Friday, July 24, 2009

Lodz: One of our Cradles

Lodz is Poland’s second largest city with some 890,000 inhabitants today. It began as a small farming community and later developed into a center of the textile industry. The place first appears in written records in 1332. The Poles write the name as Łódz and pronounce it as Voudcs, the “ou” as in could, the “cs” as in church. During the Nazi days the Germans renamed the city Litzmannstadt—a rather radical revision when you consider that in Polish Lodz means “boat.” A boat with an oar is the city’s symbol. The image on the left shows an old version of it dating to 1577. The text, in Latin, says Seal of the Town of Lodz. The shape of the object reminds one of Viking raiders; the modern city’s coat of arms, shown next, retains that shape—a yellow boat on a red field. One imagines the first settlers arriving by boat, rowing up the Jasien river, coming from the west. The river eventually supplies its waters to the Oder. One old boat must have been left dry on land up on some rise, and the landing came to be called “boat.”

Spinning and weaving became an early industry in Lodz and textile working appears to have caused a village to rise to the status of a city. One of the earliest buildings was a weaving mill along the Jasien river in 1387. Lodz may have had a history similar to the city of Szczecin—a gradual colonization by enterprising Germans; but in Lodz this process was not quite so advanced. Brigitte’s forebears were relatively recent immigrants, following a tradition introduced well before their time, and at the time of Brigitte’s arrival in 1932, they were still in that industry, even if her own parents no longer were. Not only that. Both of Brigitte’s parents came from textile families. Her mother’s people had founded a textile spinning operation in Lodz in the middle of the nineteenth century. The successor of that mill was still in operation in Brigitte’s day, although the enterprise was by then also engaged in manufacturing weaving equipment. Brigitte’s mother, however, was a dentist. Her father’s family were operating textile weaving enterprises; but her father was an economist and business consultant.

1 comment:

  1. Ghulf Genes is certainly living up to it's name! How many cities have merchant ships as their symbol! Did you know that the symbol of Paris is also a merchant ship? And I even think that that of Candes-St-Martin might also be a ship...The village is situated at the meeting of the two rivers La Vienne and La Loire and was definitely a shipping town although today it's tourism, tourism, tourism!
    One more remark : what a small country is Poland if the second biggest city has only some 900,000 inhabitants!

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