Związek Harcerstwa Polskiego (Polish Scouting and Guiding Association, ZHP) is the Polish Scouting organization recognized by the World Organization of the Scout Movement. It was founded in 1918 and currently is the biggest scouting organization in Poland.
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 Strzelec paramilitary organization for boys, sport and education society Sokół and the anti-alcoholic association Eleusis. However, it wasn't until the Partitions of Poland came to an end when the ZHP could be founded.
In 1918 the ZHP units started to spark in almost every part of Poland. Their members fought in all conflicts Poland was engaged in: Great Poland Uprising, Polish-Bolshevik War, Silesian Uprisings, and Polish-Ukrainian War. 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 common oath was passed. The main difference between all scouting organizations and Polish Harcerstwo was described by Andrzej Małkowski:
Harcerstwo is Scouting plus independence.
Until 1939 the ZHP became one of the biggest social and educational associations in Poland with over 200 000 members. Among the "protectors" of the Polish scouting were all presidents of Poland and several high-ranking officers, including general Józef Haller.
After the September Campaign of 1939 the ZHP were branded criminals by The Nazi Party of Germany, but they went underground. The association was nick-named Szare Szeregi (Grey Ranks) and became a part of the Armia Krajowa. The older scouts carried out sabotage and armed resistance duties. 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 auspice of the Wawer organization, which included dropping leaflets or painting the kotwica sign on the walls. During the Operation Tempest and especially during the Warsaw Uprising the scouts participated in the fights with some of the Szare Szeregi units being ones of the most effective in combat.
In 1945 the ZHP restored its former name and emerged from the resistance. However, the communist authorities of Poland pressured the organization to become a member of the Pioneer Movement. The ZHP was banned in 1950, but after Stalin's and Bierut's death it was restored in 1956.
The Polish Scouting and Guiding Association became one of the very few social organizations that retained some independence from the communist party. Because of that it quickly grew and in 1980 it had more than 3 millions 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 had been imposed in Poland in 1981 the ZHP was the only big social organization not to be banned. 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 started, several groups of instructors formed separate scouting organizations. At the same time ZHP returned to the pre-war traditions: 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 were.
It is my sincere wish to serve God and Poland with the whole of my life, to give my willing help to other people, and to obey the Scout and Guide Law.
- The uniform
- The Scouting Cross
- fleur-de-lys with the letters O-N-C (standing for Ojczyzna, Nauka, Cnota, Polish for Motherland, Education, Virtue)
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
The basic unit of ZHP is a drużyna (troop), consisting of approximately 20 boys or girls. Each drużyna is formed by several groups named zastęp consisting of 7 people. Several 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
- 1. zastęp starszoharcerski (1st group of senior scouts)
- 156 Warszawska Drużyna Harcerek i Harcerzy (156th Warsaw Troop of Boy Scouts and Girl Guides)
- Hufiec Warszawa-Mokotów (Warsaw-Mokotów District)
- Chorągiew Stołeczna ZHP (Warsaw Region of ZHP)
There are also several smaller scouting organizations in Poland. The most notable are: