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150th Anniversary of the Establishment of the Gymnastic Society Sokół

The Gymnastic Society Sokół (Falcon) is the oldest sports and educational organization in Poland. It has continued to carry on its activities since 7 February 1867, when the first Polish “nest” of Sokół was registered in Lvov. From the mid-1880s further nests of Sokół were formed, spreading over the area of all the three partitions of Poland.

The organization’s symbol is a falcon in flight holding dumbbells in its claws. Sokół is also associated with the rise of sports in Polish lands, including the first historical football match, played on 14 July 1894 in Lvov. From the start, however, the popularization of physical fitness was coupled with engagement in patriotic and pro-independence activity. This was manifested by the widespread participation of Sokół scouts in the Greater Poland Uprising and Silesian Uprisings, in which they constituted a substantial part of the command.

The Sokół movement also played a significant part in the establishment of Polish Scouting, which obtained personnel, organizational and financial support from the Society. Without the assistance of Sokół, it would be hard to imagine the organization of General Haller’s Blue Army, recognized as the “only independent, allied and co-belligerent Polish army”, owing to which Poland was among the winners of the WWI.

Many outstanding Poles, including Ignacy Jan Paderewski, Gen. Józef Haller, Wojciech Korfanty, Roman Dmowski and Karol Wojtyła, were associated with Sokół.

After the outbreak of WWII, the organization was being ruthlessly destroyed (by both Germans and Soviets); numerous activists were killed because of their membership in the organization. Following the war, the communist authorities repeatedly refused to register the society. It became possible only after the collapse of the communist regime in 1989. In 1945-1988, the organization maintained its activity abroad. Today, the society has more than 70 nests in Poland and abroad, engaged in wide-ranging sports, cultural and patriotic activities. Sokół actively participates in public life by cooperating with many other organizations as well as state and local authorities.

Damian Małecki