About the eagle's nest

It was long, long ago, in the times when our land was covered with enormous forest, swamps and overflow-arms of rivers. It was then, when silence was interrupted only by a bird's song, the flatter of wings, the splash of streams and wind rustling in a forest thicket. And there came the day when this silence was violated by the rattle of military troops, horse-riding worriers clothed in the skins of wild animals, armed with bows, spears and round shields covered with leather. Behind them on carts pulled by oxen there rode women, the elderly and children. Further there came wagons loaded with food, household things and yet further back, pack horses, milky cows, flocks of sheep and rams. From both sides the cavalcade was guarded by troops of archers and spearmen.

It could be seen that they had been travelling for many months, making their way through the forests with axes, crossing encountered rivers. They were related Slavonic tribes that had left their former abodes looking for new fertile lands. The hardships of their long and far journey showed on them. They had been frozen by severe winters, washed by spring rains and burnt by the July sun.

At the head of the mounted worriers there rode three tribe chieftains: Lech, Czech and Rus. Although they were brothers born by one mother, each of them was different, both in character and in appearance. Lech was robust, fair-haired, sincere and cheerful; Czech of witty nature, all too lively; while Rus was so silent that you couldn't buy a word from him.

In the afternoon they passed a small river, rode up a low hill and the forest thinned out a bit. Before their eyes there spread the most beautiful, wide valley, cut across with a chain of small lakes of extraordinary beauty. Lech stopped his horse. He was under the charm of the countryside spreading before him, where the forest was cut across with lakes from which little hills rose up. On one of them there stood an enormous oak tree, stretching its huge branches like arms. Amongst its leaves the astonished brothers saw a giant nest and in it, a silver-feathered bird that, having spread its wings, was just rising into the air against the background of the sky lit purple by the sun setting behind the trees. Rus grabbed his bow, Czech spurred his horse to gallop but Lech called: "Stop my beloved brothers! This is a clear sign. Here I shall make a nest for my nation just as the gold-feathered bird has done. The place shall take its name from the eagle's nest and it will be called Gniezdno. I shall make this white eagle the sign of my people and as I have seen it on the background of the red-lit sky, my worriers' banners shall always be white and red.

The brothers looked at one another: Rus became gloomy, Czech grew sad. Finally Rus said:

  • "Indeed, this land is beautiful, but there many of us, it shall not feed us all. Farewell brothers, I shall set off to look for a land for my people east of this place.
  • "Then I, too, brothers", said Czech, "shall go and look for a land for my people. Farewell. I shall go south." The next day the brothers parted.

The forest got alive under the blows of axes cutting powerful oaks, slender pines and hard beeches to build the stronghold. Before the autumn gilded and dyed the forests with colours, on the hill there stood the prince's stronghold - on the hill which till today is called Lech's Hill.


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