Opatówek Commune

Jadwiga Miluśka

Opatówek is a village of 3800 inhabitants situated 10 km south-east from Kalisz. (in the Kalisz district, the province of Wielkopolska). The Opatówek area, where the commune's seat is based, is an agricultural and industrial region, which also has numerous tourist and recreational advantages. 10 000 inhabitants dwell in the commune (Opatówek and 28 smaller towns). The commune is situated in a picturesque landscape of the Opatówek-Malanów Hills. The hills of Chełmce (187 m), Rajsko (177,2 m) and Tłokinia Kościelna (164,7 m) dominate the valleys of rivers Pokrzywnica, Cienia and Swędrnia. The technical infrastructure is well developed in the commune: local roads, waterworks, a gas pipeline, sewage system as well as a sewage treatment plant.

Opatówek is a historical town. It belonged to archbishops of Gniezno since 13th century, who probably helped it to obtain municipal rights. The archbishop Jarosław Bogoria from Skotniki built a brick church and a castle here in about 1360, which were visited by outstanding clergymen and civil dignitaries. Both buildings stood until the beginning of the 19th century. In 1793 the archbishops' property was confiscated by the Prussian authorities; since 1807 they belonged to general Józef Zajączek, the future governor of the Kingdom of Poland. In that time many buildings designed by the most outstanding architects were constructed; moreover, the governor carried out reforms in his property which enabled the economical development in this area.

Adolf Gottlieb Fiedler, the Saxon industrialist who came to Opatówek, established one of the biggest fabric factories in the Kingdom of Poland in 1824-26. He employed 600 workers and the goods manufactured here won international prizes.

Two outstanding Poles were born in Opatówek: Agaton and Stefan Giller brothers. Agaton Giller (1831 - 1887) was a historian, publicist and patriotic activist. After he had been sent into exile to Siberia, he became the first Siberian historian and the biographer of other sent Poles. During the January Uprising he was a member of the National Government and then, in exile in Paris, a journalist in such periodicals as: "Ojczyzna", "Kurier Paryski", a founder of Polish self-assistance organisations and one of the founders of the Polish Museum in Rapperswil. The National Polish Association in the United States considers him as its "spiritual father". He wrote many historical and biographical works, articles and studies. He died in 1887 in Stanisławów. His grave was moved in 1980 from the closed cemetery in Stanisławów into the Powązki Cemetery in Warsaw. Stefan January Giller (1833-1918), was a poet, an epigone of the Polish Romanticism, a Polish history of literature and a Polish language teacher at schools in Kalisz when the Russian government tried hard to eradicate the Polish language from the public life. He was highly valued and respected by his students, who were, among others, the president of the Polish Republic, Stanisław Wojciechowski, the chancellor of the University of Vilnius, Alfons Parczewski and many outstanding doctors and lawyers.

In 1997 librarians from Opatówek found many documents, letters, manuscripts, books and objects owned by the Gillers' family in their house attic. The letters, the most valuable part of this finding, were worked out and published as "The Unknown Letters of Giller family".

In 1870, Opatówek lost its municipal rights as a result of the suppression after the January Uprising and because of the economical decay. Nevertheless the fabric factory kept working until the end of the 19th century when the Wooden Toys Factory was established here, whose products won numerous prizes at European expositions. The profit-making, well organised property yielded a big profit to the next owners. In 1918-1939 the inhabitants were active members of many social-cultural and religious organisations.

Nowadays there are many firms in the commune of Opatówek, like the large modern factory "Jutrzenka" manufacturing beverages (earlier "Hellena"), a brickyard, a commune co-operative "Samopomoc Chłopska" as well as about 840 firms, which are private in most cases. They deal with production, trade or services. There are big market gardens under glass growing mainly tomatoes. The Bank Spółdzielczy Ziemi Kaliskiej and a branch of the PKO Bank deal with financial service of the inhabitants, institutions and firms. Since 1998 the Garden and Agriculture Fair "Pamiętajcie o ogrodach" has been organised. The local gardeners and fruit-growers, as well as exhibitors from all over the country and abroad participate in it.

