Thursday, 27 September 2018

Polish railway stations named in two languages

I have been to Wrocław and back by train scores of times over the years, and yet I only noticed this yesterday, another Adlestrop moment when my train stopped unwontedly at a sleepy halt somewhere between much busier stations. A little east of Opole, the station sign caught my eye. The name is in two languages - Polish and German (below).

Now, you may consider this odd given the two nations' history. Wrocław does not have the German name Breslau on the station sign. So, what's up?

The answer is - German minority. Chrząstowice is one of 44 gminy (municipalities) which are officially bilingual. [The full list is here.] A handful of Lithuanian, Belarusian and Lemko (Ruthenian/Ukrainian) ones, plus Kashubian, but the lion's share (31 in all) are German, all but three of which are located in the Opolskie voivodship. The area has one German Minority deputy in the Polish parliament. Around 100,000 Polish citizens who consider themselves ethnically German living in Opolskie, some two-thirds of all ethnic Germans in Poland. As a result, bilingual station names.

There is another one along the line from Opole to Lubliniec; it is called Dębska Kuźnia in Polish and in German - Dembiohammer. However, the platform was on the other side of the train to my seat, so I missed the shot. There was a third - Suchy Bór (Derschau), but when the line was modernised and the older black-on-white station signs were replaced by white-on-blue ones, Derschau didn't make it back.

An exhaustive list of all Polish towns and villages with bilingual names is here; yet despite the length of the list, only two places in all of Poland have bilingual railway station name signs.

Britain has slightly more (Wales and Scotland - see picture below). But does England?

Answer - yes! This is Southall... Or ਸਾਊਥਹਾਲ (in Punjabi).

This time last year:
Two weeks - six cities

This time two years ago:
A guide to naming streets in Poland and the UK

This time seven years ago:
A glorious month

This time eight years ago:
My grandfather

This time nine years ago:
My home-made fixie bike

This time ten years ago:
Well-shot pheasants


White Horse Pilgrim said...

There might (perhaps) be bilingual signs on Wales franchise stations that are just over the border in England. The main rail route between north and south Wales does run up the (now English) marchlands, after all. And station announcements (in Cardiff, for example) use Welsh language names for stations as far afield as Crewe and Manchester when doing the Welsh half of the announcements.

Here's a challenge: how many communities with significant Polish communities outside Poland have bi-lingual name signs?

I've visited Cacica / Kaczyka in north-eastern Romania, which has road signs entering the village in both languages. It has a railway running through it, however the station seems to be closed.

Anonymous said...

The same is true in SE Germany in areas populated by Sorbs. I remember being on a train from Dresden to Wroclaw and seeing many bilingual signs in German and Sorbian (Bautzen/Budisyn) on almost all train stations until the Polish border.

Chris said...

In England I can think of Bicester Village in English and Chinese, Wallsend in English and Latin, and Southall in English and Gurmukhī. There may be others!