Ruch Chorzów Team in the 30s.
Ruch Chorzów Team in the 30s.

Ruch Chorzów amidst tragedies of Upper Silesia

Upper Silesia Tragedy with Ruch Chorzów

The history of Ruch Chorzów club spans over 100 years, originating in 1920. Throughout its existence, the club has weathered significant events, from the Silesian Uprisings to World War II and the Soviet occupation, alongside the repercussions of the Upper Silesian Tragedy.

Ruch Chorzów

Before the war, this club was one of the most decorated in Poland, but after the cessation of hostilities, it had to rebuild from scratch. Among the initial measures taken was the revival of sporting activities. In 1945, Ruch Chorzów’s football team resumed training, and a year later, they reentered league competition. However, the challenges were numerous – not only were experienced players scarce but also training facilities and infrastructure were lacking. These obstacles were compounded by the Soviet occupation and the resulting persecution of the Silesian populace, presenting the club with its most significant challenges.

Upper Silesia tragedy

Ruch Chorzów club is situated in Poland, in the region of Upper Silesia, and thus directly connects to the tragedy which took place in Upper Silesia after 1945. This tragic episode aimed at retaliating against the German population through various repressive measures, including crimes, rapes, murders, destruction, theft, and the incarceration of native residents in labour camps or internment. Additionally, some of the indigenous populations were deported to the USSR. Among those targeted were footballers, including members of Ruch Chorzów, as well as their fans. If they identified with the Silesian society, they were often mistaken for Germans and subjected to repression. Consequently, the club faced personnel shortages due to the loss of players and management. One example is Eryk Tatuś, a footballer interned for his perceived “anti-Polish” activities during World War II, receiving a sentence of one and a half years in prison.

Banning Silesian

During matches, like everywhere else, a government regime was enforced to maintain order and respect for authorities. Silesians faced punishment for speaking their language – Silesian – as it was seen as promoting the distinctiveness of the region’s culture and traditions. Players and fans were prohibited from communicating or shouting in Silesian during the matches. Violators could even be sent to labour camps in the depths of the Soviet Union, where many faced torture and death due to the gruelling travel and harsh working conditions.

A watchful eye and a forceful fist

The Red Army also intervened in matches, arresting and interrogating anyone who opposed the authorities or promoted pro-Silesian behaviour. Often, the club lost players because they were identified as native Silesians and classified as part of the German population.

History is repeating itself

This story remains pertinent even today. Society is still divided into the privileged and the marginalized. Our region and its residents continue to grapple with issues stemming from outsiders, often due to the existence of a distinct language – though officially unrecognized – referred to merely as a “dialect,” as well as cultural differences and stereotypical attitudes. Let us refrain from segregating individuals based on factors such as skin color, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or religion. It’s imperative to raise awareness about events like these to deter further infringements on human rights by authorities.”

Thinking points

It is a story related to the Upper Silesian Tragedy and can be the subject of discussion in regional education. That would stimulate the sense of regionalism.

  • What can Ruch Chorzów and football clubs tell us about the political regimes and how can we use them as case studies for regional analysis
  • How does this story highlight the governance of the Soviet Union towards regional identities in Silesia?
  • How can football become a tool to learn about the living conditions in the Soviet Union and how can we learn about the persecution the people of Silesia succumbed to? 

Find out more

Follow this page to find out about the Upper Silesian Tragedy monument. Where you can visit it, its relevance, importance, and message. Follow this link (English available) to learn more about the Tragedy and the plaque unveiled in Chorzów.

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Ruch Chorzów Team in the 30s.
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