Związek Harcerstwa Polskiego

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Związek Harcerstwa Polskiego (The Polish Scouting and Guiding Association, ZHP) is the coeducational Polish Scouting organization recognized by the World Organization of the Scout Movement and the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts. It was founded in 1956 and currently is the largest Scouting organization in Poland (134,500 members in 2006). The original ZHP was founded in 1916, the current one is the fourth organization with this name.


Pre-war ZHP

The Polish Scout movement was started in 1910. Initially the ideas of Scouting were implemented by Andrzej Małkowski and his wife Olga. The three main branches of Polish Scouting included the Strzelec paramilitary organization for boys, a sport and education society Sokół and the anti-alcoholic association Eleusis. However, it wasn't until the Partitions of Poland came to an end that the ZHP would be officially founded by the merging of existing groups.

Soon after the merger in 1918, the ZHP members fought in all the conflicts Poland was engaged in around this time: Great Poland Uprising, Polish-Bolshevik War, Silesian Uprisings, and Polish-Ukrainian War, much like their predecessors during the Siege of Mafeking.

Eaglets defending the Łyczaków Cemetery during the Siege of Lwów

All of the units joined together in 1918 and formed the ZHP, one of the founding members of the World Organization of the Scout Movement. Although many units retained their own traditions, a common law, common symbols and a common oath was introduced. The primary difference between most Scouting organizations and the Polish Harcerstwo was described by Andrzej Małkowski:

Harcerstwo is Scouting plus independence.

Before 1939 the ZHP was one of the largest social and educational associations in Poland with over 200,000 members. Among the "sponsors" of Polish Harcerstwo were all the presidents of Poland and several high-ranking officers, including general Józef Haller.

Polish Boy Scouts fighting in the Warsaw Uprising

After the Invasion of Poland of 1939 the ZHP were branded criminals by The Nazi Party of Germany (who had gone so far as executing many Scouts and Guides, along with other possible resistance leaders), but they carried on as a clandestine organization. They became nicknamed the Szare Szeregi (Grey Ranks) and cooperated with the Polish underground state and the Armia Krajowa resistance. The older Scouts carried out sabotage and armed resistance. The Girl Guides formed auxiliary units working as nurses, liaisons and munition carriers. At the same time the youngest Scouts were involved in so-called small sabotage under the auspice of the Wawer organization, which included dropping leaflets or painting the kotwica sign on the walls. During Operation Tempest, and especially during the Warsaw Uprising, the Scouts participated in the fighting, and several Szare Szeregi units were some of the most effective in combat.

In 1945 the ZHP restored its former name and returned to public existence. However, the communist authorities of Poland pressured the organization to become a member of the Pioneer Movement and eventually it was banned in 1949.

Modern ZHP

In 1956, after Stalin's and Bierut's death, the communist party youth movement ZMP OH was transformed and renamed to ZHP. However the new ZHP did not consider itself as a continuation of the pre-war ZHP, but as a new organization (until 1980). After 1958 many pre-war instructors were removed from the new ZHP or marginalized (like Aleksander Kamiński) and the original oath, law, educational content and methods were changed (mention of God was removed from oath, Lenin introduced as a hero, the Bolshevik Revolution was commemorated, the brigades became co-educational).

Despite this, the Polish Scouting and Guiding Association became one of the very few official organizations that retained some independence from the communist party. Because of this, its growth was rapid, and in 1980 it had more than three million active members. The Polish Scouts were engaged in a variety of duties, varying from helping in the fields of the most poor regions to organizing the visits of Pope John Paul II. After the martial law was imposed in 1981 the ZHP was the only large social organization not to be banned. The "VIII ZHP Convention" even supported the martial law. However, many of its high ranking officials were interned because of their involvement in the Solidarność movement.

In 1989 after the period of peaceful transformation began, many groups of instructors formed separate Scouting organizations (like the ZHR[1], SHK Zawisza[2] or ZHP-1918[3]). At the same time the main ZHP returned to some of the pre-war traditions: e.g. the original oath and Scouts Law were reintroduced. In 1993 Lech Wałęsa became the honorary protector of the ZHP, just like all former Polish presidents. In 1996 the ZHP rejoined the World Organization of the Scout Movement.

