History – FLISAC


Life with a river flow

“Flisak” in Polish language means “a raftman”. He might have been a peasant, he might have been a nobleman whose choice was to live with a river flow. In Poland, it was believed that Vistula was the greatest river in the universe. For hundred of years the river was one of the main trading arteries of Poland. It brought raftmen money, freedom and adventures. Wearing a linen shirt and hemp pants, early in the morning flisac used to push off his boat and flow out into the river Vistula towards the Baltic Sea. He was carrying various commodities, however grain, a treasure of Poland, most often. During the end of the day, as flisac reached the shore, he enjoyed himself among the locals. They, mostly poor port workers and craftmen, welcomed flisacs with a great hospitality.

Extraction of sand from the bottom of the Vistula, 1926 (image courtesy of NAC)

Ostrogski Palace on Tamka Street

Panorama of the Old Town from the side of the Vistula, 1956 (photo by Siemaszko Zbyszko, image courtesy of NAC)

Vistula brings fortune

Vistula has never been a humble river. It flooded over nearby buildings, changing the shore's line. Some houses were rebuilt or moved deeper into the land. Although the locals used to fortify the shore, Vistula's waters were coming back, taking the precious property from the poor people of Powisle. Nevertheless, they always loved their lives here and believed in fortune.   Finally, after the First World War, a local who lived by Tamka Street, won the lottery. Soon after, his daughter Aurelia opened here an exchange which was the most lucky place to play lottery in whole Warsaw.


There was a road leading from riverside to Krakowskie Przedmiescie, the royal route of Warsaw. In the 17th century it also became an important route connecting adjoining settlements. People used to call it “tamka”, what meant a barrier that stops the flow of water. Next to the wooden houses that were built along “tamka”, the Queen of Poland, Marie Louise, raised a hospital and the Vice-Chancellor of the Crown, Jan Gninski, founded a palace (built on the top of the bastion financed by Prince Janusz Ostrogski) which later would become a pension for young royals and a conservatory. Today this renowned baroque building serves as the Frederic Chopin Museum.   In the beginning of 20th century, Tamka’s landscape was enriched by modern at that time, storeyed buildings. Most of them fell into ruin during the Warsaw Uprising. After the WWII new residences have been built along with the expansion of the locals streets of Powisle.

The Golden Duck

The urban legend says that also a poor shoemaker found his fortune here, nearby Tamka. In the cellars beneath Ostrogski Palace lived a Golden Duck - an insidious creature that could grant the fortune to those who obey its commands and everlasting poverty to those who break the duck’s wish. The shoemaker, who had nothing to lose, decided to find the Golden Duck. It gave him a bag of money and requested spending it in one day and not sharing it with anyone. The shoemaker, however, supported a begging soldier. The duck immediately took away all the shoemaker’s goods. That was the moment, when the shoemaker understood, what was making him happy. He became a master shoemaker, found himself a beautiful wife and lived his life in happiness and wealth.

Golden Duck Monument at the Ostrogski Palace in Warsaw

A car from the Fuchs factory (author unknown)

Powisle Turns Modern

A provincial character of Powisle has changed throughout the 19th century - the golden age of industrialization. Every day here the locals towards accomplishment and success. Magnates found Powisle perfect for their properties: breweries, granaries and storages. It didn’t take long for Powisle to become the most industrialized district of Warsaw. Particular attention was taken by the Government Machinery Factory and the first steam mill in the Congress Poland built in Solec area. The Dobra Street was enchanted by a pleasant smell coming from the local candy factory, the Fuchs family’s business. Powisle also became a location for the first in Warsaw gas plant that lightened up major avenues of the city along with the Warsaw’s Castle Square. Cobblestones replaced the dirt streets. Powisle entered the era of modernity. In 2000 a cable-stayed, 479 m long, Swietokrzyski Bridge was opened. It links Powisle with Praga district.  

The Mermaid Statue in Warsaw, 1977 (photo: Rutowska Grażyna, courtesy of NAC)

Into the Green

Wave roar and beautiful views have been inviting the Varsavians to walk along the banks of Vistula for years. Already in the 18th century, splendid parks and public gardens served the inhabitants and guests of Powisle district. Created in 1939 statue of the Mermaid of Warsaw, the symbol of the city, has become one of the most photographed spots of the district. The statue’s face was modelled on the poet born in Powisle, Krystyna Krahelska and it was designed by Ludwika Nitschowa. An effective panorama of the Old Town of Warsaw from the banks of Vistula makes the riverside popular and often visited by either tourists or inhabitants of Warsaw. Before the WWII until the 1960's people used to spend their free time on sandy beaches running along both right and left shores of the Vistula River. Every summer volleyball, dancings, ladies wearing sun hats and sailing boats dominated the landscape of Powisle.  

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