Previously published in PGS-CA Bulletin (October 2012)

Jaworówka / Liebenau* Translated from the Słownik Geograficzny (1880-1902)
by Helen Bienick

Jaworówka, described as “olendry”, (a Dutch colony) was located in the county of Wągrowiec, part of the district of Miłosławice. There were 3 houses with 29 inabitants.

Note: *Liebenau was a large community farm with five sections called “abteilungs” (probably workers’ living quarters), and are abbreviated on an 1892 Library of Congress map as Abt. I, II, III, IV, V. Sometime later, Liebenau disappeared from the map. Liebenau IV was also listed as Bagno in the records. Today’s village of Jaworówka appears to cover the area previously known as Liebenau.

Editor: Another puzzling word to translate was “olendry”…

From Fred Hoffman: I first ran into this term back in the 1980s, and it took a while before I was clear on it. In fact, there is still some controversy over the exact origin. As best I understand it, the term in question shows up spelled Holendry, Holędry, Olendry, Olędry, and possibly other variations I can’t think of. Most experts think it comes from German Hollaender, “Dutchman” which Poles turned into Olędrzy, and refers to settlements of Dutch and Frisians, especially Mennonites, who came to Poland in the 16th and 17th centuries and settled in various parts of Poland. Some of them emigrated to Ukraine after the First Partition of Poland, and later many of their descendants resettled in North America, especially Canada.

The settlements they founded, typically by draining wet land and turning it into farmland, were typically called Olendry or Olędry or Holendry or Holędry, sort of a short way of saying "The Hollanders’ places”. While that term never became a common noun in wide usage in Polish, it is preserved in the names of many villages and settlements in Poland.

So the term started as a reference to farming settlements, for raising either crops or cattle, colonized by “the Hollanders,” who were sometimes Dutch, sometimes Frisian (to Poles they were all the same thing). But later on, the term lost its reference to specific ethnic groups, and just became a general term for a settlement with certain privileges, created by reclaiming wetlands or forestland. The settlers could be Poles or Germans or Dutch or whatever.

The question is complicated by the fact that there was also a German term “Haulaender”, (cut lands) for farmland created by clearing the land of trees. So experts argue over whether the word Olendry/Holendry, etc. comes from the German term for “Dutchmen” or the term for “cleared lands.” Probably the two were confused by Poles, since they sounded very similar, and in practice the settlements they referred to were similar.

But the bottom line is they were farming settlements, originally associated with Dutch and Frisian colonists, and later associated with many different ethnicities. They were noted for their crops and cattle. And since getting these settlements started in the first place involved a great investment of time and effort, they were often granted tax exemptions or other privileges by the lords who owned the land – until they got on their feet and were a going concern.