Topics of coins

90th Anniversary of the Rodło Sign

Under the Treaty of Versailles of 1919, the Polish state, reborn after 123 years of partitions, had to relinquish the ancient western Piast lands together with over a million Polish indigenous people to the German state. Many then moved to Poland. However, not everyone accepted the decision of the world powers. Those who decided to stay, after numerous consultations with Polish communities, established the Union of Poles in Germany (Związek Polaków w Niemczech, ZPwN) in Berlin on 27 August 1922.

The organisation undertook to obtain full minority rights for the Polish population in Germany and to defend its interests in all areas of social and cultural life. In the same year, the hostile German state banned Polish organisations from using the image of the White Eagle and the white-and-red banner, as they were already official symbols of the reborn Poland. In response, the ZPwN General Council decided to create its own sign of national identity, which was to emphasise the national distinctiveness of the Poles in the state of the black eagle.

The Union repeatedly announced competitions for a “sign of Polishness”, but without success. It was only when, in November 1932, the task was entrusted to a young student of the Academy of Fine Arts, the excellent graphic artist Janina Kłopocka, a pupil of Władysław Skoczylas, that a chance arose to implement the project.

The artist was born in 1904 in Koźmin, Greater Poland. From the age of four, she was brought up and educated in Imperial Berlin, but thanks to her parents Jan and Marianna, she learnt to love everything Polish and Slavic – this feeling was always an inspiration for her art and social work. This is probably why already at the first meeting on 8 November 1932 at the ZPwN House in Berlin, she so easily grasped the meaning of the suggestion by Dr Jan Kaczmarek, the head of the General Council. He suggested that the sign should be familiar to the Poles and simple enough for every child to be able to easily draw it in the sand.

At the next meeting, Kłopocka presented a graphic design of the ZPwN symbol – a stylised course of the Vistula with Kraków, the cradle of Polish culture, marked in its upper reaches; she placed the white sign against a rectangular red background. Thanks to the simplicity of the drawing and artistic finesse, the design was immediately accepted. The name was proposed by the 19-year-old poet Edmund Osmańczyk. The combination of the Polish words for “family” (rodzina) and “emblem” (godło) created “Rodło”. It was announced at the ZPwN meeting on 3 December 1932, and has symbolised the connection of the Poles living outside their homeland with the Polish nation and its culture ever since.

The reverse of the coin features Rodło, a sign depicting the course of the Vistula River with Kraków marked on it.

The obverse depicts the ”Five Truths of Poles” proclaimed in March 1938 at the Berlin Congress of Poles in Germany organised by the ZPwN, which are the ideological basis of the Union’s activities.

Krzysztof Kłopocki