Poland, also known as the Republic of Poland, is a massive country located in the middle of Europe’s northern region. It is bordered by Germany on the west, the Czech Republic and Slovakia on the south, and Ukraine, Belarus, Lithuania, and Russia on the east. Plain land suitable for agricultural use and gently rolling countryside make up a significant portion of northern and central Poland, respectively. Yews and oaks are the two species of trees that live the longest. The oaks known as Bartek, Chrobry, Czech, Lech, and Rus are all over 700 years old and are considered to be the country’s notable monument oaks. The oldest ash and elm trees in Poland are both more than 400 years old.
In 1980, a trade union known as Solidarity was founded with the intention of fighting Poland’s Communist government. As a consequence of this, communism was overthrown in Poland, and it is possible that this event was a catalyst for revolutions that occurred throughout the late 1980s. The imperial High Tatras, widely regarded as one of Europe’s most ruggedly beautiful mountain ranges, can be found to the south of Kraków. In the north, the coastline of the Baltic sea, with its pristine beaches, extends for miles and miles. Lakes dominate the landscape in the northeast, and their outlets flow into the borderlands with Lithuania and Belarus. In the east of the continent, you’ll find remnants of some of Europe’s very last remaining native forests, as well as a small herd of indigenous bovid that was once a more prevalent part of the continent. Warsaw is the largest city in Poland as well as the country’s capital.
It is estimated that more than ninety percent of Poles are nominal members of the Roman Catholic Church. Still 58 percent of the total population is actively practicing the religious belief that they have selected. Polish folk music may hold an important perspective in the general national consciousness, but it is especially vibrant in the folk cultures that are encountered primarily among the country’s nonages and in the southern and eastern regions of the country. Poland has long been known for its coal, shipbuilding, and steel industries; however, in modern times, medicines, cosmetics, and textile products, which are frequently manufactured under license for Western empires, have become increasingly important sources of foreign earnings.
CULTURE AND OLD WAYS OF DOING THINGS
More than a thousand years ago, the behaviors and ways of living that are typical of Poles began to take shape. The Latinate and Byzantine worlds influenced the development of Polish national culture, which was further shaped through on-going dialogue with Poland’s various ethnic groups. Poland’s population has a long history of showing a positive attitude toward foreign artists and has been open to absorbing a wide variety of cultural and artistic practices that are prevalent in other nations. During the 19th and 20th centuries, the nation placed a strong emphasis on cultural advancement and frequently acknowledged that this should take precedence over economic and political pursuits. These elements have contributed to the wide variety of artistic styles that can be found in Poland, each of which is intricately refined.
The influences of both the east and the west can be seen in contemporary customs, attire, and manners. The lavish Eastern cosmetic fashion with its Islamic influences served as an inspiration for the traditional garb worn by members of the aristocracy in Europe during the 16th and 17th centuries. Poland’s culinary scene is another example of the country’s cultural diversity. Foods such as kaszanka, kotlet schabowy, pierogi, and mizeria are examples of traditional Polish cuisine.
Chopin, who was Polish, is widely considered to be the country’s most famous composer. Other Polish classical music composers inlcude Henryk Mikołaj Górecki, Karol Szymanowski, Krzysztof Penderecki, Mieczysław Karłowicz Witold Lutosławski and Wojciech Kilar. Some distinguished Polish jazzmen are Adam Makowicz, Krzysztof Komeda, Michał Urbaniak and Tomasz Stańko.
The country is home to a diverse array of cultural institutions and events, including as museums and festivals. The Warsaw Autumn and the Wratislavia Cantans are two of the most well-known music festivals in the city. Masterpieces such as “Last Judgement” by Hans Memling, “Lady with an Ermine” by Leonardo da Vinci on display at the Czartoryski Museum in Kraków, and “Veit Stoss High Altar” in St. Mary’s Basilica in Kraków are just a few examples of the remarkable art collections that are on display in Polish museums.
Polish is recognized as the country’s official language. It is estimated that almost 43 million people in Poland speak it as their native language. Polish is a Slavonic language and belongs to the West Slavic group, which also includes Cassubian (or Kashubian), Czech, Slovak, Sorbian (Brandenburg, Germany, and Saxony), and Polabian, a language that has since become extinct. The number of people who speak Polish is second only to the number of people who speak Russian among the Slavic languages. It is the most important and widespread example of the Lechitic branch that developed from the West Slavic languages.
The various local Western Slavic dialects that were spoken in what is now Poland served as the basis for the development of the Polish language. These dialects were primarily those spoken in Lesser Poland (spoken in the south and southeast) and Greater Poland (spoken in the west). It shares some vocabulary with the Slavic languages spoken in the neighboring countries, primarily with Belarusian, Czech, Slovak, and Ukrainian. There are also some people who speak Polish as their native language in the eastern part of Lithuania, the western parts of Belarus and Ukraine, the northern part of Romania, the southeastern part of Latvia, and the northeastern part of the Czech Republic.
