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Saturday, February 14, 2009

Jan Ziniewicz' Longest Night

A Different Kind of Memorial

Last night, 63 years ago, the glorious city of Dresden was turned into a heap of rubble.

I would like to post a little memorial beyond any "We poor Germans have all been hijacked by some evil Nazi aliens"-whining and "No Tears for Krauts" or "Bomber Harris Do It Again" self-hatred.

This is about a survivor of the bombing, a young Polish man named Jan Ziniewicz, and about hope.

To appropriately explain who Jan Ziniewicz was (or is, he may well be still alive) I have to digress.

Breeding pure Arabian horses had a 400-year tradition in Poland already when Germany raided Poland in 1939. In 1817, after the Congress of Vienna on the initiative of Administrative Council of the Congressional Kingdom of Poland, Janów Podlaski, the first and most important Polish state-stud was founded and it was mainly from here that the Arabian horse, gentrified by Polish breeding genius, went to pass on its beauty, toughness, athletic ability and kind disposition to the indigenous breeds of Europe.

More than 80 percent of Janów's horses had perished in the war campaign of 1939. In 1944, as the Sovjet army was approaching the River Bug, the German Command ordered an evacuation of the horses. The farm, including its staff, was relocated to Sohland in Saxony where it remained until February 1945. With them were the stars among the stallions, the half-brothers Witraz and Wielki Szlem – and Jan Ziniewicz, their groom.

The evacuation continued westward when the Russian army crossed the River Oder. Arriving in Dresden on the night of February 13th, 1945, the entire group of 80 stallions were swallowed by the firebrand that destroyed the city. More than half of the stallions were lost in this pandemonium, a fate that certainly would have befallen Witraz and Wielki Szlem too, had it not been for the courage and determination of Jan Ziniewicz. With Witraz' reins in one hand and Wielki Szlem's in the other, the slip of a lad (as he was described) hold tight to his treasured charges throughout the entire horrific ordeal. He didn't let it go, the pride and the future of the Polish Arabian breed, not among fire, bombs and dying people, not even when Witraz's tail caught fire, not when his hands were chafed to raw meat and not when he must have realized that he was very probably going to die.

But he didn't.

Stud manager young Dr. Andrzej Krzysztalowicz (1915 – 1998), later to become Janów's Director from 1958 to 1991, arrived early the next morning, riding another one of the stud's priceless stars, Amurath Sahib, to find his two precious stallions deeply upset, but basically unharmed. Of 80 stallions 38 survived, 22 were found dead and 20 were never found at all. When he rode along the 22 dead bodies of his stallions, it can be safely assumed that he wept.

Mares and foals had remained unharmed. They had arrived only after the firebrand because of the slow travelling speed imposed by the presence of very young foals.

The horses, including Witraz and Wielki Szlem, were repatriated to Poland in 1946. They were to establish historic legacies of unmatched importance to their breed, not just in Poland but all over the world.

On October 30, 2005, the Frauenkirche, Dresden's landmark and most glorious architectural gem, was consecrated anew after more than a decade of rebuilding, helped by donations from Britain and the United States.

Jan Ziniewicz with Almifar (Witraz' grandson) and Czort (Wielki Szlem's son). Judging from the birthdates of the stallions, the picture must have been taken in the early Sixties.

My thanks for this picture go to Betty Finke, one of the greatest experts on Arabian horses alive.

Posted first last year today at Roncesvalles.

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Blogger christian soldier said...

Were the two Arab stallions among those rescued by Col. Reed (WP) on the orders of Gen. Patton (WP)?...

Later that day Col. Reed and the German general in charge of the intelligence unit had breakfast together. The two men found that they had a mutual interest in horses. The general showed Reed some beautiful photographs of Lipizzaners and Arabs that had recently been taken at the German Remount Depot at Hostau, Czechoslovakia.

BTW-thank you for the head's up-beautiful Arabians definitely of the 'old type'...

Saturday, February 14, 2009 7:45:00 pm  
Blogger The_Editrix said...

I think the (Polish) Arabs would have given back to Poland, one of the victims of Germany, anyway. I think Patton saw that the Lipizzaners were not taken to America, but I am not 100% sure.

If you are interested in horses: This entry in my blog, another memorial, is about equestrian matters as well.

Interesting that you should say that about the "old type". Nothing beats a really good Polish Arab of the "old type". More than twenty years ago I was heavily involved in the "scene" here in Germany. That was when they imported all that "Asil" crap from the Middle East and made a bomb out of it. Of course, Polish Arabs are not "pure". Thank God they aren't. Horses are not polar bears or giraffes, they are bred not for some pseudo-spiritual "pureness", but for performance and looks. Even then, decades before I became aware of the snares of the oriental culture, I thought what mugs those Germans are, getting their oh-so-pure horses from the Middle East, believing in Arab "honour" to sell them their best (and "pure") horses. All dished-in heads, bulging eyes, flaring nostrils, nonexisting croups, spindly legs, neck stuck in the wrong way, and tail up in the air. Have you ever RIDDEN such an animal? And one of the Polish type for comparison? Un-effing-believable!

Sorry for rambling!

Saturday, February 14, 2009 9:03:00 pm  
Blogger christian soldier said...

Same thing happened here-an example being our Quarter Horse-sturdy no more---now w/ low set necks-spindly legs-tiny feet (the old adage-no foot no horse- forgotten)...

I will keep my last bred-from my wonderful Trakehner mare and an 'old type' Welsh Cob---Sr.Benjamin-"Benji"-I know- horses are not pets - but he is!
Her other two sons are 'stars' in dressage and H/J-
Star of David is Trak/Hol
Sweet Independence is Trak/Old

Horsewoman do 'ramble' when it comes to horses-so-ramble on :-)!!!

Saturday, February 14, 2009 9:51:00 pm  
Blogger The_Editrix said...

Hey! The last horses I owned many years ago had been two graded (licensed) stallions, a Shagya and a Trakehner!

Look here.

Great to "meet" you, CS!

Sunday, February 15, 2009 7:39:00 am  
Blogger christian soldier said...

Editrix-I look forward to your posts...and-great to meet you too!

Sunday, February 15, 2009 5:36:00 pm  

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