Biała Gwiazda (English)
Z Historia Wisły
Biała Gwiazda – White Star
White Star is the symbol that has been accompanying Wisła for more than 100 years. It has become an icon, club’s synonym, almost a sanctity. White Star – expression of patriotism – witnessed glory, moments of emotion and excitement, but also falls and painful failures. There were also periods, when political pressure was put on the club and its identity was tried to be changed – because of its meaning, the White Star was expelled from shirts. Fortunately this times passed, and White Star accompanies athletes, activists, and supporters not only in Poland but also in the world.
History of the White Star
Despite common believes, Star was not Wisła’s emblem from the very beginning. The first emblem made reference to the Vistula river and had the form of a black ball crossed by a blue ribbon.
The star appeared accidentally. In one of interviews Jan Weyssenhoff explained: “I was then in the Jenkner team. I wrote to Steigl (sports articles factory) in Berlin to send us some clothes. Red shirts with two blue stars came. At the time of the merger we agreed that Wisła would give the name and we would give the colors. That is how nowadays colors were created. Later on blue stars were replaced by single white one.” The merger mentioned by Wisła player took place in the autumn of 1907. Shirts were therefore ordered at least a few weeks earlier, but it is not possible to determine the exact date. To sum up, at the beginning there were two five arm blue stars – on the left and right side of the chest – on the shirts of Jenkner team. Though the merger with Jenkner team the stars appeared on Wisła shirts. In fact, blue star was placed on the first known Wisła badges.
Replacing two blue stars with one white one was a were important and significant event, worth precise description.
Thanks to the analysis of old photographs, we can locate this event at the second half of 1910. To be more precise, the oldest picture of Wisła players with white star dates back to September 1910. At the end of this year Wisła started to promote the autonomisation of Polish sport. Wisla gave the idea of creating the Union of Polish Footballers, independent from Austrian occupiers, and urged other Polish teams to join this initiative. This had an important political and patriotic dimension – the Union was supposed to unite Polish team from all three partitions (Austrian, German and Russian).
In this context the White Star becomes a very meaningful symbol. With it Wisła shirts reflected the national colors of Poland: white and red. Moreover, one of the versions of the White Star had eight arms, which allows to interpret it as the symbol of the Morning Star or ancient goddess Aurora/Eos – the announcement of a new day, awakening, resurrection, rebirth. Wisła shirts were therefore supposed to announce the imminent rebirth of Poland, which indeed happened in 1918.
However a few times White Star was erroneously interpreted – usually as a communist symbol. This happened on November 16, 1924, when Marshall Józef Piłsudski was present at Wisła stadium for a match. When leaving, he spotted red flags with white star and asked: “What are this Bolshevik flags”. It is worth adding, that only three years earlier Poland – with Józef Piłsudski as chief commander – won a war on Bolshevik Russia. Piłsudski cheered at the explanation, that those flags were no communist symbol, but traditional club’s emblem. A similar misunderstanding happened 22 years later, in 1946. Wisła played a match against British footballers from the Rhine Army. Guests played brutally, and afterwards explained, that they considered their opponents communists.
After 1911 the shape of the star changed few times. It is probable, that the first shirts with White Star were ordered abroad, and the later versions were prepared by the players themselves, as different types of stars appear (with five or six arms). It is hard to determine the exact moment, when five arms star became the standard. It might have been the year 1914. In any case, after the reactivation of Wisła in 1918 only this type have been used. As club’s statute from 1936 defines: “Society emblem is a white five-pointed star on a red field”. That is also how the footballers shirts looked like.
Over the years this classic composition have been violated several times. As a club’s decision – it was always protested by fans, as an external coercion it was considered an assault on Wisła identity.
During the Nazi occupation of Poland Germans outlawed Polish sports clubs – using any symbols or badges at that time meant a high risk of persecutions. Moreover, Germans commandeered Wisła equipment, including clothes. Wisła during the war years often played in ordinary shirts or even only in shorts (this happened on May 5, 1940, in a derby match against Cracovia). Fortunately, part of the equipment have been secured by Wisła cloakroom attendant, Andrzej Boligłowa, and players couple of times took the risk of wearing traditional shirts. In this hard times the White Star significance was once again very expressive.
Also the second of XX century’s totalitarianisms tried to liquidate the White Star. When Wisła during the communist reform of Polish sport was forced to join Zrzeszenie Sportowe Gwardia (Militia Sports Association), White Star was replaced with Gwardia emblem. Luckily, this lasted only few years, and with political thaw following Stalin’s death clubs were allowed to return to traditional symbols in 1955.
As it has been already mentioned, club itself modified the White Star few times. It was especially problematic to put the White Star on white shirts – the idea of inverting the colors (red star on white shirts) must be strongly criticized, although such thing happened, for example in 1966. Definitely better solution was to put the White Star in a red field – such kits were quite common in the seventies. In the nineties the logo of Wisła Krakow limited company replaced White Star. This logo also contains White Star, but such a change in still discredited by many fans. The White Star came back on Wisła shirts for the 100 anniversary of the club, but since then Wisła plays once again with limited company logo. In 2008/2009 White Star was added on the shoulder, but this did not fully satisfied the fans strongly attached to club’s tradition. Nowadays a campaign to restore the White Star is gaining popularity.
But despite the current design of Wisła kits and its past and future changes, White Star remains unequivocal sign of Wisła Kraków. It appears everywhere, where Wisła plays, and the biggest white star on Earth is obviously at the home stadium of the club – it is composed of chairs of the north stand of Henryk Reyman stadium in Kraków. But White Star is not only a visual representation – even more important is its presence in the minds and hearts of the multitude of fans, to whom it represents a way of life, a strong character, hardened in many trials of fate, nobility and steadfastness.