The Polish Winged Hussars were a formidable elite cavalry in the 15th to 18th centuries. They were famous for wearing a
pair of huge elaborate wings which consisted of eagle and ostrich feathers glued onto wooden harnesses. This was intended
for more than just pomp and circumstance. According to folklore, when the Hussar cavalry charged across the plain in full
regalia, these wings generated a loud frightening, whistling sound, which, in conjunction with the deafening sound of a
thousand horses galloping, struck terror in the hearts of the enemy. One of the most infamous Hussar tactic was that of
impaling the enemy with the Polish lance in one fell swoop. The Husaria was truly invincible. They reigned supreme on the
battlefields of Europe for over two hundred years. The Hussars were renown for their battles at Lwow and Vienna, at which
they virtually decimated the invading Turks.
The image of the Polish eagle can be traced as far back as the 9th century Poland. During this period long distance
trade routes started opening up across Europe, and crossed through Pomerania, and Lesser Poland. At this time, the
Polish King Boleslaw I decreed that Polish coins be minted, depicting the image of the Polish Eagle. ( Below: Polish coins
from approximately 1000 AD)
In 1730 the powers of Prussia, Russia and Austria conspired, through a secret agreement, to maintain the status quo in the
Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth.. This was a direct response to the parliamentary changes that had taken place, ushering
in the first glimmers of democratic rule, such as the creation of checks and balances, veto power, and a constitutional
monarchy. All of this caused more than a little consternation among the great powers of the region who considered this
liberalization to be a dangerous threat to their power. In hindsight, Poland aptly named this alliance, "The Alliance of the
Three Black Eagles" - the state symbols of Prussia, Russia, and Austria, were all black eagles, while Poland's state
symbol was white.
During the Second World War, Polish General Wladyslaw Anders formed the 1st Armored Division, as part of the 1st Polish
Corp. The new unit was stationed in Scotland under the command of Major General Stanislaw Maczek. Their mission was
to protect over 200 kilometers of British coastline from Nazi attack. At the peak of its operations, the 1st Armored Division
numbered over 16,000 troops, and took part in the latter stages of the Normandy Invasion. During August 1944 the Polish
troops participated in Operation Totalize and fought in the Battle of Chambois. Following this, they joined the Canadian
troops, to continue to fight in the campaign in Northern Europe. The emblem of the Polish 1st Armored Division was a
stylized graphic representation of the wings of the legendary Hussaria.
Black Eagle of Prussia (copyrighted)
Author: David Liuzzo
The Cichociemni disbanded and dispersed after the war. It wasn't until 1990 that a new and more powerful Polish fighting
unit emerged, called GROM (in Polish, Grupa Reagowania Operacyjno-Manewrowego). GROM means "thunderbolt" and
epitomizes the tactics that are used by these exceptional men - that of great speed, precision, and deadly force. This
famous unit, which would certainly prefer to remain "Silent and Unseen" was instituted by the late Lt. Colonel Slawomir
Petelicki, who was appointed as its first commander. An ideal choice, given his expertise in reconnaissance, sabotage
and diversion. With his leadership, GROM rapidly grew into a world class elite force that matched and often surpassed the
military prowess of its counterparts around the world. As a matter of fact, Petelicki was once referred to as Poland's
"James Bond and Rambo all rolled up into one daunting combination."
The emblem of GROM also depicts the image of an eagle with wings spread, clutching a thunderbolt in its claws.
Coat of Arms - Polish-Lithuanian
Author: Olek Remesz
State Emblem of the Russian Empire
The Coat of Arms of the Austrian Empire
This is quite noteworthy because the design of the emblem of the Cichociemni also denotes an eagle with outstretched
wings, as if it is about to dive bomb its target. In this design, the eagle is grasping a laurel wreath with the insignia of the
Armia Krajowa. The Cichociemni were special elite operatives of the Polish Underground Army, who conducted covert
operations during World War II. Many Polish men vied for the opportunity to join such an illustrious strike team, and to
be trained by highly specialized Polish and British SOE operatives. Few candidates, however, were able to complete
the extremely rigorous training. The Cichociemni were indeed an elite fighting machine
Please note: You may use these images for any purpose on the condition that you give the copyright holder the proper
attribution. Thank you.
The Lwow Eaglets were a civilian resistance movement organized by Polish teenagers from the city of Lwow, who defended
their city during the period of the Polish-Ukrainian war (1918-1919). On November 1, 1918, the Ukrainian army invaded and
occupied government and military buildings in Lwow, hoisting their flags to claim the city as part of the new Ukrainian state.
In the midst of jubilation among the Ukrainian residents, and the neutrality of the Jewish people, the Poles immediately
rallied together to resist the invaders. Starting with 200 fighters and only 64 outdated rifles, their numbers swelled to over
1000 fighters by the end of the first day. Many of the volunteers were teenagers, scouts, students and even boys. Fighting
lasted until November 22, 1918, followed by another siege by Ukrainian soldiers in May of 1919.
The appelation, "Lwow Eaglets" is a term of endearment, referring to the young people who so courageously took up arms
against the invaders. But eventually the term applied to all Polish youth who fought in the city of Lwow in November, and
over time, it included any Polish youth who fought in the region of Eastern Galicia, for the sake of Polish freedom..
(Similarly, the Polish youth who were fighting in the Polish-Ukrainian battle for Przemysl, were called "Przemyskie Orleta"
|"Lwów Eaglets; Defenders of the Cemetery", painting by Wojciech Kossak, 1926, oil on canvas, 90 x 120 cm, Polish Army Museum, Warsaw
Throughout the ages mankind has revered the eagle for its strength and power, and has imbued it with an aura of nobility. Past
civilizations and great empires trooped behind their banners and standards which depicted the imposing images of eagles. It was a
proclamation of state supremacy and power, and this public spectacle must surely have been an intimidating and awesome
sight to behold. The Roman Empire was among the many cultures which considered the eagle as sacrosanct. It was more than
just a symbol but a manifestation of a spiritual kinship between man and raptor, an image that was intended to reinforce their own
power and invincibility, but most importantly, to confirm the link between their emperors and the gods.
The prevalence of Roman mythology (which paralleled that of other empires) added to this mystique, in particular, the worship of
Jupiter, the god of all gods, who was also deemed to be the god of the sky, of thunder and of eagles. Artistic renditions throughout
history has often depicted Jupiter grasping a thunderbolt in his hand, while being swept up into the sky on the back of a majestic
The symbol of the eagle will remain forever a part of Poland's patrimony This was assured by the legend
surrounding the birth of the Polish nation. Lech, the mythical founder of Poland chose the eagle as the symbol
of the nascent state. Quite by chance, Lech came across a nest from which a great eagle emerged to defend its
eaglets, and he was awestruck by the sight of its massive wingspan against a stunning red sunset. It is said that
he went on to found the first city in Poland, which he named Gniezno (meaning "nest" in Polish).
Official Coat of Arms of the Republic of Poland
Adopted in 1295 (last modified in 1990)
(image in public domain)
|Denar Princes Polonie Boleshaw Chrobry (Silver coins)
Images from: Antykwariat Numizmatyczny ( Michal Niemczyk )
Even after millennia, the image of the eagle continues to fascinate us, and we still find many ways to incorporate its image
into Polish culture and traditions. This is not merely a celebration to honour the greatness of the past. It exemplifies how
closely we still relate to the power of the eagle, and our need to draw strength from it, especially during the most troubling
times throughout history.
It is truly amazing. Poland is amazing.