Poland marks 100th anniversary of ‘Wedding with the Baltic Sea’

A wreath symbolising a wedding ring was lowered from a helicopter into the stormy waters in the presence of President Andrzej Duda in the fishermen’s harbour of the Polish coastal town of Puck as part of the celebration of the 100th anniversary of what came to be known as “Poland’s Wedding to the Sea” – a historic event that took place on February 10, 1920. General Józef Haller, one of the key military commanders who restored the Polish independence, threw a platinum ring into the frosty waters of the Baltic Sea in 1920.

“I wish to bow my head to Pomerelia, to the Kashubians, to the people of this land, to the generations and the graves of those who fought here for Poland and the Polish identity,” said Poland’s President Andrzej Duda.

“In the name of the whole of the Republic of Poland, in the name of all of our compatriots in Poland and all over the world, God bless you for your service, for you unflinching loyalty to Pomerelia, to the Baltic Sea, for all that you did so that we can stand here today.”

The Kashubians are a West Slavic ethnic group native to the historical region of Pomerelia (Kashubia) in modern north-central Poland. They speak the Kashubian language, which is classified either as a separate language closely related to Polish, or as a Polish dialect. They took an active part in the struggle for independent Poland with access to the Baltic Sea.

Following the wreath-laying, the Anthem to the Baltic Sea was performed.

The day started with inhabitants of Puck and historical re-enactment actors welcoming guests, including an actor impersonating Józef Haller in a historical reconstruction of the general’s arrival to Puck from Toruń in February 1920. The atmosphere was joyful and festive.

Earlier on in the day, President Duda unveiled a commemorative plaque in front of the Saint Apostles Peter and Paul Church, and laid a wreath at another plaque commemorating the murder of the citizens of Puck at the hands of German forces in 1939.

Moreover, a plaque commemorating Antoni Miotke, a co-organiser of the original February 10, 1920, the wedding of Poland with the Baltic Sea, Polish independence, social and cultural activist, was unveiled by President Duda, the head of Poland’s Institute of National Remembrance Jarosław Szarek and the mayor of Puck.

Later in the day, in the town of Wejherowo, President Duda will unveil another plaque commemorating the incorporation of Pomerelia into Poland. To close the day, the president, together with the First Lady Agata Kornhauser-Duda, will participate in a solemn concerto at the Ignacy Jan Paderewski Pomeranian Philharmonic.

The wedding

After a centennial divorce with the Baltic, brought about by Russia and Prussia, the executors of the second partition of Poland in 1793, Poland symbolically wedded the sea on February 10, 1920. The ceremony was performed February 10, 1920, by General Józef Haller at the city of Puck (former German town of Putzig).

The lead-up to the ceremony was that General Józef Haller was appointed the commander of the Pomeranian Front of the Polish Army in October 1920. The unit was created to peacefully recover the former German Empire's province of Pomerelia, which was granted to the Second Polish Republic by the Treaty of Versailles.

Having entered the central Polish town of Toruń on January 18, 1920, Polish soldiers moved northwards, finally reaching the Baltic Sea coast on February 10 despite occasional sabotage on the part of the retreating German forces.

On the way to Puck, on the early morning of February 10, General Haller and his staff met at Gdańsk (former German name “Danzig”) rail station with members of Polish community of the Free City of Gdańsk including Józef Wybicki who handed him two platinum rings, funded by the Polish townsfolk of Gdańsk. One of the rings was later thrown into the sea in Puck.

The ceremony took place at the coast of the Baltic Sea near the town of Puck and gathered a host of eminent politicians and freedom fighters including PM Wincenty Witos, future presidents of Poland Stanisław Wojciechowski and Maciej Rataj, and Józef Wybicki.

The crowning point of the ceremony was marked by a Roman Catholic holy mass, during which the flag of the Polish Navy was blessed, and, to the salvo of 21 guns, raised on the mast. This symbolically meant that from then on Poland’s seacoast was guarded by the Navy.

It was also during that event that General Haller threw the ring into the water, saying: "In the name of the Holy Republic of Poland, I, General Jozef Haller, am taking control of this ancient Slavic Baltic Sea shore". Wojciech Kossak, inspired by these events, painted "Polish Wedding to the Sea" in 1931.