Pair of sleeves (kolluk), 16th century, Topkapi.

Right at the formation of the Polish national state, the indoctrination began: in 1920 both Semadenis -- husband and wife -- then still boyfriend and girlfriend -- wrote their Baccalauréat thesis on the subject: Does Poland belong to Western European civilization or Central European civilization? They both answered correctly (and passed): Western. In their case it's no surprise: they were Lutherans of German and Swiss origins. How else could they answer? But the answer was de rigeur for all, it would seem, not only recent immigrants form the West.

The indoctrination job has been done well in Poland: formerly close ties of Poland to the East -- Turkey in particular -- have been programatically wiped out from Polish collective memory. Yet the proof of the connection lies everywhere; at the linguistic level the most basic items bear Turkish names: pierogi (the national dish); palto (coat: can't live without one); torba (bag); wisnia (national fruit). The national dress -- kontusz -- was defended in the 18th century against the effeminate French fashion as truly Polish; it was, of course, Turkish (by way of Hungary). As was the hairstyle, the obligatory drooping mustache and the saber. (The saber is still obligatory: I own one).

Simply put, the Polish eternally western nature is -- a fraud. But never mind that: why waste my time fighting the nation-building indoctrination in Poland? All nation building indoctrination is equally stupid, whether in Poland or in India or Lapland; and I could never fight it all: who am I, a lone voice, against a sea of nonsense? Let them do their foolishness as they please.

But digging up layers of Turkishness in Poland is fun. It's not unlike archeology.

Here is one of my more entertaining recent digs:

Last November I passed through Kęty, or Kąty, in Upper Silesia. The name -- literally "corners" -- used to carry the connotation of "boonies" or "sticks", which Kęty was and still is. No offense: I am partial to sticks. Now, Kęty's coat of arms, proudly displayed at all city entrances, looks like this.

I laughed out loud. The right field is pure Chintamani (Çintamani), of course: three balls in pyramidal arrangement and two wavy lines. (Here is an example).

Chintamani was one of the principal elements of Turkish figurative design -- in textiles, in Iznik pottery, wall tiles, etc. It's origin lies in a banner the Ottoman rulers had adopted: three balls of Timur-e-Lang plus two stripes of Rustam's tiger-skin.

A friend who was traveling with me dug up the facts: sometime in the thirteenth century a prince of Silesia hunted somewhere in the sticks and finding an eagle's nest with three eggs in it close by a stream, decided to found a town there. (And why not). Hence the three balls (eggs) and two stripes (stream).

Hence, not Turkish but Polish?

Well, the source of the coat of arms may not be Turkish; but it is hard to believe that whoever drew this coat of arms -- with that particular arrangement of balls, and the two parallel wavy lines (in other coats of arms streams are represented with three lines) had not seen the Chintamani. I am sure he did. Perhaps he even owned a Turkish chintamani velvet.

Taken in a charge on a Turkish camp, of course.


A word about Chintamani:

It was just Rustam's two tiger stripes until Timur suddenly turned up: check out this link: you will see a portrait of Osman I, the founder of the Turkish state in Anatolia wearing a half-Chintamani, as it were: a tiger-stripe pattern kurta, gold on blue1. No balls.

Now, here is the thing: Osman predated Timur; at his time the Turks had not yet had the opportunity to learn the -- er -- shall we say -- burning significance of the three balls.

Now look at the illustration at the top of this post. Ipek, Imperial Ottoman Silks and Velvets calls it "a striking pattern in an unusual color combination". One wonders if the editors had seen the Osman portrait.


1 By the way, the word kurta lives in Polish as "kurtka", i.e. "small kurta", i.e. "jacket", and has nothing to do with German kurtz, though no doubt, the Semadenis' Baccalauréat thesis would have had you believe otherwise.

I should also mention here, I suppose, that the name Semadeni is originally Italian, or rather, to be precise, Savoyard, not Swiss; so much for the native Swiss Germanness of the Semadenis, I suppose.


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