Osjaków, Central PolandMunicipal Coat of ArmsCoordinates for Osjaków51°17' N, 18°48' E Alternative namesOsjaków [Polish], Shakev [Yiddish], Os'yakuv [Russian], Oshiokov, Osjakov, Osiaków, Osyakow, Shekev, UshiokovGmina Osjaków is a rural gmina (administrative district) in Wielun County, Lódz Voivodeship, in central Poland. The municipality administrative centre is the village of Osjaków, which lies approximately 17 kilometres (11 mi) north-east of Wielun and 73 km (45 mi) south-west of the regional capital Lódz.The gmina covers an area of 100.74 square kilometres (38.9 sq mi), and as of 2006 its total population is 4,780.
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Thanks & AcknowledgementsThe information contained in these KehilaLinks pages have been compiled from a number of sources but a special mention should be made for the help given by Artur Nowojski and his Osjaków information website which has been of enormous help and which makes an invaluable contribution to today’s ‘Osjakówie’.Web pages updated January 2014
The majority of the Jewish population of the area lived within the village itself and before 1939 the Jewish population constituted around 60% of the total population (that is approximately 700 adults) of a population of around 1,400. There are small indications that the relationship between the Christian and Jewish populations was close, but undoubtedly it was historic. Two examples go to illustrate this apparent closeness; the one being the local Christian defence of the Jewish right to land ownership in the area in the 1860’s - commented on in a little more detail later; the other being the following commentary which was a criticism by a Mr Rabenda of a section of the non-JewishPrior to the Shoah, the most notable time in Osjaków’s history was during the January Uprising against the Imperial Russian overlordship of the country (1863-1864); when there were a number of battles fought in the area between the Imperial Russians and Polish insurrectionists. The persecution and exile to Siberia of some of the leading Christian citizens and the apparent defence of Jewish rights by leading Osjaków citizens appears to be linked but too little is know to provide a reliable narrative at this time.In many ways Osjaków was touched by the ebb and flow of history but because of its relative isolation and farming links it seems to have remained quintessentially an urbanised but rural village, which had seen better days, and in which its Polish Christian and Jewish population coexisted and worked toward making their living from agriculture, trade and crafts. To quote from the Osjaków information website: "So sleepy Osjaków lived a poor life, a Polish-Jewish settlement. It was slightly different from the surrounding countryside because of the nature of its buildings; its architectural lay-out, and the employment activities of the population. In terms of the its layout, Osjaków was more like a town, with its centrally located market place and brick built houses, roofed with shingles and roofing felt; in contrast to the surrounding villages; with their wooden houses roofed with straw."1
These pages are a basic introduction to the rural village of Osjaków and to aspects of its former Jewish life and history. Today it is an administrative centre for the villages and hamlets of the area and is one of a cluster of towns, villages and hamlets at the southern reaches of the River Wartawhich, before the Second World War, had long established mixed Jewish and Christian communities.Close to the ancient border between Lower Silesia and the Kingdom of Poland, Osjaków’s early history was bound up with the extraction of iron ore, farming crafts and trading between the two areas. The local Jewish community’s involvement in both the trade and agriculture of the area helped shape the village.
Panorama of Osjaków
Osjaków population and its failure to attend church and follow the instructions of the local Catholic priests:"Well the main reason is that some men, instead of going to church on Sundays to hear Mass and the sermon, go quietly with arms to the forest or on the field and there steal someone else's game (while others choose to be true to the church) and instead of listening to the devotion, they spend all the rest of their spare time in the tavern or inn with a Jew.”
A Rural Market Village
The village itself first appears in records around the period of 1260. It gained a formal town charter in the 1400’s and was know for iron ore extraction and iron production as well as agricultural produce and its associated monthly chartered market. The village lost its town charter in the late 1700’s after a fire virtually burned down the whole of the village but it continued to hold its market, which was held on the first Monday of the month, for local merchants as well as those from Wieluń, Działoszyn, Szczerców, Widawa and Belchatów.