Polish borders to change

Poland is going to get back 3.68 square kilometers of its border with the Czech Republic that it lost in 1958. Most of the territory it will recover in three years is in the Glucholazy area in the Opolszcyzna region. The Czech government has agreed to return the territory Poland lost when Soviet authorities ordered the border straightened in June 1958 for security reasons. The border change ignored the wishes of many villagers who wanted to remain Polish.

Pawel Szymkowicz, an expert on the Polish-Czech border situation, said the change involved straightening a border that meandered. “Why?” he asked. “The reason was obvious: It was easier to guard such a border.” The change involved Poland getting 8.4 mln square meters of Czechoslovakian territory and Czechoslovakia getting 12.06 mln square meters of Polish territory. It shortened the border by 80 kilometers. But “Poland lost 3.68 mln square meters through that change,” said Jan Bielanski a representative of the Czech Ministry of Agriculture.

In 1991, after the break-up of the Soviet Union, Czechoslovakia signed an international agreement that it would compensate Poland for the territory it had lost. Czechoslovakia split into the Czech Republic and Slovakia in 1993. Until recently the Czech Republic had insisted on giving Poland money for the territory it had lost rather than returning the land. Poland has always insisted that the territory be given back. Finally the Czechs agreed to give Poland back at least some of the land. Poland is holding out for all of it, however.

Czech surveyors are taking measurements of the 85 places where the border will be changed. The Czech government said the surveying will be completed by June. A total of “132 hectares of land can be transferred without any problem” because it is clear that originally they were all Polish land, said Peter Kubera, a spokesman for the Czech Embassy in Warsaw.

But there are questions about the ownership of the rest of the 368 hectares, so Poland and Czech experts will have to negotiate the matter, Kubera said. “It is a very complex task,” he said.
Some Polish officials have interpreted Kubera’s statement as a hint that the Czech Republic wants to pay Poland for the remaining 236 hectares. Poland’s Interior Ministry says it will accept only a return of all the lost territory.

“It is not a single area but several small pieces of ground owned by the Czech Republic,” said Jacek Sonta, a spokesman for the head of the Polish border guard. “The ground is ours and must come back to Poland.”

Lothar Wittek of Rudyszwald near Krzyzanowice is one Pole who is glad to see the old border being restored. His farm was divided 50 years ago in such a way that part ended up in Czechoslovakia.
The Czechoslovakians did not allow him to use the land because he was a foreigner, and Polish authorities threatened to imprison him when he criticized the border change. “Now I am looking forward to seeing guards remove the border posts put in my field 50 years ago,” he said.

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