Paper Money

Poland bank notes celebrate victory centennial

This month is the hundredth anniversary of the Battle of Warsaw, a decisive victory by Polish forces again Lenin’s Bolshevik Russian army in the Polish-Soviet War, and one that historians say halted the spread of communism into western Europe until the end of World War II.

Poland regained its independence at the end of World War I and aimed to keep it, after having been partitioned among Germany, Russia, and Austria-Hungary for more than a century. Lenin, on the other hand, wanted to export his Soviet revolution to Europe, and he believed the quickest way was through Warsaw.

Poland was near total defeat, but a turnaround occurred in the Warsaw battle that became known as the Miracle of the Vistula, a battle that is reenacted annually on its anniversary. The name is because the victory of the Poles over the Red Army was unexpected, and is considered by many people to be God’s providence. This year, the battle’s anniversary is also the impetus for the issue of two commemorative bank notes. One is nominally legal tender, and the other is one of the wildly-popular private €0 issues.

Narodowy Bank Polski, Poland’s central bank issued the 20-zloty bank note in a 77-millimeter by 150-millimeter vertical format on Aug. 11, with a maximum printing of 60,000 pieces.

The face design is based on the painting The Year 1920 by Kazimierz Mankowski and shows his portrayal of chief of state and commander of Polish forces, Józef Piłsudski. Warsaw’s skyline is in the background. This side also has the Cross of Valor with the Polish eagle and the inscription “Na polu chwały” (On the field of glory). The wreath of oak leaves and plant motifs are copied from the 100 Polish mark note of 1919.

The back of the 20-zloty note presents the central fragment of Jerzy Kossak’s painting The Miracle on the Vistula under a banner with Poland’s red and white colors. It depicts a symbolic scene of chaplain Ignacy Skorupka leading volunteer infantry soldiers on the attack. There is also a wreath of laurel leaves, the Commemorative Medal for the War of 1918–1921, and a fragment of the public appeal titled “Homeland in Danger” issued by the Government of National Defense on Aug. 5, 1920.

The 135-millimeter by 74-millimeter €0 note was issued Aug. 15 with a limit of 10,000 notes. It has the same purple color scheme as all other notes of this type and is based on the same scene from the Kossak painting, but with a different interpretation.

Designer Małgorzata Pławecka-Jasek explains, “I tried to do it in an artistic way, and the National Bank did it literally by placing a part of the painting on a note.”

Follow the links for more information about the 20-zloty note and for the €0 note.

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