like half a modified swastika, whilst not actually being that. In this clever way, Poles in Germany avoided the adoption of Nazi symbols.

We all have so much to learn about our Polish ancestors!

Please correct any Polish typos, Polish Clerical Errors, etc.
By Noel David Cameron-Baehnisch, 7 Park Road, Angaston 5353 SA; ncameron@vtown.com.au.

Brian: I can’t find the above image in the current article. It seems to have been replaced by this one:


Noel’s nostalgic trip down memory lane

Noel Cameron-Baehnisch took a trip to Poland in 2004, seeking out the places our ancestors emigrated from in the mid-19th century. Noel was the pathfinder for Len’s trip (see his A journey of ‘Bahnisch’ family discovery in Lower Silesia, Poland). Noel went on a tour with Homeland Tours, led by David Zweck and a Polish guide. Len found the same places with a hired car and a ‘Tom Tom’ with the help of notes supplied by Noel.

First some background on how it all hangs together, then a selection of Noel’s photos, together with edited comments he provided.

Len and Brian are brothers. Noel is the son of their oldest cousin, Mona, who married Jim Cameron.

In the paternal line, Wilhelm (“Willi”) Bähnisch left Motyczyn (then Möttig) as a 17 year old in 1848. He married Franziska Ruciak, who came from Dąbrówka Wielkopolska (then Groß Dammer) as a 15 year old in 1846. Here’s a photo (see Note 1) of Willi:


Willi and Franziska had 13 children. Their eighth was also named Wilhelm (“Willi Junior” or “Bill”), Len and Brian’s grandfather. Bill married Louise Gregor. We have a photo (see Note 2) of them also:

EWBjr and Louise GREGOR 1889_upright_cropped p_350

Louise’s parents were Wilhelm August Gregor, who came from Pawłowice Wielkie, formerly Pohlwitz bei Liegnitz or Groß-Pohlwitz, and Ernestine Pauline Schulz from Bielany, formerly Weißenleipe.

Motyczyn, Pawłowice Wielkie and Bielany are all near Legnica, formerly Liegnitz, a city of some 100,000 people and the main centre of Lower Silesia (Polish: Śląsk; German: Schlesien). It is marked “A” on this map:

Leignitz 2_cropped_again_600

Dąbrówka Wielkopolska is further north, almost due west of Poznań in the province of Posen. Both Posen and Silesia were provinces of the Kingdom of Prussia (German: Königreich Preußen) when our ancestors lived there.

The first photo, taken by Noel’s Polish guide, Bolek, shows Noel leaving Bielany and heading west to Pawłowice Wielkie: it seems to be exactly the same sign as the one in Len’s photos:

1. Leaving Bielany for Pawlowice_0003_400

Next we have Noel at Pawłowice Wielkie (southern entrance), again taken by Bolek:

2. NDCB in PW 10 Sept 2004_500

The front of the VW tour van is in shot on the left.

Next we have the Old Manor House in Pawłowice Wielkie, taken by Noel from inside the big courtyard. The little black dog in the photo was quiet but Noel says there was another dog barking at them as they were trespassing.

3. Big house in PW_0002_500

On the same day the tour went to Motyczyn:

4. NDCB in Motyczyn 10 Sep 2004_500

Noel was grinning because his right foot had just gone down into a ditch hidden by the grass. He was balancing himself by clinging to the sign. Again Len took a photo from almost exactly the same spot at the northern entrance to Motyczyn. In Len’s photo the tree has grown in the last ten years and a new house has been added on the right.

There were maize crops everywhere. Bolek said the maize is winter-fodder. In September the light is so different to June’s light: winter is approaching and the crops have to be gathered in, for the severe winter.

The average minimum in mid-winter Legnica is a bracing -3°C with the maximum a miserly 4°C, reason enough to emigrate!

Noel found the next house the most interesting in the village: half-timbered, at south end of village, opposite the entrance to the South Wood:

5. Moettig (half-timbered house)_0004_400

In all probability the house has been repeatedly renovated and extended over the centuries.

