Ajdukiewicz, Tadeusz (1852-1916) - 1874 Horses in Pasture (Lviv Art Gallery, Poland) by Milton Sonn

<br /><i>Via Flickr:</i>
<br />Oil on canvas;    25.5 x 40.5 cm.

He was born in Wieliczka. From 1868 to 1873, he studied under Władysław Luszczkiewicz in the Fine art school of Krakow. Later, he travelled to Vienna and Munich, and studied in Józef Brandt’s atelier. In 1877, Ajdukiewicz travelled to Paris and the Near East. In 1882, he lived in Vienna, where he worked for the aristocracy. He painted a portrait of the Prince of Wales in 1883 while staying in London. He travelled to Constantinople in 1884, and was sultan Abdhulhamid II’s guest. Subsequently, he worked in Sofia, Saint Petersburg and Bucharest. He joined the Polish Legions in 1914, during World War I, and he died in battle in Kraków on January 9, 1916. He is mainly known for his portraits, such as The portrait of Helena Modrzejewska, and for his paintings of battle scenes. He was also noted for his genre paintings.

WordBrewery is great for improving your vocabulary.  It gives you a random sentence at either beginner, intermediate, advanced or master level, and you can make lists of words or sentences that you’d like to learn.  

It includes the following languages:

  • Spanish
  • English
  • Chinese
  • Arabic
  • Portuguese
  • Russian
  • Japanese
  • German
  • French
  • Italian
  • Polish
  • Ukrainian
  • Korean
  • Serbian (Latin)
  • Serbian (Cryillic)
  • Hungarian
  • Greek
  • Swedish
  • Norwegian


■ Broadly speaking, Slavic languages can be divided into those using the Cyrillic alphabet and those using the Latin alphabet, but in truth each language has developed its own modified alphabet. These language-specific letters and diacritic signs can serve as surefire clues, but unfortunately the task is much harder with speech, since accents and dialects tend to confuse even the most skilled listeners.

So how do you tell Slavic languages apart?

The Cyrillic alphabet:


■ Belarusian is the only language which uses the letter ў. It sounds similar to an English ‘w’, and the Latin transcription is ‘ŭ’. It is most often encountered in word endings equivalent to the Russian -ov or –ev suffixes, e.g., last names like Быкаў (Bykaŭ) or Някляеў (Nyaklyayeŭ).

UKRAINIAN – ї and є

■ ıf you see an ï amidst Cyrillic letters, you’re most likely reading Ukrainian. This letter is pronounced /ji/, and should not be confused with ‘i’ (/i/), or with ‘й’ (/j/) and ‘и’ (/ɪ/), which all look and sound slightly different.

Ukrainian is also the only language with the letter є ‒ in Russian the corresponding ‘э’ character faces the other way…


■ Ъ is a solid hint that you’re looking at Bulgarian ‒ it even pops up in the name of the country: България.  Though this letter (called ‘yer golyam’/‘ер голям’) also appears in Russian and other Slavic languages, it is not used frequently, whereas it appears regularly in Bulgarian. This is perhaps because it is silent in other Slavic languages, but in Bulgarian it symbolises a schwa sound (like the ‘u’ in ‘turn’). Make sure you don’t confuse it with the soft sign, ‘ь’.

Additional hint: ата is a frequent grammatical ending in Bulgarian.

SERBIAN – ђ and ћ

■ The similar ђ (dzhe) and ћ (tshe) are evidence you’re dealing with Serbian. Serbian Cyrillic doesn’t have many of the letters used in Russian Cyrillic; forget about ‘ё’, ‘й’, ‘щ’, ‘ъ’, ‘ы’, ‘ь’, ‘э’, ‘ю’, and ‘я’. If you want to tell Serbian apart from Russian, you can also look for љ (ly’) њ (ny’) and џ (dʒ), but these are also present in Macedonian.  


