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″The people of Wołowa Góra″

Admin, 2 marca 2012 09:06

Kowary in the 16th century

Kowary have become at this time a locality known Europe-wide for steel and steel item manufacture. The miners excavating the ore, and the craftsmen processing it, became richer and richer, and felt their growing power. They paid taxes and rent to the landowners. The mining laws protected the local miners, as well as the people working together with them, from serfdom, however the heirs of Kowary did not want to accept these laws, and demanded services to the court, which caused the citizens to riot. On June 15th, 1583, the state starost had arranged a meeting, at which both parties made certain concessions, and thus - upon a brief period of imbalance at the beginning of the 17th century - prosperity returned to Kowary, for the good of the owners - the Schaffgotsch family - and the city inhabitants.
However, Kowary weren't only about mining, steel mills and blacksmithing. Great turnovers were achieved by tradesmen dealing in wine trade (from the local wineries) and... shoes. Many of the citizens owned a plot of land (depending on the size of the plot, it could be anything between 6 and 28 hectares), still others worked in the forest as lumbermen, charburners and coachmen. As a result, the citizens of Kowary purchased land, erected houses and founded luxurious gardens. At that time this was a rich locality. Life in the valley of Jedlica, between the mountains of Karkonosze and the Rudawy Janowickie, was peaceful, even though the year was not fruitful in agriculture and horticulture. In the 17th century, the mountains didn't play a large role in the life of the inhabitants of Kowary. They limited their contact and excursions to the necessary minimum, especially considering the steep and inaccessible Karkonosze. Lack of roads, presence of wild animals, such as bears, wolves, lynx, wildcats, and the legends of the Mountain Spirit (bearing the Polish name Liczyrzepa, in German known as Rübezahl, literally 'The one counting turnips') were effective in stifling curiosity. The so-called Silesian Route was the one leading form the Silesian side to the Czech side across the main part of the Karkonosze, passing through Dobre Źródło, Rówienka, the plain of the Śnieżka, and Vyrovka to Vrchlabi, however it was used by tradesmen or very determined wanderers, i. e. escapees.
Wood was an important resource harvested in the mountains. The lower subalpine forest, a dense wood present there since time immemorial, was composed of up to 60% of beech, and some fir. However, one didn't have to go very high to obtain wood for the construction of houses, tunnels, or for the manufacture of charcoal. With time, the felling of trees had created increasingly larger open spaces, which were used for cattle grazing.

The Thirty Years' War (1618-1648)
As it began, the inhabitants of Kowary had a certain right not to notice it, be it not for the visible increase in weapon manufacture orders, which was certainly welcome here. Passages of armed forces had occurred in the past, and during the war didn't really increase in frequency. This peaceful air vanished suddenly in November of 1622. The news from the valley of Kamienna Góra, about the abuse committed with impunity by 'hordes of Cossacks' were met with disbelief. They were just coming back from a mission in the Valley of Kłodzko, where they i. e. stifled a peasant rebellion. On November 19th, a 300-man strong force of the Lisowczycy, or the company of elears as they may also be referred to, had crossed the pass of Kowary. This spearhead was followed by several thousand more, and thus began the most gruesome days of the town. Stanisław Stroynowski, commanding his „knights”, or as they were referred to „masses of wanton people”, had brought complete disarray to the peace of the townspeople. The „Polish elears”, as they proudly called themselves, were a horde of looters and rapists, used by the king Sigismund III Vasa for special assignments. On this occasion they were „rented” to the emperor, because Poland did not participate in the Thirty Years' War. A part of them was coming back from the Valley of Kłodzko, where they had stifled a peasant uprising at Bystrzyca Kłodzka. They were joined by a second group returning from the Rhineland. Together they were rumoured to number eleven thousand. They were headed for Głogów, where they were supposed to receive their pay. The Lisowczycy weren't vocal to demand it, however they had exercised to the fullest possible extent the right they received to loot the enemy and his people. With silent consent of their commanders they had expanded that right to include anyone whom they crossed paths with. Such an elear was of reckless bravery, decisive, quick to act, and toughened by the hardships of a soldier's life, uncompromisingly mean and rapacious. He fought mounted, and took such loot, which he could fit in his saddlebags. Finding places where gold, precious jewels or money was hidden was an easy task for him. Those who escaped were tracked by his dogs, even high in the mountains. Any resistance was broken without mercy, with murder always being an option. Women were taken and treated as prizes one was entitled to. The Lisowczycy only made a two-day stand at Kowary. During this time they not only looted and raped, but they also maliciously destroyed the assets of the folk of Kowary. Indeed, not only from Kowary - they also ventured to nearby villages. The Cossack Valley above the locality of Przesieka has them to thank for its name, which certainly stems from the fact that it was precisely there, where a part of the people wanted to go to flee the turmoil.
The „monumental” work of the Franciscan priest Wojciech Dembołęcki from the locality of Konojady, chaplain of the Lisowczycy – bearing the baroque title „Deeds of Polish elears, once known as Lisowczycy” – describes the events from Kowary thus: they approached from the Silesian mountains, the petty louse-infested lords (...) wanted to avenge Bystrzyca Kłodzka, whereby they were so keen to anger the soldiers at Frydlant, Mirsk and other locations that they stabbed not only those who became even the least bit separated in the mountains and on narrow roads, but even those stationed at their posts, asleep. Following this, the angered forces, upon arrival in Kowary spent a few days punishing the mob, that peace was called for not only close to Frydlant and Mirsk, but almost in all of Silesia, with loud cries of 'fryt' ('peace'). The reading from the gospel to fall on the Sunday they were in Mirsk was fitting to speak of this pride. It gave everyone something to think about, reminding them of the words of the Lord – „When yee therefore shall see the abomination of desolation [...], then let them which be in Iudea, flee into the mountaines. Let him which is on the house top, not come downe, to take any thing out of his house. Neither let him which is in the field, returne backe to take his clothes [...]" And this gospel ends as follows – „and then shall all the Tribes of the earth mourne”. Something quite similar happened to this proud area of the Silesian mountains, close to Kowary, and following this, many of those rioters cried together, but also almost entire Silesia cried in lament, expecting this from the elears, and that is why there was a mass movement (the 'pospolite ruszenie') of both nobles as well as townspeople. (...) The Silesians did not understand such a clear warning )the gospel), or maybe they did not see it (because they (as protestants) use a different calendar)... After the massacre