Noel’s photo caption said: “The village is somewhere between prosperous and dilapidated.” Len had a similar impression.

As Len said, the Ruciaks in Dąbrówka Wielkopolska worshipped in the tiny village of Chlastawa. Here’s Noel’s shot of the wooden church they attended:

6. Chlastawa church (1639) 11 Sept_0007_400

This church was Pastor Fritschke’s church: he and some of his congregation migrated to SA, where he clashed with Pastor Kavel. In Len’s photo the lowest branch of the pine tree has been sawn off during the last ten years; or maybe it got ripped off in a winter storm. While the Ruciaks worshipped there as Lutherans the church is now Catholic. The yellow-green colour covering the shingle-roof is probably moss.

The church was built by the local nobility in 1639; during the Thirty Years War (1618-1648), which mostly raged further west.

Noel also photographed the “folkloric” Catholic church in Dąbrówka Wielkopolska, where a lot of money had just been spent.

7. Church of Dabrowka Wlkp. 11 Sept_0005_400

The church which is heritage listed also dates from 1600s. The foundation stones were “glacial erratics”, left behind after the Great Ice Sheet retreated. The church has been repeatedly renovated and extended.

The low hedges in front are now gone. In the background, you can see one tower of the “Chateau” below:

8. Chateau (1857) Dabrowka_0006_400

The chateau dates from 1859, after the Ruciaks left.

Here’s another photo from the internet in a different season.

9. 33726230

The Polish Wikipedia has an excellent article on the village with this thumbnail image:

10. 160px-144_Dammer

As a final note this post has used three different versions of our surname – Bähnisch, Bahnisch and Baehnisch.

Willi’s birth certificate, if they got it right, would have shown Bähnisch. The umlaut ä was dropped in Australia, because typewriters couldn’t cope. The umlaut is often rendered in English by adding an ‘e’ to the vowel, hence Baehnisch. One branch of the Australian family has adopted this practice. If you look in the White Pages you’ll see Bahnisch and Baehnisch in approximately equal numbers.

The pronunciation follows the Silesian German dialect with Bay-nish. The ‘ay’ diphthong doesn’t exist in Standard German (German: Standarddeutsch, colloquially also Hochdeutsch) which would render the sound Bair-nish.


1. This photo was in Brian’s possession, probably from a shoe box of photos left by his mother. It was scanned commercially by Kodak.

2. Scanned by Noel Cameron-Baehnisch 31 Dec 2012 AD, from Ellen Bahnisch’s Collection. It portrays Len and Brian’s paternal grandparents. Louise Gregor lost her father to gallstones before she was born at Bethel, near Kapunda. After her mother died of heart disease, Louise was fostered and became a servant in the Stiller household at Bethanien (Bethany), where she was courted by old Bertha Stiller’s first cousin, Ernst Wilhelm (“Willi” in German, “Bill” in English) Bahnisch Junior. They married in Langmeil Church, Tanunda, in 1889 when he was 25 and she was 5 months older than him! She is wearing a beautiful two-tone black dress (black was required of all brides and married women); she is probably wearing a corset to give her that fashionable but unhealthy hourglass look. Both have blue eyes, which is why their eyes look a bit blank. Her hair style is that of Old Queen Victoria. Tragically she died of childbirth on the 24 Nov 1900, leaving behind 3 healthy children. RIP, Louise. Sadly her grave is lost.

For related posts see the Bahnisch family history tag.

A journey of ‘Bahnisch’ family discovery in Lower Silesia, Poland

My dad’s four grandparents all came to Australia as youngsters in the 1840’s.  Three were from the Eastern European area of Lower Silesia and the fourth was from Posen Province to the north.  While this part of Europe was then part of Prussia, since WWII it has been part of Poland.  As far as I am aware, I’m only the second descendent of those four Australian migrants from our branch of the Bahnisch family in Australia to visit the villages where they were born and spent their early lives.  The only other person I know of who has done it is Noel Cameron-Baehnisch.  He made this journey in 2004 at a time when it would have been much more difficult than it is now!

