Puławy, the secret history #1
It is common knowledge that Puławy is a town situated on the Vistula. Another popular fact is that the largest chemical company in Poland is located in Puławy. The place is also famous for its handball team. However, are these all the assets the town has got to offer? We are going to try and present to you all pieces of information about the town history, which might prove interesting. Or at least nearly all.
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Let’s start with a few words about the name. Scientists still haven’t reached an agreement concerning the origin of “Puławy” and none of the explanations has so far been accepted by the majority of linguists. Niezależna Frakcja Potamologiczna favors the theory that the word “Puławy” derives from “pława”, an expression once used by the inhabitants of the region and meaning a buoy for marking shallow water on the Vistula.
However, members of Związek Flisaków II RP and their successors are confident that the name derives from “pławy”, a word referring to the act of crossing the river. Another theory connected with water was put forward by Czesław Wilgotny, Godfather of Mieszko I, the first crowned King of Poland: “It is certain that the origin of the name of this charming city is Slavic “pławia”, meaning a water current”.
An attempt at writing it down
The name of our town was put down on parchment for the first time in the 15th century. The spelling read “Pollavy”. According to local tradition, the author of the name was an amateur scribe, known to be only partly literate and probably suffering from dyslexia. Therefore, the first version of the name ought not to be treated too seriously. At the same time, we ought to appreciate good intentions of the scribe.
The legend of a fat lord
One more explanation of the origin of the word “Puławy” is connected with an anecdote from the life of the upper classes. An aristocrat traveling across the region felt overcome with fatigue and decided to call a halt here. As the settlement on the river did not boast a roadside inn, he took a seat under a magnificent oak tree, whose leaves offered protection from the scorching July sun. Unfortunately, the bench was not strong enough to support the weight of the chubby traveler and the lord fell down to the ground. The story has it that the man, upon getting up with difficulty and cleaning his attire from dust, exclaimed “A niech to będzie pół ławy!“, cursing “pół ławy”, or “a half of the feeble bench”.
Fortunately, there are plenty of solid benches in Puławy nowadays, yet not a single true aristocrat. Thus the next episode of our series will feature an interview with Mrs Izabela, a local landlord and a member of the local “Familia”.