Historical story

History of the Drzymała car

Thanks to the circus car, Michał Drzymała went down in history as a symbol of national cunning and stubbornness. Who was? And what was that about with his car?

Resistance to the Prussian invaders? A more attentive student would name "Rota". Apart from her - cultivating the Polish language and… Michał Drzymała's circus car.

Why the car?

Eight children and one plot of land - a win-win situation for younger siblings. Michał Drzymała was forced to work in larger estates from an early age. At the age of less than 24, he married Józefa Vetteri. After a few moves, the whole family settled in Podgradowice (today's Drzymałowo). The young man, his wife and five children initially lived with the influential German, Richard Neldner. Drzymała worked for him as a carter, delivering bricks and sand. Soon Neldner sold him a piece of land approximately 1.8 ha.

Drzymała wagon in Rakoniewice (1907)

On the plot he had bought, Michał wanted to build a house for himself and his family. And there would be no problem if it were not for ... the Prussian Settlement Act of 1904. It prohibited the construction of new properties without administrative approval. With the Poles, the matter was simple. Getting permission to build a house was a miracle. Moreover, other buildings were also problematic. The family, whose problems with the law began with ... a stove in a utility room, found out about it. The pigsty, which Drzymała purchased together with the land, served as a dwelling for some time. And the additional source of heating became the pretext for regular inspections by officials.

Neighbors became interested in the case of the Pole, who not only did not receive a permit to build his own four angles, but also had legal problems due to the stove. The subject was extremely exciting at the time, regardless of nationality. And it was his friends, the Germans, who mentioned to him about the confiscated circus car, and also borrowed money to buy it.

(Un) movable

The vehicle cost 350 marks and was in a deplorable technical condition from the very beginning. This did not discourage Drzymała. The lack of transport also did not stop him. The cart, purchased by a man in 1904, was first pulled by his friend's horses, and later by the Germans from a local brewery. At night, behind Rakoniewice, a tragedy happened. The rear wheel of the vehicle was stuck at the railroad crossing and could not be pulled out . However, the Pole coped with this problem as well. He was helped by the owner of the cows living nearby, who had already pulled the cart to Drzymała's yard.

As he later recalled:"The next day I reported to the gendarmerie station that there was no more fire in the pigsty and I had peace for some time". For a while, i.e. until mid-1907. It was then that Count Marceli Kazimierz Czarnecki became interested in the matter of the car. The subject was quickly picked up by the editors of "Gazeta Grudziądzka", followed by other popular publications at the time, such as:"Gazeta Berlińska", "Gazeta Gdańska" or "Dziennik Kujawski". Letters about the Drzymała's car were written by Henryk Sienkiewicz himself and soon the greatest European writers were deeply concerned with the Polish case.

A flat on wheels

For Michał and his family, fame meant further trouble. The car attracted numerous onlookers. In the light of the law, they formed an illegal assembly, for which the man often ended up in custody, to which he was reportedly dressed in festive clothes. There, for fear of being poisoned, he ate only what his wife brought him.

Reconstruction of the interior of the wagon at the National Agricultural Exhibition in Poznań

On the other hand, a series of articles in numerous newspapers resulted in the establishment of the Poznań Drzymałowski Committee, which raised money for a new vehicle . The largest factory of cars and harnesses in Poznań, Dzieciuchowicz &Laube, produced a real apartment on wheels for the family . The wind no longer blew inside, the rain did not penetrate through numerous gaps. The family had a kitchen with an area of ​​7.5 square meters and a velvet room of 12.5 square meters. The ceiling and floor of the car were double, and additional insulation was provided by a layer of cork.

And then the Prussian court became interested in the matter. The family enjoyed the new car for only a year. Drzymała to prove that the vehicle is not immovable, he moved it about a meter every day however, this turned out to be insufficient. The final reason for eviction was the height of the wagon (2.26 m), which, according to the court's decision, was 20 cm too small for people to live there. The family moved to a dugout for a short time, and then they moved to Cegielsk.

What happened to Drzymała?

The attitude of the man who had been made a symbol of patriotism and cleverness soon found followers. We know of at least five other families who lived in the wagon without having obtained a permit to build a house.

Drzymała and his vehicle quickly grew to the rank of a legend - there were rumors about the man's courage and ingenuity. It was said that he did not pay the imposed mandates so as not to support the partition of the partitioning power. And when he landed in custody, he went to him with patriotic songs on his lips. What, however, was omitted? First of all, all the help he received from the Germans themselves . The press and literary works devoted to Michał also consistently avoided the topic of his weakness for alcohol.

The largest factory of cars and harnesses in Poznań, Dzieciuchowicz &Laube, has produced a real flat on wheels for the family.

The car was treated almost like a relic for several years. In 1910 it found its way to the Krakow museum. When it was accepted for the collection, it was noted:"The Drzymała cart, as a monument related to the history of the martyrdom of the Polish nation under the Prussian partition, will be kept as an eternal memorial." With time, however, the public lost interest in him. The impending war and the economic problems after its end became a more pressing problem.

Drzymała himself also fell into oblivion. Two of his sons were killed at the front. The remaining three went to Germany in search of work, where they eventually started their own families and changed their surnames. Year by year, the aging man fell into more and more poverty. Poles remembered about him only in 1927. It was then that he received a 15-hectare farm in Grabówno from President Mościcki and a substantial, lifetime annuity. He spent another decade there. He died on April 25, 1937, before his 80th birthday.


  1. Błońska D. Michał Drzymała's car. The history of the national souvenir [in:] "Material culture history quarterly" 67 (2), 2019.
  2. Dworecki Z., Michał Drzymała , Poznań 1988.
  3. Leśniewska I., Around the structure of the myth of Michał Drzymała [in:] "Acta Universitatis Lawodsis. Folia Historica ”79, 2005.

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