The folk of Kowary, who had witnessed their peaceful world suddenly crumble, were shocked. The natural reaction were attempts to flee to locations, which they themselves always found difficult to reach because of lack of roads and their inaccessibility, that is - the wooded mountains. As high as possible, where - so they expected - their oppressors would not reach them. Such a location seemed to be the mountain Wołowa Góra, entirely covered with forest, and full of mysterious places. November weather in the Karkonosze is not friendly for people. Even a single night necessitates the construction of even the simplest shelter. The escapees had no way of knowing when their attackers would leave, and whether any others would follow. There was nobody to defend them, and nobody to hope for in the future. They had to prepare for a longer stay in these parts. Winter was looming. The men were charged with the obligation to create at the very least the most basic living conditions for the families, among which were also the elderly and children.
Who were these refugees from the civilised world to the untamed, wild mountains? Certainly they were frightened, people who had lost everything back on the shores of Jedlica, who had witnessed an end to their world. Among them might have also been those who were never happy in Kowary, and who had elected now to create for themselves a new place to live. Thus a very determined social group was created, which provided much support for its members.
The choice of location of a hut is determined by the basic condition of unhindered access to water. This was ensured by a rich stream - the Malina. Theodor Eisenmänger, the chronicler of the town, writes in his „History of the city” as follows: On the western face and the broad slopes of the mountain Wołowa Góra, rising between the rivers Jedlica and Maliną (in German - Langes Wasser, approximately 'Long water'), may be found the remains and traces of a settlement of houses previously located here.' Thus it was primarily in the valley of the stream, on different elevations, where further groups of escapees had founded their villages. As the description of their founding continues, this location seems confirmed. Older documents and newer maps of the forestry authority – continues Eisenmänger – list three groups of settlements: The Dolne Miasteczko (Lower Small Town) and Górne Miasteczko (Upper Small Town), the Budniki (Gernan: Baudenwinkel) and Finkenbauden. The Dolne and the Górne Miasteczko, the largest collections of houses, were located on the western face of Wołowa Góra, half an hour away from the forest hut of Jedlinka (German: Tannenbaude) on both sides of the Grenzwasser stream. This description, and the topography, suggests that the localities of Dolne and Górne Miasteczko were located on both sides of the Malina in the area between the mountains of Kazalnica and Kruszcowa, because there is no other stream on the western face of the Wołowa Góra a half hour away from Jedlinka, and the flat areas close by could well serve the construction of settlements. The name of the stream, Grenzwasser, which is German for 'Border water', remains a mystery, but it is normal among German names for a single stream to have different names, different still for its diverse sections. Such is the case i. e. with Jedlica, which is named Grunzen Wasser from its source, and starting with the stream Jeleni Potok bears the name Eglitz. The literal meaning of „Grenzwasser”, „border water”, might indicate the author using this name to describe the area where these events occurred. No maps or literature mention „Grenzwasser” anywhere in the Karkonosze.

