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″Tyroleans in Karkonosze Mountains″

Krzysztof Sawicki, 5 lipca 2011 07:44

Before they came to Mysłakowice in Karkonosze, they had been living for generations in the Zillerthal valley, situated in the Duchy of Salzburg, which earlier had been under the reign of Protestant Prussia and then under Catholic Austria again. The peasants of Zillerthal fought for the evangelical religion in their homeland. But the Catholic community and Austrian authorities didn't like it. The persecution of Tyroleans of the Protestant faith increased in the first half of the 19th century. The emperor Franz Joseph’s attitude towards Protestants was hostile. It was him though, who issued the edict on toleration on 13th November 1781 which allowed the Protestants to build churches, if 500 people or 100 families of the same faith populated the given place. However, the constructed churches weren't allowed to have a tower and an official entrance. The life of the Zillerthal Protestants was getting worse and worse, they were discriminated, they had difficulties with buying land, building new houses, selling their farming produce. When the emperor Franz Joseph came to Innsbruck in 1832, the Tyroleans addressed him with a petition. They wrote that they would like to create an Evangelical commune which would be at least once in a year visited by an Evangelical pastor. The emperor responded officially in 1834: ‘I do not give my consent to your request; however, if you still wish to leave the Catholic Church, you must seek other province of the Reich, in which such communes already exist’. The Tyroleans of evangelic faith decided to leave their homeland and find a new place to live. In this tough situation they turned to the king of Prussia, Frederick William III. At the end of May 1837 Johann Fleidl, a clergyman and formal leader of the Protestant emigrants went to Berlin to convince the king that as a proven faith defender he should give shelter to the Fleidl’s charges. Frederick William III promised to help. On 13th July 1837 the Prussian government convinced about the rightness of its king's decision issued its consent for settlement of Tyroleans in Silesia. The preparations to leave the country were made in hustle. For the money acquired from sales of their belongings and land the Tyroleans bought new horses, carts, tilts and other equipment needed for a far journey. Each cart pulled by horses or donkeys carried two or three families. Many people pulled their belongings on two-wheeled carts. The migration of the Zillerthal valley inhabitants to their promised land commenced on 31st August 1837. They travelled in four groups through Salzburg, Upper Austria, Moravia, the Czech land and Cracow to eventually reach the border of Prussia in the area of Kamienna Góra. The decision where to settle in Silesia hasn't been taken yet. The Governor of Silesia proposed Krzeszów or Brzeg. But the king insisted on the areas of Jelenia Góra. The first group of 104 exiles reached Silesia on 20th September 1837 after 21 days of wandering, they travelled over 700 km, on 13 carts and 4 two-wheeled carts, and they crossed the border in Miszkowice. On the very same day they arrived to Kowary where a reception committee together with the town dwellers waited for them at the bounds of the town. Three days later 120 people on 23 carts arrived under command of Johann Fleidl. Subsequently two groups came to Silesia within a couple of days. The total number of 440 people emigrated from Tyrol of which 415 people reach the destination (the rest resigned of died on the way). On 24th September 1837 in the evangelical church in Kowary which no longer exists (it burnt on 3rd January 1959) a mass for emigrants took place. Despite of the best reception in Prussia, it wasn't easy for the Tyroleans there. There wasn't enough work for the local population, let alone for the newcomers and the winter was approaching. In addition, a cholera epidemic broke in Kowary where the refugees stayed. Five grown-up Tyroleans and one 12-year-old boy died of the disease. A committee consisting of earl Matuschka the starost of Jelenia Góra, captain Flügel the mayor of Kowary and countess von Reden from Bukowiec had quickly to find room for the refugees so that they could survive winter. They were located in rooms, dozen of people per one room, on attics and garrets. The biggest problem was to find arable land and pastures for them. The Tyroleans wanted to settle in the area of royal terrains in Mysłakowice but the talks with the landowners protracted. The king sent a supervisor from Berlin who decided together with the committee to give to the emigrants the terrains between Mysłakowice and Sosnówka with the total surface of 1646 morgen. 940 morgen were donated from the royal properties. 332 morgen where purchased from private owners from the area of Mysłakowice. 374 morgen where purchased in Sosnówka. It was arable land, meadows and forests. The terrains were passed on on 7th July 1838 and immediately 421 carpenters and 187 brick layers started building the houses. In autumn already 45 houses of the Tyrolean style where ready enough to live there. The costs of the Tyrolean colony construction amounted to 504 thousand mark, of which 406,559 thousand mark were spent from the royal purse. The rest was incurred by the Prussian government. As all new inhabitants came from Zillerthal valley so was called the new settlement. The name survived till the end of the Second World War. The Tyroleans made their living from agriculture. Many of them worked in horticulture. They were outstanding farmers and cheese-makers. They run a dairy farming using modern dairying equipment to make butter and rennet cheese which wasn't known in Silesia. In order to protect their houses and land from a too easy transfer to other people they introduced a 20-years grace period for their sale. The longest living emigrant from Tyrol was Johann Bagg who died in 1922 at the age of 90. In 1946 the Zillerthal immigrants who settled in Karkonosze lost their homeland for the second time. Today their descendants live spread throughout all Germany. In 1995 during a meeting of the refugees' descendants in the Austrian town of Mayrhofen an idea came up to buy and restore a peasant homestead which would be a kind of a Tyrolean mark in Karkonosze. Michael Stöckl, the former deputy mayor and councillor of the commune Mayrhofen together with the councillors of other communes to which the refugees were related undertook an initiative and with the help of the Austrian state of Tyrol purchased and restored an old peasant homestead "Rieserhof" in Mysłakowice. The restoration was supported by an organisation "Cultural Initiative Zillerthal" and a German-Silesian Association for Homeland and Culture. The restoring works were conducted with great diligence and the original look of the inside was maintained. The opening of the Tyrolean House in Mysłakowice took place on 19th September 1998, on the 161st anniversary of the unlawful exile of the Zillerthal Protestants from the communes of Mayrhofen, Finkenberg, Brandberg, Hippach, Ramsau and Schwendau. The descendants of the Tyroleans from the Zillerthal Valley in national costumes attended the celebration. A small museum devoted to the exiles from Tyrol and a restaurant serving Tyrolean cuisine were opened in the homestead. The Tyrolean House has three rooms upstairs, at the ground floor in the former cowshed there is a kitchen, and in the former barn the restaurant. The homestead is situated by the road from Jelenia Góra to Karpacz, and you can view a nice panorama of Karkonosze from there.

1. Shooters from Ramsau
2. Tyrolean House, Museum, Restaurant in Mysłakowice.
3. Folk band from Brandberg
4. Monument of Johanna Fleidl
5. Tyroleans from Ramsau
6. Entering of the Tyroleans to Kowary, 1837