The Polish alphabet is derived from the Latin alphabet; however, it makes use of diacritics rather than accent marks. In contrast to the other Latin-symbol Slavic languages, Polish did not adopt a version of the Czech alphabet but rather created its own. The structure of Polish vowels is quite straightforward, with only six oral vowels and two nasal vowels to choose from. On the other hand, the Polish consonants are more complex. It is made up of a string of palatal and affricate consonants that originated from four palatalizations of Proto-Slavic and two palatalizations of other languages.
The Ministry of Education and Sports administers, monitors, and oversees the educational structure of Poland. Education in Poland has 4 levels: Primary, Secondary, and Upper Education. Children ages of 6 or 7 attend the primary school for 6 years. The next is the lower secondary level comprising of 3 years in gymnasium after which an exam is taken. It is then followed by upper secondary level. Polish students have several options for their upper secondary education. They can choose 3 years in liceum or 4 years in technikum. Either alternative will still require students to pass a maturity examination, similar to the France’s baccalaureat and Britain’s A-levels examination. Polish schools and universities include one or two foreign languages in their curriculum. English still remains the most widely taught followed by German, French, Spanish, Russian, and Italian.
A recent study conducted by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and focusing on the Programme for International Student Assessment ranked Poland’s educational system as the 23rd best in the world. The larger cities in Poland, such as Warsaw, Lublin, Krakow, Torun, and Wroclaw, each have dozens, if not hundreds, of traditional universities and other types of educational institutions. About 10,000 researchers and 91,000 scientists are currently focusing on research and development making Poland an investment hub for multinational companies. Industry giants like IBM, Microsoft, HP, Google, Intel, Siemens, and Motorola have R&D centers in Poland.
The administration of Poland’s health care system and the provision of its financial resources are respectively handled by the country’s Ministry of Health, National Health Fund, and Territorial self-government organization. The administration of national health programs, critical capital investments, as well as advancements in medical research and education, are the primary responsibilities of the Ministry of Health. In addition to this, the Minister of Health exercises direct authority over the Chief Pharmaceutical Inspector as well as the President of the Office for the Registration of Medicinal Products, Medical Devices, and Biocides. The National Health Fund (NHF), which was established in 2003, is the organization that succeeded the previous 16 sickness funds. Its primary duty is to provide financial support for the delivery of medical care to insured Polish citizens. The mission of the National Health Foundation (NHF) is to preserve, restore, promote, and improve human health through the provision of its services.
The provision of medical care in Poland is shared between the public sector and the private sector. A significant portion of the money that goes toward paying for medical care comes from the mandatory payments that are made to social health insurance. In Poland, there are approximately 740 public hospitals and 72 non-governmental or private hospitals as of the end of the year 2003. In the same year, the life expectancy of Polish women was 78.9, while the life expectancy of Polish men was 70.5. Additionally, there has been a notable drop in infant mortality over the course of the past few years. At the moment, the Polish government is working toward the goal of developing health policies and reforms that can deal with issues such as the aging of the population, the reduction of hospital debts, the beginning of other revenue sources for funding health care, the reorganization of the health sector, and the control of the increase in health expenditures.
The Polish economy has undergone one of the most rapid expansions in Central European countries in recent years. The purchasing power parity (PPP) valuation of its GDP in 2007 was $632 billion, placing it as the 21st largest economy in the world. Because of the economic liberalization that took place in the country in the early 1990s, its annual growth is greater than 6 percent. The Balcerowicz Plan was an economic restructuring initiative that was initiated in 1990. It led to the elimination of many price controls and opened the nation up to the international market. Since 1990, Poland has been the recipient of more than fifty billion dollars’ worth of direct investments from overseas. The nation’s gross domestic product is virtually entirely made up of contributions from the private sector. In 2005, its total working population is roughly 20 million. During the same year, almost 18 percent of the population is living below the poverty line.
Poland’s main industries include machine construction, iron and steel, chemicals, shipbuilding, iron and steel, food processing, beverages, textiles and glass. Its major export partners are Germany, Italy, France, UK, and Czech Republic while most imports are from Germany, Russia, China, and Italy. By the end of 2007, the services account for about 66 percent of the country’s GDP, industry – 32 percent , and agriculture – 3 percent .
Ernst & Young recently ranked Poland 7th in the world based on investment attractiveness. According to a study conducted by the OECD in 2004, Poles were ranked as having one of the highest labor rates in all of Europe. Poland has a very strategic geographic location due to the fact that it is a part of the trans-European road system. Poland is located in the middle of the European continent. Its gross domestic product grew by seven percent in 2007, which is twice as fast as the average for the EU. Poland became a member of the World Trade Organization in 2004 and also joined the European Union at that time.