After the tragic events of World War I and the Bolshevik invasion of Poland, which led to an almost total destruction of Polish Arabian horse breeding, came a 20-year period of its peak development. In 1918 Poland regained its independence and national sovereignty. The period of 123 years of Poland’s partition between three European superpowers: Russia, Austria and Germany came to an end. The dreams of many generations of Poles came true, though only a part of the pre-partition territories found themselves within the borders of free Poland. However freedom also meant a gigantic effort of rebuilding the country after the damages of war and the forming of a state administration from scratch. The Poles began this labor with understandable energy and enthusiasm. Nobody assumed that this period of accelerated growth and awoken hopes would be so short… and that after two decades another tempest, even worse than the previous one, would sweep through the country, leaving even deeper wounds. That again, together with the march of hostile armies, would come vandalism, manslaughter and robbery. That another exile is in the offing – of people and together with them of the horses: the transportation of the first deep within the Soviets, the evacuation of others to Germany, right under the bombs dropped on Dresden. In short, that history has once again prepared a terrible trial for the Poles – and the Polish Arabians.
Meanwhile however the shifting of borders after World War I resulted in the fact that many studs, especially the borderland ones, did not rise from ruin. Others tried to reconstruct their potential from the remains that were saved from the ravages of war. At the same time new studs were established. We must bear in mind that only 10% of the pre-war headage of Polish breeding survived World War I. Out of 500 broodmares, only 56 were listed in the 1st Section (horses documented as 100% pure blood) of the Polish Arabian Stud Book.
With faith in the future the people set about working on the rebuilding of studs, especially the completely devastated stud at Janów Podlaski, the preparation of a racing program (Arabian races were initiated in 1927) and most of all the purchasing of horses – which was a huge challenge amidst the post-war chaos. Already in 1919 the first mares arrived at Janów, including the superb Koalicja 1918, granddam of Witeź II, about whom we will speak of later. “In times when it was difficult to purchase valuable Arabian mares in Poland and private breeders journeyed to England, France, Yugoslavia, Germany or Hungary to obtain them, Janów Podlaski was able to accumulate a remarkable group of mares”, wrote Roman Pankiewicz, a historian of Polish breeding, author of books and genealogical tables of Arabian horses, also known as the breeder of Bask, in his extremely well substantiated work “Polish Arabian horse breeding 1918-1939”. During 1932–1939 the amount of pure-blood broodmares used in Polish breeding (both state and private) ranged between 93 and 145 (Prof. Witold Pruski “Two centuries of Polish Arabian horse breeding 1778–1978 and its successes abroad”). The journey of Bogdan Ziętarski, from 1927 the manager of Prince Roman Sanguszko’s stud at Gumniska with 8 surviving mares and 3 stallions, went down in history. Sanguszko invested huge resources to restore his breeding to greatness. And so in 1930 Ziętarski, together with Carl Raswan of Germany, set off in search of horses to Arabia. From this famous expedition, leading through Constantinople, Alexandria, Egypt, Beirut, Damascus, Bagdad, Bahrain and Nejd, during which the travelers inspected thousands (!) of horses and faced countless adversities, the breeder brought (among others) a stallion of epochal significance – Kuhailan Haifi d.b. 1923, found among the Ruala Bedouins, who, though himself inconspicuous-looking, established a sire line which produced more and more splendid horses with each subsequent generation. Kuhailan Haifi is regarded as the best desert Arabian ever imported to Poland. His son Ofir (in turn considered as his best get) sired the so-called “Great Foursome”: Wielki Szlem, Witraż, Witeź II and Wyrwidąb. In turn Wielki Szlem was the father of Czort, who sired El Paso. Witraż is best remembered as the sire of Celebes and Bask. The second import, Kuhailan Afas d.b., made a name for himself as the ancestor of Comet 1953.
