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The Kurozweki legend tells us that long ago three knights on horse-back rode through the land that later was to become Kurozweki. Close to where the palace today stands, the knights came to a halt in order to let their horses graze on the green grass and drink the clear spring water. Meanwhile, the knights noticed an ideal site for the building of a fortress: a patch of dry, elevated land amongst a swampy land. This was the beginning of Kurozweki, a harmony between the site, the knights and their steeds...
Horses have always been connected to Kurozweki throughout its history. A stone round oval fortress was build around 1380. Later a small village came into existence on the small hill overlooking the valley formed by a the Czarna river (literally the "Black" river) where the fortress had been erected. In these far away times horses had a very important role in everyday life. Horses were the means of locomotion as well as a help in agriculture when used to plough the land. They were also an indispensable war companions to the knights. Over the years, the mid-evil fortress became a renaissance castle and, still later, was transformed into a baroque palace. At first the interior courtyard of the castle was shared by the knights with their montage but when transformed into a baroque palace, stables on the other side of the Czarna were built to accommodate the horses. These sables were later moved to a larger and better location in nearby Kotuszow. The old stables were then transformed into homes and exist to the present day.
This fascination with horses is linked to the location rather than the families who have inhabited the castle, it is a passion that is passed on from family to family: From the Kurozwekis to the Lanckoronskis, from the Lanckoronskis to the Soltyks and finally to the current owners the Popiels...
In 1833, the last of the Sołtyk line and heir to the Kurozwęki palace, Emilia Sołtyka marries Paweł Popiel (1807-1892) of the Sulima coat of arms. Paweł was, what we call today, a horse lover. There is a famous portrait of Paweł Popiel painted by Piotr Michalowski representing him on an Arabian thoroughbred in the uniform of the Cracovian regiment of the November Uprising.
Paweł's grandson, also called Paweł (1870-1936), owned a herd of Anglo-Arabs, which he kept in nearby in the new large stables of nearby Kotuszów. Paweł, a great connoisseur of horses and horsemanship and an enthusiast, is our patron and inspiration. The historian Professor Emanuel Roswtorowski, gives us an idea of who Paweł Popiel was:
From a young age Paweł Popiel was a precursor of horse sportive events in Poland and also ran for many years the stud farm in Kurozwęki which he had inherited from his father. He was an expert and an authority in the theory and practice of horsemanship.
Paweł was always in contact with many Polish and international breeders, he was totally fluent in horse genealogy and worked on monographs of different stud farms (such as the thoroughbred stud farm in Chorzelów (1928) and the Anglo-thoroughbred stud farm in Serniki (1935)). He published many articles, reports and memoires In national papers such as: "Jeździec i Hodowca", "Przegląd Wyścigowy", "Rolnik", "Gazeta Rolnicza", "Poradnik Gospodarczy", "Przegląd Hodowlany". He also helped promote Polish horsemanship and breeding internationally working with papers such as: "Die Sportwelt", "Sanct Georg Zeitung", "Le Sport Universel Illustré" and "Le Jockey".
Between 1931 and 1935 with his beloved mare "Jedynka" he left his stud farm in Kurozweki and visited gentry manors, stud farms, barracks of the cavalary regiments and monuments of historical importance, he covered on horseback more than 16,000 km! He published four reports (all together 343 pages) on his trips. His reports were a unique mix of horsemanship, landowner chronicles with some history and local geography. Some of his reports were printed as episodes in magazines such as: "2918 km on horseback, an excursion in the river-basin of the Wisła, San, Bóg, Wieprz, Skaw, Styr, Nida, Prosna, Warta, Brda, Noteć and Pilica", 1933 (in the paper "Czas"); "To Białowiez and to the country of the Huculy on horseback", 1935 (from the paper "Rolnik"); "Following the Wisła all the way to the Polish sea on horseback", 1936 (from "Rolnik"). Compared to Don Quijote, he addressed his reports to young people, trying to show an example in promoting travel on horseback as a beautiful and inexpensive way to travel (as opposed to automobile tourism which he very much disliked!).
The stud farm in Kurozweki survived the second world war and continued to grow and develop in the direction outlined by Paweł Popiel.Th beginning was extremely difficult as all the breeding stock was lost or dispersed.Between 1950-53 Stanisław Machnik- director of the stud managed to collect a group of mares different in size and calibre but representig anglo-arabian type. These horses became foundation mares for Kurozwęki anglo-arabian breeding program which proved to be very succesful during 25 years of stud's history.
A group of experts visiting Kurozweki in the early 70s noticed that its geographical situation and climatic conditions were perfect for breeding thoroughbred Arabian horses. Angloarabian stock was sent to Walewice and Prudnik studs, replaced by Arabian mares from Michałów and Janów podlaski. In 1975 there were 39 mares representing 9 dam lines of great importance: Gazella, Mlecha, Sachara, Milordka, Ukrainka, Wołoszka, Selma, Rodania, Cherifa. This was the beginning of a new era for the stud farm. Much success was achieved in breeding thoroughbred arabians. As proof are the numerous trophies on display in Kurozwęki. In 1999, Jean-Martin Popiel, heir of the last owners of the estate and stud farm bought back the farm from the government. Today the owners, as always throughout Kurozwęki's history, stay loyal to horses and to the tradition of breeding established by their ancestors.
The course of history has shown that Kurozweki cannot exist without horses, it has been demonstrated over and over again. A few examples from the past and today:
- During the battle of Grunwald, the mount of the knight, Dobiesław of Kurozweki, gave up his life in order to save Dobiesław.
- Marshał Piłsudski talked very dearly about his chestnut mare from Kurozweki.
- Today a Rolling Stone also talks dearly of his Kurozweki bread arabian.
- "Helena" in the film "Ogniem i Mieczem" played by Izabella Scorupco mounts "Deltoid" from Kurozwęki in a breathtaking escape scene.