At the outset, I would like to acknowledge that much of the information that has allowed me to visit these small villages was generously supplied to me by Noel.

Until recently, discussion within our family had centred around the fact that ‘the Bahnisch’s came to Australia from Moettig in Lower Silesia, Prussia’.  Nothing much was known in my immediate family about my father’s mother and her parents.  So my journey of discovery to visit all four of these villages has been sweet indeed.  As you might expect, the first village I visited was Moettig.  All of the German place names were replaced with Polish equivalents after WWII, and so Moettig became Motyczyn.  So here we go!

1. Motyczyn – formerly Möttig, and home of the Bahnisch’s.

This is a very small village to the N-E of the city of Legnica and about a 1 hr drive west of Wroclaw.  In Poland, all villages and towns are announced with a sign of the type shown below.  In the right-background can be seen one of the three reasonably new houses in Motyczyn.

IMG_3559aA minor road runs through Motyczyn, and the entrance to the south is through an area of (apparently natural) forest (see below).  There are two side-roads that constitute the village.  On one of these, with only a few houses, I saw small stacks of cut logs.  Noel saw a similar scene in 2004, so maybe there is some ongoing income being derived from the forest.  IMG_3552aThis is one of the other new houses in town – quite smart, but garden still to come! IMG_3568aAt the corner of the main side-street is a house with a (pink) sign that includes the word ‘Soltys’.  Noel says that this means ‘Village Head’.  IMG_3563aOpposite is the house with the best garden that I noticed in the village.


But apart from a few well presented houses at the far end of the main street (just before it became a track through a wheat field), my overall impression of the village was unfortunately one of despair.   Around one-quarter of the houses were no longer inhabited, and were in varying stages of dis-repair/decay.


It’s interesting to think that this large, now derelict and dis-used barn may have had something to do with the Moettig Bahnisch’s!

IMG_3570aThis is the view of the main side-street from near the far end, looking back towards the road.   IMG_3578aWhen I arrived back at the ‘main road’ corner, a couple of guys were fixing the front wheel bearings on their old tractor.  The younger chap (sitting) spoke quite good English.  He said that they have lived here for 12 years and that they have a farm of 12 acres.  When I spoke to him about my distant local family connection, unfortunately, he didn’t seem very interested.  IMG_3561aOn the corner of the through-road stood a decorated cross – apparently as an after-math of local Catholic community activities during  Lent.  IMG_3562aAs I drove out of town, I observed that even the local crops didn’t seem to be yielding as well as many others I had seen in my travels!  But the large woodlot (in the background) seems to be doing well.



2. Dabrowka Wielkopolska, formerly Gross Dammer and home of Franziska Ruciak

Franziska was a Polish lady who married Willi Bahnisch in South Australia.  It took me nearly 4 hr to drive the back-roads directly N-E of Wroclaw to reach Franziska’s home town.  Dabrowka Wielkopolska is about a 1 hr drive due west of Poznan.  I was pleasantly surprised to find quite a large and well-presented town.

While there are at least three roads that lead into the town, this one is interesting.  While I was unsure of the meaning of the black silhouette sign in the background, Noel advises that it means ‘Place of Historical Significance’.  I noticed these signs often as I approached small villages in the rural areas of Poland.  But significantly, I think, there was no such sign on the outskirts of Motyczyn!