  1. second largest Scouting organization in Poland, 15.000 members
  2. member of the Union Internationale des Guides et Scouts d'Europe
  3. shortlived attempt to refound pre-war ZHP


Polish Boy Scouts


The Scout Motto is "Czuwaj", translating literally as "be aware" or "stay awake" in Polish, symbolizing readiness. It was a historic admonition of medieval knights to one another, while on guard holding back the Mongols. The Polish nouns for single Scouts are Harcerz (M) and Harcerka (F).

The Scout Oath (Przyrzeczenie Harcerskie)

Mam szczerą wolę całym życiem pełnić służbę Bogu i Polsce, nieść chętną pomoc bliźnim i być posłuszną Prawu Harcerskiemu.

It is my sincere wish to serve God and Poland with the whole of my life, to carry my willing help to others, and to obey the Scout and Guide Law.

Scout Law (Prawo Harcerskie)

  1. Harcerz sumiennie spełnia swoje obowiązki wynikające z Przyrzeczenia Harcerskiego.
  2. Na słowie harcerza polegaj jak na Zawiszy.
  3. Harcerz jest pożyteczny i niesie pomoc bliźnim.
  4. Harcerz w każdym widzi bliźniego, a za brata uważa każdego innego harcerza.
  5. Harcerz postępuje po rycersku.
  6. Harcerz miłuje przyrodę i stara się ją poznać.
  7. Harcerz jest karny i posłuszny rodzicom i wszystkim swoim przełożonym.
  8. Harcerz jest zawsze pogodny.
  9. Harcerz jest oszczędny i ofiarny.
  10. Harcerz jest czysty w myśli, w mowie i uczynkach, nie pali tytoniu i nie pije napojów alkoholowych.


  1. A Scout fufills his duties as set out in the Scout Promise.
  2. You can rely on the word of a Scout as much as on the word of Zawisza.
  3. A Scout is useful and carries help to others.
  4. A Scout sees all people as close to him, and regards every other Scout as a brother.
  5. A Scout is chivalrous.
  6. A Scout loves nature and tries to get to know it.
  7. A Scout is obedient and listens to his parents and all his superiors.
  8. A Scout is always cheerful.
  9. A Scout is thrifty and generous.
  10. A Scout is clean in his thoughts, words and deeds, does not smoke cigarettes and does not drink alcohol.


  • The uniform
  • The Scouting Cross
  • The fleur-de-lys with the letters O-N-C (standing for Ojczyzna, Nauka, Cnota, Polish for Fatherland (literally "Fathers' Land"), Education, Virtue)
  • Anthem


There are four age groups, however the age margins are not strictly obeyed:

  • Zuchy (Cub Scouts and Brownies) - 6-10 years
  • harcerze and harcerki (Boy Scouts and Girl Guides) - 10-13 years
  • harcerze starsi and harcerki starsze (Senior Scouts and Senior Guides) - 13-16 years
  • wędrownicy and wędrowniczki (Rovers and Rangers) - 16-25 years of age
Polish Girl Guides from the ZHR

The basic unit of ZHP is a drużyna (troop), consisting of approximately 20 boys or girls. Each drużyna is formed by several units named zastęp consisting of about seven people. A few troops (especially working at the same school or housing estate) can be connected in one szczep (group). Several groups or/and troops from a specified area (borough, village, town) form a hufiec (district) which in turn is a part of one of the regions called chorągiew (literally banner). For example a particular Scout can be a member of

Poland Network Scout Fellowship

The Poland Network Scout Fellowship is a British forum for members of The Scout Association with a specific interest in Poland, assisting and forging links with Scouting there.

External links and references

Many of the districts within the organization have their own websites. There also exists a separate organisation 'ZHP Abroad', not affiliated to ZHP in Poland.


pl:Związek Harcerstwa Polskiego