Budniki – called in German Baudenwinkel or Forstbauden – have a clear location, and there is no doubt here. The settlement of Finkelbauden remains a mystery. Eisenmänger writes: When we return from that square (referring to the „church square” mentioned later) to Budniki, and we venture southwards, then after crossing the hill we reach the middle terrace of the hill. Here we find traces of a third collection of houses, Finkelbauden. A rich stream, named Finkelborn, and a neighbouring one, the Weißer Born, are littered with stones. To the south of Budniki the road only continues upward, and the stream is still the Malina, which however has two sources, and these could be those named Finkelborn and Wasserborn. Thus the third settlement – Finkelbauden - might have been located close to the Ponura Kaskada (The Gloomy Cascade). „The tourist geography dictionary of the Sudety – Karkonosze” places the Dolne Miasteczko and the Górne Miasteczko on the northern slope of the Łysa Góra, which is contrary to what Eisenmänger, a person vastly knowledgeable with the area, writes; he places both of them on the western face of the Wołowa Góra. And there only Malina may be found, where on its right bank the author of the „History of the town” saw traces of the Dolne Miasteczko, and on the left, somewhat higher up, the Górne Miasteczko. From here, a march of about three quarters of an hour is required to reach Budniki, and this is correct.

Further history
The refugees of those days had no way of knowing how their fate would unfold. That their settlements would not only survive, but that individual farms would spring up in different locations on the Wołowa Góra (Buschbauden, Buschhäuser), and their owners would be able to live quite decently off the forest, herding and tourism, as was the case with Budniki. Just as elsewhere in the Karkonosze, protestants escaping religious persecution, brought on by the Thirty Years' War and the times that followed, also settled on the Wołowa Góra. The decision to leave these difficult and unfriendly conditions of habitation wasn't a sudden one, but lasted over dozens of years of the 18th and 19th centuries. The construction material from the abandoned houses was afterwards taken by inhabitants of the surrounding villages, even from as far away as Miłków. The sparse data we have suggests that life on these steep slopes must have been very colourful, if there are mentions of a brewery and of a church square. The foundations and the buttresses of the small church may be found to this day at the route Tabaczana Ścieżka, not far away from Budniki. It was Budniki which survived until the 1950s. The search for uranium, and afterwards - the covering of the traces of these searches through blowing up of the remains of the buildings in the 1960s, have finally closed the story of human settlements on the Wołowa Góra.

Adamski Władysław: Miasto górników i tkaczy. Zarys dziejów do 1945 roku (A city of miners and weavers. A sketch of history up to 1945.) [in:] Kowary – szkice z dziejów miasta (Kowary - sketches from the town history), vol. 1, ed. Tadeusz Bugaj, KTN, Jelenia Góra 1988.
Bugaj Tadeusz: Lisowczycy w Kowarach. Epizod z wojny trzydziestoletniej (The Lisowczycy in Kowary. A story from the Thirty Years' War) [in:] Kowary – szkice z dziejów miasta, vol. 1, ed. Tadeusz Bugaj, KTN, Jelenia Góra 1988.
Dembołęcki Wojciech: Przewagi elearów polskich, co ich niegdy lisowczykami zwano. Publishing house Wydawnictwo Adam Marszałek, Toruń 2005.
Eisenmänger Theodor: Historia miasta Kowary w Karkonoszach (History of the town of Kowary in the Karkonosze mountains). Translated by Tomasz Pryll, publishing house of the union of communes of Karkonosze (Związek Gmin Karkonoskich), currently prepared for printing.
Migoń Piotr, Potocki Jacek: Karkonosze polskie i czeskie. Przewodnik (Polish and Czech Karkonosze. A guide). Eko-Graf, Wrocław 2002.
Słownik geografii turystycznej. Karkonosze (The tourist geography dictionary of the Sudety – Karkonosze), ed. Marek Staffa, Publishing House of the Polish Tourist and Sightseeing Society PTTK „Kraj”, Warszawa-Kraków 1993.