There were also small, but significant studs appearing on the scene, as for instance the stud of the Bąkowski family at Kraśnica, where Bałałajka 1941 was foaled, the dam of Bask and Bandola known as the „Queen of Polish Arabians”. Whereas at Beheń and Deraźne, at the studs of brothers Roman and Józef Potocki, having miraculously survived were three mares from the famous stud at Antoniny, which perished during the Bolshevik attack – Flora 1916, Lutecja 1917 and Koncha 1918. All three proved to be valuable dams, giving birth to a very promising breeding. And all three were lost in 1939…
On September 1st, 1939 German troops crossed the Polish Western border. With Germany’s invasion of Poland World War II began. On September 17th, on the strength of the German-Soviet agreement known as the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, Poland was attacked from the East by the Soviets, who dealt a deadly stab in the back to our country, occupied with fighting the German invader.
Several days after the Germans crossed our borders the stud at Janów Podlaski evacuated itself East. In all a total of 260 horses and 19 horse-drawn wagons with forage and equipment, under the care of tens of people, set off on the road. At night, on the road to Brest, a column of tanks ran into the group of yearling colts. The horses scattered and the then director of the stud, the remarkable breeder Stanisław Pohoski, who had brought the stud during the years of peace to its peak development, nearly committed suicide out of despair. Meanwhile however, at the news of the Russians attacking from the East, both people and horses turned back to Janów, reaching the stud in pitiful condition after a 12 day long journey. Several hours later the Soviet troops came. All horses were robbed; they were loaded onto wagons and transported to Caucasus – to Tersk. At a given signal also the Belarussian people from across the Bug River, a territory which at that time lay within the Polish borders, set off to plunder the Janów Stud. “Even the metal roofing was torn off and root crops dug out”, Pankiewicz reported. “Only the coming of the Germans brought an end to this”. He further added: “Probably it never crossed Pohoski’s mind that he would suddenly lose the entire stud: chief sires, broodmares, all the youngsters and foals”… Out of 27 mares only Najada 1932 remained, who did not allow to be led out of her stall. Fortunately later on the yearlings, lost during the evacuation, were found. Among the mares robbed by the Russians 7 were lost and 20 made it to Tersk, from where they were again evacuated in fear of the approaching German troops – by foot! – to Kazakhstan. Only 9 of them lived longer than 3 years, among them mares who would become famous dams in later years: the Ofir daughter Mammona 1939, great-granddam of Monogramm, foundress of a dynasty from which the majority of Russian horses today descend and Taraszcza 1937, who produced Negatiw, the sire of Nabor and Bandos. The entire female progeny of Koalicja was lost. Taken away was the wonderful Gazella II 1914 and the valuable Kewa 1923 (in 1953 her granddaughter Piewica was purchased, who began in Poland today’s world-famous “P” line), the remarkable stallion Piołun 1934, the later sire of Priboj 1944 who left 203 foals at Tersk and the famous race horse Hardy 1926. And most of all the epochal Ofir 1933, son of Kuhailan Haifi. “And so ceased to exist the most wonderful Arabian stud in Europe, and perhaps even in the world”, wrote Pankiewicz about Janów.
The year 1939 brought either an end or irretrievable damages also to other breedings. Gumniska lost the horses imported from the desert by Ziętarski, among them the stallions Kuhailan Kruszan d.b. 1927 and Kuhailan Afas d.b. 1930. Part of the mares from Beheń and Deraźne of the Potocki brothers found themselves at Tersk, but did not survive the evacuation of the Soviet stud to Kazakhstan. The requisition by the Red Army of the horses from Pełkinie belonging to the Czartoryski family is told by Helena Mauberg in the book “A certain story”: “That squeal, the tightened beautiful equine heads, the otherwise taming with great skill of never before saddled young Arabians. A swarm of struggling horses and people.”
