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English version - The history of Wola

The history of Wola dates back to the second half of the 13th century. Several villages, the largest of which was called Wielka Wola Warszawska (Magna Wola Varsoviensis), were located in the area of the present-day Wola District. Wola was first mentioned in the documents of 1367 (the property inventory of Trojden, the Prince of Mazovia). The etymology of the name Wola is derived from the fact that the newly founded village was released from the obligation of paying tribute to the prince.

At the time of the incorporation of the Duchy of Mazovia into the Kingdom of Poland (Regnum Poloniae) in 1526, Magna Wola Varsoviensis was the largest royal village near Warsaw. Numerous buildings and a wooden temple (in the area of the current crossroads of Redutowa and Wolska Streets) testified to the rank and wealth of the settlement.

The significance of Wola grew even more when it became the permanent location where elections of Polish monarchs were held. Since the coronation of Stefan Batory in 1576 until the year 1764, i.e. the election of Stanisław August Poniatowski, all the 10 royal elections took place in Wola. The Wola’s elections were of enormous historico-political importance to the whole country. They served the function of the first democratic system of electing state authorities in Europe. The Electio Viritim Obelisk, rising at the intersection of Obozowa, Ostroroga and Sołtyka Streets, refers to those events.

In the late 18th and early 19th centuries, numerous cemeteries were established in Wola: Catholic, Lutheran, Calvinist, Jewish, Orthodox, Muslim and Karaite. The above move was a clear indication of the ecumenical attitude towards the universal values which all these religions represented. The biggest economic boom in Wola coincided with the end of the nineteenth century. Undoubtedly, it was influenced by the construction of the Warsaw-Vienna Railway Line in 1845 and the abolition of the customs and border protection between Russia and the Kingdom of Poland.

Following the decision of the Prussian occupation authorities Wola was incorporated into Warsaw on 8 April 1916. The then Governor, General Hans von Beseler signed the decree to include the suburbs surrounding Warsaw within the limits of the city. This 16 applied, among others, to the following villages: Wola, Czyste and Koło.

In the interwar period, new housing estates emerged in the Wola District, e.g. the one named after Stefan Żeromski in Obozowa Street or Koło – famous for its block buildings. Wola’s industry flourished – there were over 800 industrial plants employing the total number of about 45,000 labourers. On the one hand, the location of Wola, the westernmost part of Warsaw, has been its blessing for centuries, on the other hand it imposed on Wola the role of the defensive fort. The enemy troops marched through the district several times beginning with the Swedish Invasion on Poland (the Swedish Deluge) in the 17th century. Ramparts were built. Thousands of defenders and even civilians were killed.

In early September 1831, General Józef Sowiński defending Warsaw from the Wolska Redoubt (Reduta Wolska) against the Russian army carried out a brave and patriotic deed. Similarly, the defenders of the capital in September 1939 will remain forever in people’s memory. However, the days of the Warsaw Uprising are particularly memorable for the Wola District. Especially 5-7 August 1944 when the Nazis, after the withdrawal of the insurgent troops, shot dead and then burned the bodies of about 50,000 people - mostly women, children and the elderly.

This dark event is referred to as the Wola Slaughter (or the Wola Massacre). Equally dramatic events also took place in the Warsaw Ghetto where the Jewish population was murdered. The history of Wola dates back over seven centuries. During that time the district has undergone the process of dynamic development. The unique atmosphere of this district is determined by both its historical values and modern face which is a harmonious complement to the tradition.
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