Few people know that the Ottoman Empire (now Turkey) was the only major power to not recognise the Polish partitions and final dissolution of the state of Poland in 1795. What is more, Constantinople (now Istanbul) was the only capital city in the world to retain a Polish ambassador throughout the 123-year period during which Poland literally disappeared off the face of the map.
With these conditions in place, it made it easy for a Polish community to be set up in the Ottoman Empire. After the failure of Poland’s November Uprising in 1831 against the Russian Empire, a group of Poles decided to escape to the generally pro-Polish and anti-Russian lands of the Ottoman Empire. It is at this point the wonderful story of the establishment of a Polish settlement in the Ottoman Empire (Turkey) begins. The village of Adampol (then known as Adamköy in Turkish, ‘the village of Adam’) was founded in 1842 by, and named after, Prince Adam Czartoryski, the head of the Polish National Uprising Government. The initial plan was to make Adamköy Poland’s most important emigration and expatriate hub after Paris. The plan was an ambitious one and was soon implemented by Czartoryski.
Prince Czartoryski dispatched his aide Michał Czajkowski (who later converted to Islam and became Mehmet Sadık Paşa) to Turkey. He purchased a large forested area on which Adamköy was founded. It was initially settled by only a handful of people but quickly swelled after the end of the Crimean War and with emigrants from Siberia. Adamköy-Adampol’s population seemed relatively stable for a period of years. Following the end of the first World War and the re-establishment of Poland, however, many of its inhabitants decided to ‘return’ to Poland.
One might even claim that Adampol, now known as Polonezköy (Turkish ‘Polish village’) is a ‘Polish-themed’ village. Even though only one third of Polonezköy’s inhabitants are of Polish descent and of its 1,000 inhabitants only 40 people speak Polish, the head of the village is traditionally chosen from amongst the Polish community of Polonezköy. Unlike the ‘lost Polish tribe of Haiti’ (mentioned in a previous post), Polonezköy still retains a Polish flavour and due to its unique character has had the honour of hosting a variety of distinguished guests including Turkey’s national hero and President Atatürk (in 1937), the future Pope John XXIII (in 1941), Turkish President Kenan Evren as well as Polish Presidents Lech Wałęsa and Aleksander Kwaśniewski.