A small town located about 12 miles south of downtown Warsaw being a part of its metropolitan area is higher in the ranking of richest cities than the capital of Poland. Konstancin-Jeziorna is wealthy thanks to rich inhabitants who have bought old mansions and built luxury villas there.
The main residence of celebrities
Konstancin-Jeziorna lies at the boundaries of the Warsaw Plain and the Valley of the Central River Vistula, on the banks of both the Jeziorka River and its tributary River Mała. The area has been very well-known as a health resort since the 19th century. The town has an interesting collection of historic villas and new built mansions, a shopping center in a restored two hundred year old mill and is the home of the American School of Warsaw. A few kilometres south of this enclave is the main residence of several known artists, business people and politicians. There is a huge health resort, a picturesque lake, vast fields and within the Kabacki Woodland and Chojnowski Landscape Park, there are over 50 objects which are on the local protective-reservation antiquities register, including houses and churches.
There are also large wooded areas in many parts of the town. The Chojnowski Landscape Park stretches to the south of Konstancin-Jeziorna which has several isolated woodland nature reserves which include the Obory Escarpment, the Obory Riparian Woods and the Lyczyn Woodlands.
The villa still owned by McLeod clan descendants
In Konstancin-Jeziorna we can find some truly lovely homes from the beginning of the 20th century, which is when some of the most talented and renowned Polish architects began to design in earnest. Several especially noteworthy examples of this talent are seen at the home of Stefan Żeromski, Polish novelist and playwright, called the “conscience of Polish literature”. He was born in the village of Strawczyn near Kielce, the city located in south central Poland, in the middle of the Świętokrzyskie Mountains (Holy Cross Mountains). In 1920s he moved to Konstancin where he owned “Dawn” (Świt) villa. Later President of Poland granted him an apartment in The Royal Castle in Warsaw. While living in Konstancin he wrote the most splendid book “Przedwiośnie”. The title was translated alternatively as “First Spring”, “Before the Spring”, “Early Spring”, “Springtime”, or “Spring To Come” and first published in 1925, the year he died. The book has been translated and published in the U.S. as “The Coming Spring” in 2007.
Another example of excellent architecture is “Julia” Villa owned by the Machlejd-Henisz family. In 1905 the villa was designed by its owner Karol Machlejd who was originally a brewer. He was the one who first in Poland brewed Bavarian beer on a massive scale. He was descended from the McLeod family, the Scottish clan who lived on the isle of Skye. The Machlejd branch of the family moved to Germany in the 17th century where they went into wine making. Karol Machlejd`s grand-father came to the Kingdom of Poland in 1821. He was getting ready for the January Uprising but he was captured and exiled to Siberia. Eventually he came back to the country and took up brewery. After he died “Julia” villa was owned by Julian Machlejd, a vicar of Evangelical Church of the Augsburg Confession who founded Mikołaj Rej lycee, the secondary school I have graduated from. A few months ago I wrote about the lycee in a text “One square and three significant buildings”.
“Julia” villa is one of a few Konstancin buildings which still belong to the descendants of the owners.
Sue Ryder – an honorary resident of Konstancin-Jeziorna who built the first house out of many there
Sue Ryder, a British volunteer with Special Operations Executive in the WWII afterwards led many charitable organisations, notably the charity named in her honour. After the war was over, Ryder volunteered to do relief work, including some in Poland. She was appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in 1957. Ryder was made a life peer on 31 January 1979, being created Baroness Ryder of Warsaw. Ryder continued to speak for Poland and when the Communist rule there collapsed, she arranged lorries of medical and food aid. In 1989 Ryder made an appeal through “The Daily Telegraph” to obtain more funding and collected £40,000 through the Lady Ryder of Warsaw Appeals Fund. There is Sue Ryder House in Konstancin which is the world`s first one.
Look before you leap – a duel to the death
The village of Jeziorna has existed since the medieval times. It was connected with the question “Do you want to go to Jeziorna?” which meant the threat of “an Appeal in Jeziorna” in the 18th century, or in other words, a duel to the death. It was illegal to conduct duels on lands that were under the authority of the Marshal of the Royal Court. As these were bordered by the Jeziorka River, interested parties met outside the Marshal’s jurisdiction, on the opposite bank.
The mill produced the paper used to draft the 3rd May Constitution
In the mid-18th century two mills were built on the territory of future Jeziorna. At least since 1730 a watermill has stood on the causeway in Jeziorna but in 1775 a paper mill was built about a mile further downstream on the request of King Poniatowski. At the time very few paper mills existed in Poland, and this one was the first to be set up in Masovia. The paper that was produced at this Royal factory was, among others, used to draft the 3rd May Constitution. In 1830 the entire plant became the property of the Bank of Poland and was used to create paper for the printing of securities.
It was at the turn of the 19th century that two earls: Witold Skórzewski and Władysław Mielżyński decided to build a centre for the local rich businessmen, tradesmen and financiers who represented the best of the “Warsaw elite”. At that time, they began to break the forest ground of Konstancja (later the name was changed to Konstancin), and almost immediately, very elegant houses were built on the spot as the wealthiest people flocked to the town and its health spas, bringing with them a real climate of art and culture.
