2008 | 56 | 1 | 31-44
Article title

HEALTH RESORTS IN THE KINGDOM OF POLAND AND THE WESTERN PROVINCES OF THE RUSSIAN EMPIRE AT THE TURN OF THE 20TH C. (Siec uzdrowisk w Królestwie Polskim i zachodnich guberniach Cesarstwa Rosyjskiego)

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Health resorts in the Kingdom of Poland have not been investigated by historians so far; they have mostly drawn the attention of balneologists and climatologists. For a historian of material culture their most interesting aspect is the everyday life of the patients, who divided their time between treatment and entertainment, and the resort infrastructure: sanatoria, ballrooms, concert halls, promenades, pump rooms, parks, beauty spots. Those issues are overlooked in the contemporary literature of the subject. What places were considered health resorts at that time? Dr Henryk Dobrzycki, a physician working in a sanatorium in Slawut, defined health resorts as: '1. mineral waters and places where bathing in mineral springs is applied, 2. sea-bathing and climate treatment centres..., 3. all the so-called natural medicine establishments, where they apply kumis treatment, hydropathy, electricity, diet treatment etc. To those three we should add another group, namely summer resorts (the German Sommerfrische), which are gradually turning into health resorts, gathering a number of sick visitors seeking treatment in addition to healthy ones.' Dobrzycki argued that it was necessary to introduce special regulations for health resorts. Due to his job and interests he visited many health resorts in the Kingdom of Poland and the neighbouring provinces of the Russian Empire. On the basis of his observations he prepared a draft of sanitary regulations to be implemented in health resorts and a questionnaire on the standard of living in health resorts. Answers were collected in sixteen health resorts. The resorts were divided into three groups, the first one comprising places famous for mineral waters (Birsztany, Busko, Ciechocinek, Druskienniki, Slawinek, Solec, Szepetówka). The second group included resorts with facilities for specialized treatment, e.g hydropathy (Grodzisk, Naleczów, Nowe Miasto, Ojców). The third group consisted of places offering treatment through diet and climate conditions (Czarniecka Góra, Inowlódz, Otwock, Pohulanka and Slawuta). A survey of health resorts and climate treatment centres in the Kingdom of Poland and the western provinces of the Russian Empire reveals that they were treated first of all as business enterprises and expected to bring in profits. Some sanatoria were privately-owned, some were state-owned, some were managed by joint-stock companies. Such a mixed system produced certain results. First, sanatoria and climate treatment centres, unlike hospitals, were available to patients from various regions. Second, depending on the standard, they tried to attract customers from different social strata. Third, at the end of the 19th c. a closer cooperation was established between the doctors from the Kingdom and from Austrian-occupied Galicia, who saw health resorts not only as business enterprises, but also as a chance for medical research and intellectual exchange, consolidating professionals from different parts of the partitioned Poland without the interference of the occupants. Visiting health resorts was considered to have a patriotic dimension, as it gave people an opportunity to discover the beauties of Poland and to integrate with visitors from all over the divided country.
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  • Elzbieta Mazur, Instytut Archeologii i Etnologii PAN, Al. Solidarnosci 105, 00-140 Warszawa, Poland
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