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Poland's Eastern Borderlands. A term used in an almost mythical fashion to describe the lands which were once part of Poland and lay between the Bug and Narew rivers to the west and the Dnepr and Dvina rivers to the east. The term encompasses Wilno and the regions of Lithuania, Polesie, Białoru¶, Podole, and Wołyń. The meaning of the term has changed with time as more and more of Poland's Eastern Borderlands were lost, initially at the result of the First Partition in 1772, then during the Second Partition of 1793 and finally in 1945 at the end of World War II. Graphically, this best rendered by the sequence of three maps below showing sequentially the territory of Poland, shown in white, as it existed in prior to 1772, in the period 1920-1939, and today. In each case, Poland's contemporary bordersare superimposed in red.
Conceptually, the following quote, translated from an essay by Zbigniew Warpechowski, provides a measure of the meaning "Kresy" has for many Poles. "I come from the Kresy, where the tombstones of my ancestors have already been leveled with the ground, from the lands that after the Second Partition were incorporated in the Russian Empire. There Poles who continued to adhere to the Catholic Church, condemned themselves, their families and five generations of their descendants to humiliation and poverty."
Historically, the lands in question changed hands many times so that many of the localities have a plurality of names: Polish, Russian, German, Ukrainian etc. These were lands populated by people of many ethnic backgrounds, often living in close proximity to each other in a multiethnic mosaic that, for the most part, did not survive the rise in nationalism and the massive population displacements that took place during and after WWII.
|For notes on other regions check out Annotated Listing of Poland's Regions|