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J189 - Friday, April 23: Kepno - Mierzyno

73.30km  – 9H27’
Altitude : 170m

The sun is shining and Serge is in a joyous mood after a good night and a good dinner: pork soup, red meat with French fries, apple pie.  At 7:30 our trio of runners  heads off toward Wielun. We are in the Lodz region.

 Wielun was the first city bombarded by the Germans on September 1, 1939.  75% of the city was destroyed and 1,200 civilians were killed. Hitler wished to eliminate Poland, which was the first country invaded by the Nazis.  As if that were not enough, the Russians invaded Poland from the East about the same time.  The German-Soviet non-aggression pact between Germany and Russia secretly defined the division of the territories which separated the two countries.  Thus, Poland was caught in a vice and before the end of 1939 the country was divided in two.  The Germans took the west and the Russians the east.  After that, the two countries applied their political systems which were very similar.  On the German side: Polish Jews were exterminated, the Poles remained, all the universities were closed, the population provided good labor and training was strictly controlled by the Germans.  On the Russian side: the population was deported to camps in Siberia, soldiers, officers and anyone considered a danger to the regime were assassinated en masse.

In June 1941 the pact was broken and Germany invaded Russia. All Polish territory was then under the control of the Nazi.  Here is a frightening statistic: Between 1939 and 1945, 6 million Poles were murdered, of which 5.5 million civilians.  It is the European country which paid the highest price following the German and Russian invasions.  What is more, the two invading countries suffered enormous losses (14 million civilians in Russia and almost 4 million in Germany).  It is hard to cross this country without mentioning this tragic page of history.

On this 23rd of April 2010, life is peaceful in the Polish countryside and we are progressing quietly, accompanied by new friends: 26 year old Paulina with her husband, Jacek, age 30, and 27 year old Ewelia and her fiancé, Tomasz, age 36.  Jacek had a problem this morning due to the recurring cramp in his right thigh.  He stopped for a few kilometres, then in spite of it started again and finished the stage with a smile.  Long distance racing, beyond that of a marathon, remains confidential.

At km 51, the 3 runners pick up Highway 8, which we have been trying to avoid for two days because it is a road heavily travelled by trucks.  Serge asks for his I-Pod and listens to it for 10km.  Without realizing it, he increases his pace and Tomasz says “Serge is going to kill us!”

Town : Mierzyno

GPS : N 51.18’45.2° E 018.54’14.3 °