Prussian relicts in Olsztyn and its surroundings
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Christianization and several waves of colonization were the consequences of the Teutonic Order's conquest of the lands on which, later on, Olsztyn was founded. After centuries of wars, epidemics and mass resettlements, only few relicts have been preserved after the Old Prussians, the previous inhabitants of these lands.
The last groups of the Prussian population died out probably in years 1709-11 due to a large outbreak of plague, which killed one third of the country’s population. As a result, the Prussian language, that had been alive till then, disappeared. Many names of physiographic objects and towns are, however, still left after this language.
Names speak a forgotten language
The current name of the river over which Olsztyn was founded – the Łyna – derives directly from the Prussian name – Alna (which meant "hind"). The original city had the name of Allenstein, the most adequate translation of which is "the castle over the Łyna" (since the German word "stein” was then used to define a castle).
Also the name Wadąg (the name of the river and the lake) is of Prussian origin and initially it was Wadangen ("wad" – "lead", "dangus"– "sky"). The source of the names of Kortowskie Lake and Kortowo (and of course the stream of Kortówka) should be sought in the Prussian word "korto" meaning "abatis". As for the name of Lake Skanda, it is connected with the verb "drown". The names of lakes Ukien and Sukiel also derive from the Prussian language.
From this language comes the etymology of the names of the Olsztyn districts (which used to be surrounding villages) such as: Dajtki (Deyten), Likusy (Lykkosen), Pozorty (Posorten), Redykajny (Raynkaym), or Track (Drawsken).
Gords and signs of old settlements
Also the name of the village Sądyty (Sundythen), which used to be within the current area of the City Forest, is of Prussian etymology. In this area, in the meander of the Łyna on its right bank, a Prussian gord ispreserved – in the surroundings of which has been found a location of a vast village. Archaeological excavations conducted within its borders (in 2006 and 2013) have resulted in numerous interesting discoveries. On the other side of the Łyna, there had been another gord ("Castle Hill"), after which, however, no visible signs have been preserved till this day.
Severely damaged is also the place in Track near the lake of the same name. The family cemetery of the previous owners of the local property established in the XIXth century on the hill has been degraded as well. Moreover, near Łupstych is located a gord ("The Old Fieldword") which is a proof that there probably used to be a guard stronghold here.
The ruins of fortified Prussian settlements and gords can be found additionally in the farther surroundings of Olsztyn. In Słupy, ground relicts of a medieval tower have been preserved. Near the Wadąg lake, gords have also been located in Barczewko and Szypry.
On the southern side of Olsztyn, particular attention is drawn by the gord over the Kielarskie Lake. Some scholars even suggest that this was the location of the Berting chapter castle that was mentioned in the records from the years 1341-50. Nowadays, one will find here the remains of a family cemetery of the former owners of the nearby property. Ruins of medieval walls can also be found within the area.
Where Olsztyn stands, there the Prussian "Baba" stands too
In the castles courtyard stands an inconspicuous stone sculpture resembling a human figure. It is the so-called Prussian "Baba" – one of only a few preserved in Warmia and Masuria. This one was found in the XIXth century in Barciany, from where it was moved to Olsztyn in 1945. Despite the name ("baba" means village woman in Polish) the figure resembles a man who has a horn in his right hand and a short weapon in his left. The most carefully sculpted are the facial features. The rest is very simplified.
Among the theories of the time of the sculpture's creation and its purpose is also one which claims that it may have something to do with an original representation of an Old Prussian deity or hero. Without any doubt, however, the statue dates back to the Middle Ages.
Since 2011, Olsztyn's "Baba" has started its career – becoming more and more the symbol of Olsztyn and even of the whole region. The various forms of its presentation serve as tourist souvenirs and its copies are part of the promotional happenings of the city.