Michał Drzymała (1857-1937) has been a Polish national hero for decades but, at the same time, he is a particularly tragic figure in our history. A law was passed in 1904 that subjected the building of new homes to the requirements of the administrative authorities and the decisions of the Colonisation Commission. Michał Drzymała, a resident of Podgradowice, near Rakoniewice, was denied permission because he was Polish. This peasant therefore lived in either a gypsy or circus wagon, as others in Pomerania had done.
Fame came in 1907 when Drzymała was visited by foreign journalists taking part in a hunt in the area. Photographs of Drzymała and his wagon, complete with apposite commentary, were sent all over the world – not just Europe. The first appeared in Polish-language newspapers but comprehensive articles on Drzymała later appeared in the French, British and U.S. press. Henryk Sienkiewicz, Leo Tolstoy, Maurice Maeterlinck, H. G. Wells and Gerhart Hauptmann were among those moved to comment, and a play entitled Wóz Drzymały (Drzymała’s Wagon) was staged in Lwów (now Lviv, Ukraine). The Drzymała saga came to a close when Prussian bureaucrats found a regulation that let them state that the height of the room inside the wagon was lower than the legal limit. At the end of July 1908, the wagon was removed from the site and its owner had to move into a dugout. In June 1910, Drzymała sold his allotment and moved to Cegielsko in Grodzisk Wielkopolski County.
Michał Drzymała was honoured several years after the regaining of independence. The state granted him a pension for life and, in October 1927, a national gift of a former German holding in Grabówno, Piła County. This is where he spent the last 10 years of his life. He was buried in the parish cemetery in Miasteczko Krajeńskie.