As well, behind this sign, you can see an area of wheat.  This crop has been planted on several vacant lots witin the town – there are houses all around it!   IMG_3802aOften, villages in areas like this in Poland are only a few kilometres apart.  As well, they are sometimes connected with walking/bicycle paths as well as roads.  At the end of this path, I found a cemetery.  I scanned it for the family name Ruciak, but found none.  I did, however, find two Franziska’s!   IMG_3800aThis was by far the largest of all of the villages/towns that I visited.  While there were some older homes in the town, there were none in the severe state of dis-repair that I had seen in Motyczyn.   IMG_3849aAnd there was a rather wonderful lake in the centre of town.   IMG_3825aThis was a rather stately home, quite close to the centre of town. It seemed to be a private residence, despite the cross on the roof.  IMG_3858aWhile there was little commerce to speak of in the town (apart from a couple of small convenience stores), there was an (apparently) new Catholic church with a very modern design.   Again, Noel advises that, while this church appears to be new, it is in fact old, but has had recent additions in the ‘folkloric’ style.  IMG_3829aSet behind it was a large old building, clearly with religious significance.   IMG_3860aIt was locked and didn’t seem to be in use.  But, based on its (former) grandeur, it had certainly been a significant building in the community in the past!IMG_3822aThis was the only village in which I didn’t see a cross on a major street corner.  Maybe this cross next to the catholic church served the purpose?    IMG_3828aAnother practice in Poland is to place signs at the end of towns leaving motorists (and cyclists and walkers) in no doubt that they are now ‘out of town’! IMG_3862aBeing Polish, it would have been expected that the Ruciak’s worshipped as Catholics.  But according to Noel, this family was a little different.  Apparently, they worshipped as Protestants in the nearby tiny village of Chlastawa.  As you can imagine, I was keen to see it.  While it was 7 km away by road, in a direct line, the trip to worship for the family would have been a lot less.

IMG_3807aWhat I found right adjacent to this very small village was a total surprise.  There was a massive Ikea distribution (and maybe manufacturing) centre!   Along the building frontage, there were 23 semi-trailer loading bays.  Nearby, there was a large truck park with dozens of trucks, presumably waiting to be loaded.  And there were staff car-parks with hundreds of cars at each end of this massive building.

What an immense change to the local community/economy this business must have made.  IMG_3810a

But I was looking for any evidence that there had been a protestant place of worship here in the past.  What I found was this Catholic church of wooden construction.  And as with all of the other churches I had visited during my travels in Poland, it was locked.   When Noel visited Chlastawa in 2004, he was with a Polish guide and was able to gain access to this church.  He says that it was originally a Protestant church and dates from before the mid-1800’s.  So it is likely to have been the place of worship of the Ruciak family before they migrated to Australia.  IMG_3814a

3. Pawlowice Wielke, formerly Pohlwitz bei Liegnitz and birth place of Wilhelm August Gregor, father of Louise Gregor, my father’s mother.

Pawlowice Wielke is south of Motyczyn, and only a short drive south-east of Legnica.

IMG_3584a This village was a little different from many that I saw in that it had mostly cobbled streets.  IMG_3588aThere were two very large buildings in the town, one of which had recently had a new roof installed.  The second of these buildings was currently having its roof replaced.   IMG_3586aFor me, the village had a very pleasant atmosphere about it, and it was a satisfying feeling to know that this was where my great grandfather, whom I had previously known nothing about, spent his younger days! IMG_3598aThere were pleasant landscapes and extensive gardens.   IMG_3600aAs well, crops in the nearby fields were flourishing.   IMG_3601aAs I now expected, I found a decorated cross at one entrance to the village.  There was also a stone-fruit orchard nearby with speakers strung in the trees and pleasant music playing.  But no people!  What was that all about, I wonder?  IMG_3590aAs well, there was a more permanent crypt at another entrance to the village.   IMG_3594a

4. Bielany, formerly Weissenleipe, birth place of Ernestine Pauline Schulz, who married Wilhelm August Gregor and whose daughter, Louise was my father’s mother.

Bielany is a small village quite close to Pawlowice Wielke.

IMG_3603aIt is a village in two parts.  At the bottom end of town by the main road, there are several businesses that you would not normally expect to find ‘in town’, including a scrap metal yard.   IMG_3620aAgain the main street of this small town was cobbled. IMG_3622aTowards the top end of town, it had an entirely different character …. a pleasant environment with well-tended homes and gardens.  IMG_3617 IMG_3611a IMG_3610aIMG_3606aBut there was very little still existing in this small town that might give a clue to the child-hood circumstances of my great grandmother.

Again, at the intersection of the village street with the ‘main’ road was the ever-present cross.