Of course horses were not the only ones that perished – so did their caretakers. Especially those whose studs found themselves on the territories taken in 1939 by the USSR. The owner of the stud at Niskołyze, Józef Mencel, was arrested by the Bolsheviks and put to prison. His ordeal lasted two years. He died in 1941 in camp, out of exhaustion, starvation and disease. The owner of Kraśnica, Jerzy Bąkowski, who fought against the Russians in 1920 (atop his own horse!) this time also set off to war – and also atop his own horse. He was murdered in 1940, similar to the owner of the Wysuczka stud, Cyryl Czarkowski-Golejewski, together with almost 22 thousand Polish officers gathered in several prisoner-of-war camps: Ostashkov, Starobilsk and Kozelsk. This genocide, known as the Katyn massacre from the name of the Katyn Forest where mass graves were dug, was kept a secret for many years after the war. Officially the Russians blamed the Germans and the Polish communist authorities kept silent, erasing this “incident” from the history books. Not until the 90s of the 20th century did Russia admit that the order to commit murder was given by Stalin. It was on the way to the commemoration of this massacre that the Polish president was killed, together with 95 other delegation members, in an airplane crash at the Smolensk airport in April of 2010.
During the occupation (1939–1945) some of the Arabian studs were still active, though under extremely difficult conditions. The German administration even gave rise from ruin to Janów Podlaski. In 1941 there were already 13 pure-blood mares in Janów, including Iwonka III 1936 (together with her daughter Bałałajka), taken by the Germans from Kraśnica and later sent, by order of Colonel Gustav Rau, a German equine expert, the head of studs on the occupied territories, to Hostau in the Sudetes mountain range on the Czech side of the border. The Janów mares were bred to various sires, among them the colts who thanks to their famous nightly escape avoided being transported to Tersk. Many Polish private breeders and stud staff searched for and rescued horses lost in 1939. One of them was Józef Tyszkowski, a former horse breeding inspector in Lvov, who had under his care a group of some n-teen horses at Stare Selo near Bibrka, among them the stallion My Kismet 1934 and 10 pure-blood mares.
Of course the persecutions did not stop – people involved in the resistance movement were killed, as for instance Bronisław Pruski from the Prussy Stud near Warsaw, who was arrested by the Gestapo and at once murdered; also those who for some reason fell into disfavor with the occupant or were caught in the massive round-ups. In 1941 disappeared the stud at Breniów, who made itself famous by having bred the stallion Amurath Sahib 1932, the sire of Bałałajka and Adis Abeba 1947. The latter mare initiated the history of Michałów Stud after the war – she is the first entry in the Michałów stud book. The daughters of Amurath Sahib produced numerous champions in the US and Canada after the war.
The occupant terror lasted for an entire 5 years – and its culmination came in 1944–1945. The increase of war activities connected with the offensive of the Allies and battles of the recent allies and now deadly enemies – Russia and Germany, meant another evacuation for Janów. Already in July of 1944 the Nazi authorities loaded all the horses onto trains heading West. For half a year the stud was stationed at Sohland near Rotstein (Saxony), after which it set off on foot to Dresden, by order of Colonel Gustav Rau, to the local cavalry barracks. “The march was over roads filled with troops and fugitives”, so describes that journey Prof. Pruski. “The weather was cold, rainy, with strong winds, the mares began to go into labor, the newlyborns had to be put on wagons, which there was a lack of.” The column reached Dresden at a time of the carpet-bombing by the Allies – on the night of the 13th and 14th of February, 1945. Many horses perished. Under this bombardment were also two of the most valuable Janów chief sires, the sons of Ofir, Wielki Szlem and Witraż, from the surviving group of 1939 yearlings, who had by now proven their remarkable breeding value. The frantic with fear stallions were held in an iron grip by the Janów groom Jan Ziniewicz. Thanks to him they survived. In March of 1945 the horses were sent to Nettelau in Schleswig-Holstein. There they held out until the end of the war and were taken under the care of the Board of Polish Studs, established in May of 1945 in Germany. Beginning from 1946 the horses began to slowly return to Poland, by sea, from Lubeck to Gdynia, on board the ships “Ascania” and “Helgoland” shuttling to and from. However not all of them. Some were considered by the American army, occupying Germany, as spoils of war. The famous stallion Witeź II, one of the “Great Foursome” – the