Now all roads lead to France and heavy is the tread
Of the living; but the dead returning lightly dance.
Edward Thomas, Roads

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Poland's Absent World War I Memorials:
Fortress Przemyśl
By Rodney Earl Walton

Absent Polish Memorials: Fortress Przemyśl

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Today, I conclude my discussion of historical, but neglected, World War I battlefields with a visit to a pretty industrial and trading center of 67,000 population near the Ukranian border in southeastern modern Poland. In 1914 Przemyśl, like Verdun was a city surrounded by fortifications, and, in 1914 and 1915, battles were fought at Przemyśl as grim and intense as those in 1916 around Verdun.

Fortress Przemyśl

A drive ninety miles east of Craców east to the town of Przemyśl  likewise fails to yield sightings of any significant Great War memorialization. Przemyśl, scenically situated on the hills above the strategic San River, was then a mighty fortress city protected by outlying barrier forts. The purpose of the fortress of Przemyśl was to guard the "gaps in the Carpathian chain where the Rivers San and Dniester rise to flow into the Polish plain..."

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Located in at the time in Austro-Hungarian controlled Poland, Przemyśl guarded the passes in the Carpathian chain. The San River flowed through the center of the city.
(Photo by REW)


During the first few weeks of World War I its garrison of 150,000 men was twice cut off and surrounded by the Russians. Following the second siege (October 1914 – March 22, 1915), Przemyśl surrendered. The Russians captured 2500 officers and 117,000 Austrian soldiers – quality troops which Austria could not easily replace.

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Russian officer at the site of a devastated fort. Like Verdun, most of the forts remain today in various states of repair.


The popular Lonely Planet guide book for Poland reports that the local tourist office can provide information about how to reach the overgrown earthen fortification ramparts in the rural areas outlying the town. Otherwise, modern Przemyśl displays no apparent reminders of the two great sieges. Today's traveler would never guess that the still existing railway bridge had been demolished and collapsed into the River San. Nor is there any hint of the fact that captured Austrian officers once shared the cafes of the town with their Russian captors.

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Russian troops arriving in the city: Fortress Przemyśl finally capitulated to the Russians on 22 March 1915, only to be reconquered on 3 June 1915 during the highly successful Allied Gorlice-Tarnov offensive.
(Photo by REW)


Rodney Earl Walton

3 comments:

  1. Thanks Rodney.
    I visited several of the forts and put up photos & descriptions here:
    http://1914-1918.invisionzone.com/forums/index.php?showtopic=104258&hl=przemysl

    Harry

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  2. I visited in 1998 and again in 2001. There was then next to no information available but I was fortunate enough to meet locals who showed me around. I am glad to read that the situation is different now. I hope to go back again before long!

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  3. http://visit.przemysl.pl/en/item/category/53

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