In the commune there are primary school, 3 school groups (primary and grammar school together), a grammar-school in Opatówek, Stanisław Mikołajczyk School Group and a branch of the Wyższa Szkoła Informatyki in Łódź. The new building of the high school with a large hall is being built nowadays. There is also a kindergarten.

The Industry History Museum is the most known cultural institution was created in 1981 in the former fabric factory. One of the most valuable permanent expositions is the collection of antique pianos manufactured by the Polish companies. The museum was put down on the International Committee for Preservation of Industrial Heritage list. Concerts, conferences and different events take place here.

The Giller Brothers' Communal Public Library in Opatówek has also got a broad scope of activity. It has two branches in Rajsko and Tłokinia Wielka; since 1999 it has played the role of the District Library in the Kalisz District. The library is computerised and has got access to the Internet.

A broad scope of activity is also executed by the communal Culture Centre in Opatówek and the Writer House (owned by NOT) in Tłokinia Kościelna. In 1990 the Opatówek Lovers Association was found, which publishes the magazine "Opatowianin"; there are also other associations: the Polish Republic Veterans and Former Political Prisoners' Association, the Pensioners and Disabled People's Association as well as the Polish Fishing Association. The 16 Voluntary Fire Brigades play an important role in the commune's social life. They are represented at celabrations and concerts by their brass bands. They have long traditions; the Voluntary Fire Brigade in Opatówek celebrated its 120 anniversary in 2002. There are very active Farmer's Wives Circles in many villages. The communal Centre of Social Aid cares about people in need. The inhabitants have doctors and nurses in the Health Centre in Opatówek at their disposal as well as a family doctor and three pharmacies. In Rożdżały there is a hospital for people suffering from cancer.

There are different sport events in the commune of Opatówek, some of them are well known in Poland. In 2001 the VII Country-wide Youth Olympic Games for Summer Sports "Wielkopolska 2001" was inaugurated at the artificial lake in Szałe. The commune Opatówek was the host of the rowing and mountain cycling competition. The following Olympic Games for Water sports took place in summer 2004. The lake can be visited on board of the tourist ship "Opatówek". The commune is represented by the football team "Klub Sportowy Opatówek" at the regional competition. There is a complex of sports fields "Orlik-2012".

A cycle path runs through Opatówek from Józefów to Zduny. Tourists and travellers can find favourable conditions to take a rest in the "Czarnuszka" motel at the road No 12, which goes from Łęknica at the west border to Dorohusk at the Ukrainian border.

The commune of Opatówek can boast about many advantages, interesting to tourists, due to its location, history and monuments. The most valuable monument is the building of the former fabric factory built in the style of classicism (1824) and other related buildings. In the neogothic parish church we can visit a classicistic St Anne's chapel and the general Zajączek's, former Opatówek proprietor, sarcophagus. There are not many monuments from the general Zajączek's times: so-called "cake shop", the palace annexe, the farm workers' houses and a little bridge in the park, which is the oldest existing bridge made of cast iron in the former Kingdom of Poland.

There are 4 parish churches in the commune. The oldest one - the Saint Michael Archangel's church in Rajsko - was built in 17th century. The wooden St. Jack Apostle in Tłokinia Wielka was built in the beginning of 18th century and the church in Chełmce in the 80's of 19th century. The present church of the St. Jesus' Heart in Opatówek was built in the beginning of 20th century at the place of former sacred buildings. All these parishes belong to the oldest ones in Poland.

The commune of Opatówek has got many attractions which make it an interesting region for tourists. Another community advantage is its location - 10 kilometres away from Kalisz, the big urban centre and the seat of district authorities, as well as good transport connections with Kalisz and provinces' capitals: Poznań, Łódź and Wrocław.

Data utworzenia: przed 2009-01-01
Data aktualizacji: 2012-03-26


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