360 years since the Swedish siege of Czestochowa, and 11 years since a 60th wedding anniversary celebrated there (Part Two)
By Mark Wegierski
We then continued towards Piotrkow Trybunalski, a historic town which was the seat of Poland's Royal Tribunal for hundreds of years (before 1795). It was also an occasional point of assembly for the Polish Sejm (or Parliament), whose members were elected from and by the nobility. The traditions of the Sejm stretched back to the Renaissance period. Given that the noble class numbered around ten percent of the population in Old Poland – unlike in most other European countries, where it was only one or two percent -- this meant that historically a far larger proportion of the population had full political participation than in some other countries in Europe, such as the French monarchy, where meaningful politics in fact usually revolved around a fraction of a percentage of the population.
After the death of the last Jagiellonian King in 1572, Old Poland also had the system where a King was elected for life by the electoral Sejm – rather than having a hereditary dynast -- hence it could be called a Royal Republic. Indeed, it was referred to in European diplomacy as "Serenissima" – which could be rendered in English as "the Most Serene Republic" – a term which had also been used in reference to Old Venice.
In the U.S. Constitution of 1787, the office of the President of the United States (which, it may be remembered, was not originally subject to term limits), may have been partially inspired by the Polish elected monarchy.
Turning towards the east, we whipped across 80 kilometers to reach Zarnow, a small town whose earliest building (the church) dates back to the tenth century. Zarnow is where her grandparents were living at that time, in a decidedly modest house of a few rooms. I was told that when her grandparents were digging a well, they encountered a very hard wall of rock – which might have been remnants of early medieval walls. Unfortunately, with an overstretched government budget, in a country which is – outside of Warsaw and a few other large centers – subject to considerable, often grinding poverty – funds for exploratory archeological digs are very limited.
We quickly loaded the grandparents into the car, which was a rather tight fit for four people and an increasingly nervy dog, and our problems became exacerbated when the grandmother began to suffer from motion sickness. Nevertheless, we persevered and finally reached Czestochowa by about 4 P.M. Her immediate family – including her mother, sister, and one brother, lives in a fairly large house with a large yard, on the outskirts of the city.
To be continued.
(This series is based on the author's article that originally appeared in Chronicles (Rockford, IL) (December 2005), pp. 38-39.)
Mark Wegierski is a Toronto-based writer and historical researcher.