four valuable sons of Ofir – from the group of yearlings saved after the evacuation in 1939 (he was under the care of a forest worker, who not being able to feed the horse led the nearly starved stallion back to the stud), even had his peregrinations immortalized in a book (Linell Smith, “And Miles to Go”). In Bavaria, where he found himself in 1945 after the evacuation from Hostau where he was previously transported, General George Patton’s 8th Army was stationed. At one of the airports a former Janów staff worker recognized Witeź, but talks on returning the stallion brought no results. Witeź, as a spoil of war, sailed off to the US, after which he was sold to a private breeder. Poland long negotiated his return, but achieved only a small compensation in the form of deducting 50 thousand dollars from our country’s debt. In that time Witeź was already garnering laurels, as US Champion among others. Carl Raswan named him a “Living Treasure of the World”. His last owner, Lou Betts, funded a “Witezeum”, a museum of mementos. He lived until 1965, leaving 215 foals in America. Transported to the US was also Lotnik 1938, as well as the Kraśnica-bred Iwonka III (also at the order of General Patton), who produced valuable offspring in the US with Witeź. Wyrwidąb also did not return from Germany. His name was changed to Wind and he became a foundation of German breeding after the war, next to another Polish-robbed stallion Towarzysz Pancerny 1937 (named in Germany Halef). In 1947 the Russians transported from Germany another 9 mares of pure Polish origins. According to Prof. Pruski in all a total of 39 Janów mares, 12 suckling foals and three stallions (Amurath Sahib, Wielki Szlem and Witraż) returned to Poland. From the evacuation in 1944 up until 1947 accompanying the horses in their war wanderings was Engineer Andrzej Krzyształowicz, the later meritorious, many year director of Janów Podlaski Stud.
The war activities of 1945 were not survived by many horses from private studs. The stud at Gumniska, which during occupation was still managed by Bogdan Ziętarski, came to an end. Horses were lost during the evacuation near Nowy Tomyśl; probably taken over by Soviet troops. It was then that Ziętarski’s desert import, the mare Sheikha d.b. 1923 and her daughters, among others, were lost. This mare made herself famous still in her homeland, when while owned by the Nejd Bedouins she travelled 280 km without food nor drink. Ziętarski put a lot of effort in finding and purchasing her. Lost in 1945 was also the only mare saved from Breniów – Signiorita 1940. The march of Soviet troops through Kraśnica ended tragically. As recounted by Ewa Bąkowska, daughter of the murdered in Katyń Jerzy, “in just one night the entire livestock and household belongings disappeared”. However mother and daughter reclaimed Bałałajka and two other mares, which were then taken away from them by the communist authorities. Roman Pankiewicz wrote about Bałałajka’s wonderful nature: “Just the look of her beautiful eyes grabbed your heart. Bałałajka was to me a symbol of femininity and motherhood, an ideal of a broodmare”.
Able to save the pupils under his charge was Józef Tyszkowski. During the evacuation in 1944 he made it all the way to the Sudetes mountains. The horses were placed at Topolcanky in Slovakia. For almost a year Tyszkowski made efforts to return with the horses to Poland. The Czechoslovakian authorities would most gladly keep both the horses, as well as the valued breeder, while the new Polish authorities were not in a hurry to make suitable decisions. Finally, in January of 1946, Tyszkowski together with the horses and his family – wife and son – after 22 months of wandering, during which they survived bombings, hunger and danger of robbery, found his haven at Nowy Dwór, where later in 1953 the epochal Comet was born.
The year of 1945 was also the beginning of a new public order, a new system, the nationalization of what was private and the agricultural reform, which took away land from people – also those who bred Arabians. By order of a special decree, agricultural farms over 50 hectares (in 3 provinces – above 100 ha) were nationalized. “The only Arabian horses remaining in private hands were mares descending from Pełkinie Stud of Prince Czartoryski: Dakaszma 1944 and Ak-Haifa 1945”, summed up Roman Pankiewicz. “Only Mrs. Bąkowska of Kraśnica received money (rather not a large amount) for her mares Bałałajka 1941 and Arfa 1947.”
After the war Poland did not reclaim its lost horses either from the Russians, nor from the Americans. Private breeding ceased to exist. Before Polish Arabian horse breeding, now at the mercy of the people’s authorities, stood another historical trial: to endure through communism.
The article has been published in the “Arabians. Horse Mag”, France/Belgium
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