Everything You Always Wanted To Know About Zulawy But Were Afraid To Ask
The Zulawy (Fens) are an alluvial delta plateau of Vistula. Their surface falls from the base (...) from a height of just over 10 m., a.s.l., to -1.8 m. b.s.l., in the north and particularly north-east, forming a depression (28% of the area). (..) Centuries of human activities are visible in the thousands of kilometers of canals and drainage ditches, a dense drainage network, the banking up of the rivers, pumping stations and the formation of a system of polders. In effect, the natural environment underwent such transformation that it would be difficult to find any fragments, which remain unchanged.
(from B. Augustowski "Zulawy Wislane" 1976)
Written history of the area starts in early middle ages when Polish colonization of the boggy Vistula delta was obstructed by local pagan tribes of Prussians, famous for beheading of St. Adalbert. Eventually one of the feudal lords called for assistance from a German order of the Teutonic Knights1, expelled from Transylvania after being removed from the Holy Land by Bin Saladin. After the crusade and subsequent extermination, there was a disagreement over the award, followed by trials and wars (complicated by polish alliance with Lithuanians - the last pagans of Europe). Meanwhile the Order organized it's own economy - German peasants were successfully settled and a modern base of taxes was instituted, in place of standard feudal slave duties. After the final collapse of the Knights, the king of Poland, whose constitution guaranteed religious freedom, settled the remaining fens with persecuted Dutch Mennonites. They developed high agriculture in spite of wars, floods and plagues. In the 19th century, after the partition of Poland, the main part of the delta was annexed to Germany until 1945, when Stalin, with American assistance drew a new map of eastern Europe. Escaping in panic, the Nazis flooded the polders, destroying the drainage system and destroyed the soil. Polish farmers were resettled from the area that was lost to the Soviets in eastern Poland. They were forced to learn the communist way to maintain the farms till 1956, when collective farming ceased. Still, the ARTificial, human-created environment of Zulawy remains a solid framework. Regardless of ethnic roots, the mode of life here is not very different from previous generations. (PP)
(1) see- http://www.black-knight.org/Deadfire/txt/CRM/Teutonic.Knights.3.html