An Unusual Souvenir – the Walking Stick of an Interned Pole

Ravetg, Plaun Graund, Plaun Bel: if you hike from Rothenbrunnen to Domat/Ems, you will pass many areas of land with old Rhaeto-Romansh field names. Across the Hinterrhein, the little church of Sogn Gieri, which was decorated in its entirety in the Middle Ages by two master painters as a "Biblia pauperum", i.e. a fantastical, biblical picture book, is also briefly visible. The path itself, however, does not have a Rhaeto-Romansh name. Its name is Polenweg.

What is the reason for this? During the Second World War, approximately 13,000 Polish soldiers crossed the Swiss border to escape being taken prisoner by German troops. They were subsequently interned in Switzerland in accordance with the Hague Convention. They had to serve stints of work in fields such as the construction of roads and paths. 15 paths were built by interned Poles in Graubünden alone, including six in the Safien Valley, which had previously been difficult to access.

Apart from the names of paths and roads, there are not many reminders left of the interned Poles. In the Kulturarchiv Domat/Ems, the walking sticks of interned soldiers who participated in the construction of the Polenweg between the villages of Rothenbrunnen and Domat/Ems can be found. The sticks are decorated with various motifs, such as the Swiss cross and edelweiss flowers. And, as if it were the souvenir of a tourist, the words "Souvenir Suisse" are carved into one of the sticks...

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