The name of Konstancin-Skolimów originated from the name of Countess Konstancja from the Potulicki-Skórzewski family. At the end of the 19th century part of their lands around Obory were parcelled up and sold, and on land adjoining the palace the city was established. Until 2015 the palace was the seat of the Artistic House of the Association of Polish Writers, to serve as a holiday retreat for the wealthy inhabitants of Warsaw. Now it returned to rightful owners.
The forested lands near Warsaw lying on the extension of the Royal Route and connected by the Wilanów narrow gauge railway line became a popular location for the building of summer residences which resulted in the steady growth of the community. Already by the outbreak of the WWI, Konstancin had become a stylish city which was granted the status of a health resort for the first time in 1917. By the 1920’s the city had a working sewer system and was electrified.
To the Ghetto in Warsaw from Konstancin-Jeziorna
Before WWII there was a large Jewish community in Jeziorna, about half the population, which after its outbreak, were gathered together by the Germans and transported to the Ghetto in Warsaw.
Discovery worth its weight in gold
After the WWII, with ownership of beautiful villas being taken away from their rightful owners and the buildings themselves turned into communal flats, they lost their charm and character. Many were to fall into ruin and vanish from the landscape of Konstancin. However, in 1962 hot brine springs with curative properties were discovered in Konstancin, at a depth of 1750 m. 7 years later Konstancin-Jeziorna was formed with the merger of two towns, Skolimów-Konstancin and Jeziorna, as well as several surrounding villages.
In 1948 the Hospital of Osteology was opened after the evacuation of the Holy Spirit Hospital in Warsaw, which later was renamed the Capital Rehabilitation Centre (STOCER). The physiotherapeutic value of Konstancin was once more noted in 1956 and coincided with the discovery of saline deposits. From that point on, another stage of Konstancin’s development as a health resort began and as a consequence the foundation of hospitals and health centres treating rheumatologic, neurologic, cardiologic, and laryngological ailments. A state enterprise “Uzdrowisko Konstancin” (Konstancin Health Resort) was founded, and in the 1970s the Konstancin salt graduation tower was built. In 1976 The Centre of Education and Physiotherapy for the Handicapped (today’s CKR) in Królewska Góra was opened.
In 1971, Konstancin was given the official status of a health resort again, and after the devastation of WWII, during the 1950’s and 60’s, it worked to regain this status as it rebuilt itself from the ground up. Its status was returned in 1972. In 1978, the Tężnia Solankowa – a natural salt chamber, which helps with respiratory ailments – was opened. The local climate is also acknowledged to prevent cardiological, neurological, laryngological and rheumatological illnesses, and to aid in the natural process of biological regeneration and renewal.
Fierce rivalry between Konstancin and Skolimów
This part of the suburban health resort, although less well-known, has a much longer history. As a summer resort, Skolimów was already known in the second half of the 19th century when the first wooden summer houses were built. At the end of the century the then owner of the Skolimów grange, the judge Wacław Preker, divided the wastelands of his estate into sites. Ever since then Skolimów together with Konstancin, despite fierce rivalry between the two for the victor’s crown, have formed an urban whole of sorts.
An incredibly modern sanatorium for sick children
Another property of the judge Wacław Preker was Chylice who first appeared in historical documents dating back to the 16th century. In 1897 the property came into his possession. At the beginning of the 20th century, a Warsaw pediatrician named dr lreneusz Frenkel set up an incredibly modern sanatorium for sick children. I was one of them who spent there 7 weeks one summer. It was lovely and horrible at the same time. It`s only what I can say about that vacation.
After WWI, the Chylice summer resort developed as rapidly as nearby Skolimów and Konstancin, and an estate and mansion were located in the vicinity. The estate is currently located within the borders of Chylice village and the summer resort within the borders of Konstancin-Jeziorna.
One of the richest cities in Poland is located on total area of 6.6 square miles. Its location among forests, its clean air and healthy climate make everyone happy even if being there for a little while. It is worth spending some time leisurely strolling along the quiet streets, flanked with stately abodes and boarding houses. Anytime you feel tired, you can sit on a bench amongst old trees in any one of the resort’s parks. If you are visiting Konstancin with children, they will enjoy riding ponies and playing on the wooden swings. There are a number of good lunch stops, ice cream shops and candy stores in town.
Konstancin-Jeziorna is a very good travel choice so hopefully I will meet you there!
By Agata Szostkowska
Photos: Michał Stanisławski
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“Dawn” Villa, home of Stefan Żeromski, Polish novelist
“Julia” villa owned by MecLeod clan descendants
Private museum in “La Fleur” villa
The statue of Polish novelist Stefan Żeromski
Natural salt chamber – Tężnia Solankowa
The old mansion restoration
The shopping mall in old paper mill
The Old paper mill now very fancy shopping mall
The Actor`s House in Skolimów