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This memorial plaque—which is also an ashtray—was stamped to commemorate the battle of Gorlice and presents a 30.5 cm mortar, which was used during the battle.

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This memorial plaque—which is also an ashtray—was stamped to commemorate the battle of Gorlice and presents a 30.5 cm mortar, which was used during the battle.
Two brass battle-themed plaques were made to commemorate the victory of the Central Powers in the battle of Gorlice, on 02 May 1915. The victory of the 11th Army of General August von Mackensen was spectacular. The destruction of the Russian army by the combined Austro-Hungarian and Prussian forces, the withdrawal of Tsarist troops, and the consequent shifting of the front lines were factors of great strategic importance for further actions on the eastern front of the Great War. Both plaques, created by the victors of Gorlice, were aimed at preserving the memory of those bloody struggles.
One of the presented plaques shows the attack of Mackensen's soldiers on Mount Pustki. The regiments fighting for this position were dominated by soldiers from the twelfth division of Krakow, and were therefore predominantly Poles.
The assault on the heavily fortified hill, manned by the Muscovites, was preceded by artillery fire from a Škoda mortar with a calibre of 30.5 cm, nicknamed "Thin Emma". It is this very cannon that has been immortalized on the presented plaque.


Elaborated by Katarzyna Liana (The Ignacy Łukasiewicz Regional Museum of Polish Tourism and Sightseeing Society in Gorlice), © all rights reserved

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About Skinny Emma — Andrzej Stasiuk

What is this medal made of? It seems as if it was made of brass, from some artillery shell? From that distant war? And what beautiful curves Skinny Emma has: a heavy 305 millimetres howitzer from the Škoda factory. It’s a bit like a clockwork mechanism and a steam machine to boot. Because, in those days, even killing machines incorporated beauty and grace. So much that you wanted to touch them. Hence the female names: Fat Bertha or our Emma.

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What is this medal made of? It seems as if it was made of brass, from some artillery shell? From that distant war? And what beautiful curves Skinny Emma has: a heavy 305 millimetres howitzer from the Škoda factory. It’s a bit like a clockwork mechanism and a steam machine to boot. Because, in those days, even killing machines incorporated beauty and grace. So much that you wanted to touch them. Hence the female names: Fat Bertha or our Emma. There was only one here in our neighbourhood. In the winter and spring of 1915, it shelled Tarnów, which was occupied by the Russians, from Biadolin. And the Russians did not cross the Carpathians to proceed towards Vienna and Budapest. They had a plan like that. It can be said that, in a sense Europe, owes its shape to Skinny Emma. Maybe the medal shows the one from Biadoliny? A metal, old-fashioned image cast a spell on its soul. Afterwards, there were no such “ladies” anymore. With all due respect, but Katyusha was an ugly hag in comparison.
Because death was female only until that war. In those days, you could still sing: “Little war, little war, what sort of a lady are you? That you are followed by such handsome boys...” Then, the songs of handsome boys sounded like mockery or a text from the theatre of absurd. Death became a technological process. It simply turned millions of bodies into nothingness. And when you take a closer look at Emma, you can see in her beautiful, ample body, the prediction of the technological insatiability of industrial murder. The grace of the “age of steam and electricity” will give way to the horror of mass production and massacre en masse. That is why Emma is both beautiful and ominous. Her femininity will soon turn into an indifferent monstrosity.

Andrzej  Stasiuk, © all rights reserved

See: Commemorative plaque “Cannon 30.5 cm Škoda”

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About the significance of the battle of Gorlice

One of the most important battles of the World War I took place near Gorlice.
“If I were to state which days in my professional life were the most important to me, these were the 2nd and 3rd of May 1915, when from atop the hills west of Gorlice I saw defeated Russian troops in retreat.” These are the words of the then Chief of General Staff of the Austro-Hungarian army, Field Marshal Franz Conrad von Hotzendorf.