I also attempted to visit the village of Karmin where Franziska Ruciak’s mother was born.  I Googled for it and checked with my Navi system and both pointed to the same place, about 1 hr drive north of Wroclaw.  So on the way back from Dabrowka Wielkopolska, I set the up the TomTom to go there.  The drive across was mainly on very quiet and often one lane roads, with an average speed of about 60 km/hr. Lots of farming and lots of trees – both native and plantation.  And it was raining!  So this is some of what I saw:

IMG_3874aTrees in foreground below are native – in the rear they’re plantation. IMG_3870aThis is actually a cobbled road! IMG_3875aFinally, I came to where my TomTom said that I had ‘arrived at my destination’!  – see below.  Not likely!  You may be able to see a faint figure in the distance.  I hadn’t yet noticed him when I took this photograph.  But when I did, he turned out to be a burly, dishevelled looking woodsman. I must say I turned the car around and got out of there very quickly!

When I returned to my B&B, I found that Noel was indeed correct – there is more than one Karmin in Poland.  All I can confirm is that Fran’s mother wasn’t born about an hour’s drive north of Wroclaw!   IMG_3880a

It has been an emotional experience for me to have the opportunity to travel around these villages.  A lot has happened here since the mid-1800’s, so I didn’t expect to see much evidence of the folks who left for Australia.  But where are the old cemeteries of the communities who lived here then?  Noel advises that most of them were deliberately destroyed after Poland took over in 1945.  As well, across Europe, cemeteries are regularly reused by succeeding generations.

There was a lot of destruction in this area during WWII.  Maybe that explains some lack of evidence of the past?  And of course, there was the forced transmigration of most remaining Germans out of this area into East Germany after the end of WWII.  As well, I’m told that Polish people were forced out of their homes to the East of here when part of what had been Poland was incorporated into what are now the independent states of Belarus and Ukraine.

I’m pleased that the folks who left for Australia made the decision to move.  Their motivation to move was at least partly economic, seeking opportunity in a new land.  It must have been a very difficult decision for them to make.  They came to a land with a totally different natural environment and climate that would have seemed very strange to them for a long time!   But I’m very pleased and grateful that they made the bold decision to turn their lives upside down for a new life ‘down-under’!

Update (Brian): This map shows the boundaries of Prussia in 1793, which on the eastern side are the same as they were in the mid-19th century:


Möttig, near the city of Liegnitz (now Legnica) is about 70 km west of Breslau (now Wroclaw). Dabrowka Wielkopolska, formerly Gross Dammer, is west of Poznań, pretty much on a direct line between Berlin and Warsaw.

Silesia was ruled by the Austrian Habsburgs under the Bohemian Crown until 1742, when Frederick II (the Great) of Prussia snatched it from Maria Theresa, a 25 year-old woman at the time. In 1740 she had become Queen of Bohemia and in 1745 became Holy Roman Empress Consort and Queen Consort of Germany in an arrangement where she shared the imperial role with her husband in a bandaid solution when the Habsburgs ran out of male heirs. She didn’t give up easily on Silesia, but conceded in 1763 after three wars.

Silesia was about 75% German, but Lower Silesia (western, lower down the Oder River) would have been close to 100%. After WW2 Silesia was assigned to Poland. Some 5-6 million Germans left Poland mostly from Silesia and the provinces along the Baltic (Pomerania, Gdansk (Danzig) East Prussia etc). In the 2011 census only 150,000 of 38 million Polish residents identified as German. Some 60,000 speak a language known as ‘Silesian’, a Slavic language influenced by German. I assume most of them live in Silesia, which now has a population of about 5 million.

Posen became Prussian in the second partition of Poland (by Russia, Austria and Prussia) in 1793. Prussia lost it when Napoleon reorganised the map in 1807 but regained it in 1815. Posen returned to Poland when it was reconstituted as a country after WW1. Silesia at that time remained with Germany.

Posen had about 35% German speakers, mainly in the towns and towards the west.

This map shows the changes in Prussia, leading to the reunification of Germany as an empire (there were four kings in that lot) in 1871:


Prussia when our ancestors left Prussia comprised the reddish-brown and yellow parts. Modern Germany is limited to the Oder-Niesse line.