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Żołnierze niemieccy na tle Gorlic przygotowują się do pościgu za Rosjanami, „Ilustrowany Kurier Wojenny, 20.06.1915, domena publiczna
One of the most important battles of the World War I took place near Gorlice.
“If I were to state which days in my professional life were the most important to me, these were the 2nd and 3rd of May 1915, when from atop the hills west of Gorlice I saw defeated Russian troops in retreat.” These are the words of the then Chief of General Staff of the Austro-Hungarian army, Field Marshal Franz Conrad von Hotzendorf.
It is the beginning of 1915. The Great War is being waged between the Entente countries in Europe (incl. Russia, Great Britain, France) and central states (among others Prussia, Austro-Hungary). The goal of each country is to strengthen its influence in the Balkans. Meanwhile, the eastern front, which is the front line for direct clashes between Russia and Prussia and Austro-Hungary, moves to the west. The Russians, after capturing Przemyśl and Tarnów, approach Gorlice. Now they have only one goal: to attack and defeat the Austro-Hungarian enemy.
The commanders of the Austrian staffs descend into panic. How to check the inevitable assault of the Russian troops, having such limited strength after previous battles? The Prussian ally, who also wants to strengthen the southern section of the front, comes to the rescue.
As a result, the 217,000-strong Austrian-Prussian army under the command of general Mackensen is pitted against the 80,000-strong Russian army commanded by General Radko Dimitriev, dubbed the small Napoleon. Holding such numerical superiority, the combined troops of the central states decide to launch a retaliatory attack. On Sunday, 2 May, this leads to a direct clash between the combatants. By the end of the day, after a fierce struggle, shifting advantages and enormous losses on both sides, the Austrian-German armies succeeds in defeating the so far invincible Russian opponent. The front line moves 6-10 kilometres to the east. Over the next two days, the central states overcome the second Russian defence line. Russian army is forced to retreat during the following weeks. Decimated, without weapons, ammunition and food depots, they flee from their positions. Gen. Radko-Dimitriev is then deprived of command.
The exact course of the battle of Gorlice is presented by the model located in the Gorlice museum. On our website we present three exhibits related to the event in question, whose significance is considered by historians to be ground-breaking:
Commemorative cartridge made of shell
Commemorative plaque “Pustki Hill”

Commemorative plaque “Cannon 30.5 cm Škoda”

Elaborated by Editorial team of Małopolskas Virtual Museums,
Licencja Creative Commons

 This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Poland License.

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On 2nd May in Gorlice

First on 2 May 1657, and then on the same day of the same month in 1915, came the Swedish Deluge and the Great War. In the fortunes of war and political reshuffles, ordinary people, civilians and soldiers fell, as did their town – Gorlice – which has had to rise from ruin so many times.

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First on 2 May 1657, and then on the same day of the same month in 1915, came the Swedish Deluge and the Great War. In the fortunes of war and political reshuffles, ordinary people, civilians and soldiers fell, as did their town – Gorlice – which has had to rise from ruin so many times.
At the beginning of the 17th century, Gorlice was, as for contemporary standards, quite a large and populous town. In 1608, it boasted 137 houses and over 1,200 inhabitants.
At the end of the 15th century, the great fortune of the Karwacjan-Gorlicki family began to wane, due to family divisions. At the beginning of the 2nd half of the 16th century, the former estate of the Karwacjans passed into the hands of Stanisław Odrowąż Pieniążek, and in 1625 the rest of Gorlice was purchased by the Rylski family, who sided with the invading Swedes and their ally, Prince of Transylvania, George II Rákóczi during the deluge.
The 2nd half of the 17th century was not overly fortunate for Gorlice. On 2 May 1657, a raiding unit of the Swedish-Hungarian army reached the town. Attempts at defence, made by the supporters of Pieniążek who were loyal to the crown, ended tragically for the town itself. Rákóczi’s army captured Pieniażek’s mansion, burned half of the town that belonged to them, and murdered a large part of its inhabitants. After the Deluge, the depopulated town lay in ruins – in 1662 it had only 284 inhabitants. Those who stayed built a shrine, whose finial we present on our portal.
Gorlice, however, rose from its ashes and, despite some natural disasters (town fires in 1689 and 1694) and successive economic downturns, had already become a major urban centre with almost 6,000 inhabitants at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries, being the largest town in the Subcarpathian region, bigger than Jasło, Krosno, and Sanok.
However, the rapid development of the town was interrupted by the outbreak of World War I. In 1914-1915, Gorlice was caught between shifting front lines. During the approach of the Russian army towards the town, the majority of the councillors and the mayor fled from Gorlice. The town changed hands several times. Finally, on 2 May 1915, during the great offensive, the Austrian-German army captured Gorlice. As a result of these hostilities, the town was almost completely destroyed (only 120 out of 585 buildings survived) and again, just as on 2 May 1657, many of its inhabitants were killed.
On the one hand it represents a breakthrough on the Eastern Front, a huge victory over the Russians, while on the other lies a town in ruins, dead civilians and the construction of numerous war cemeteries, which are worth visiting when our eyes have had their fill of shimmering plaques commemorating military victory...

Elaborated by: Kinga Kołodziejska (Editorial team of Małopolskas Virtual Museums),
Licencja Creative Commons

 This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Poland License.

See also:
Commemorative plaque “Cannon 30.5 cm Škoda”
Commemorative plaque “Pustki Hill”
Commemorative cartridge made of shell
Top of a chapel built after the Swedish Deluge
Om importance of the Gorlice–Tarnów Offensive

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Commemorative plaque “Cannon 30.5 cm Škoda”

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Audio

Plakieta pamiątkowa „Moździerz 30,5 cm Škoda” Tells: Andrzej Stasiuk
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Plakieta pamiątkowa „Moździerz 30,5 cm Škoda” [audiodeskrypcja] Tells: Fundacja na Rzecz Rozwoju Audiodeskrypcji KATARYNKA
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