■ Macedonian is the only language with the letters Ѓ and Ќ. The little accents over these Cyrillic letters are a surefire way to tell Macedonian apart from Serbian. The letters stand for sounds similar to the English [dʒ] and [t͡ʃ] – the latter sounding really Chinese.

Additionally, Macedonian features the letter ‘s’ [d͡z], which otherwise does not occur in the Cyrillic alphabet.


■ Famous for its inverted letters, Russian is probably the most recognizable Slavic language out there. On the other hand it is quite easy to confuse it with Ukrainian, Bulgarian or Serbian, so if you have a full sentence on your hands, it’s best to proceed by elimination using all the tips mentioned above.

The Latin alphabet:


■ If you see the letter ł with the characteristic slash through it, you’re looking at Polish. Ą and ę (which are nasal consonants) are also giveaways but be careful, both letters are also in the Lithuanian alphabet (which is not a Slavic language). Digraphs like ‘sz’, ‘cz’, and ‘dz’, sometimes combined into consonant clusters like ‘prz’, ‘trz’, and ‘szcz’, are clues, but watch out for Hungarian, which has similar consonant clusters.


■ Slovak is the only Slavic language to use ä, or ‘a s dvoma bodkami’ as the Slovaks call it. It comes up in words like ‘mäso’, ‘sôvä’, ‘rýbä’ (meat, owl, fish) and is pronounced like the English ‘a’ sound in ‘bad’. The same goes for ŕ, which is not used in any other Slavic language.


■ The Czech and Slovak alphabets are really similar. To tell them apart, look for the tiny difference in the diacritic sign over the letter r – where Slovak uses ‘ŕ’, the Czech letter has a tiny hook: ř. Also, if you see the letter ů, it’s Czech.


■ Written Croatian can appear hardly discernible from Slovenian, Czech or Slovak, with which it shares the letters as ‘č’, ‘š’, and ‘ž’, it has an easy distinctive feature ‒ the so-called crossed đ. [dʑ]


■ The Bosnian alphabet is indistinguishable from Croatian. To identify the language you would have to dig much deeper and look for differences in vocabulary since Bosnian has some unique words, mostly of Persian and Arabic origin.


■ Slovenian, which is the westernmost Slavic language, is also the most discrete in terms of alphabet. In fact, it has only three special characters, ‘č’, ‘š’, and ‘ž’, which also appear in Czech, Slovak and Croatian. Again, your best bet is to proceed by elimination. (

The notoriously difficult phonology of the Polish language has always caused much trouble and confusion for neighbouring nations. But what are the absolute hardest words?

Germans look at Polish and see incomprehensible series of consonants. While to the east, Polish sounds so strange to Russians that they even have a verb for Poles speaking their language: pshekat. To top it off, Czechs think Poles sound like Czech children with a speech defect.

The most troublesome feature of Polish orthography is what linguists call complex consonant clusters ‒  series of consonants without any vowels. They occur in many languages, including English; for example, in the word ‘shrug’ the letters shr form a consonant cluster. But while English usually draws the line at three consonants, Polish sometimes joins as many as five consonants, a phenomenon called the Polish syllable structure, which is allegedly surpassed only by Georgian in terms of complexity.

Here are some outstandingly difficult examples of this damning syllable structure for you to have a crack at. Good luck!

1. Żółć

This word is comprised purely of Polish letters ‒ Latin letters that were modified with Polish diacritic signs. In terms of pronunciation, English-speakers still stand a chance, but they would need to know the sound every letter stands for… (Incidentally, this all-Polish word means ‘bile’. Could the choleric Polish temperament result from their impossible language?)

2. Szczęście

If you think happiness is hard to find, try pronouncing it in Polish! The Polish word for ‘happiness’ consists of a sequence of two Polish digraphs (sz, cz), a nasal e sound, the Polish diacritic ś, another digraph (ci), and a final e (which is probably the only sound you’ll be able to pronounce on your first go).

3. Pszczyna

With a name like this, this town in Southern Poland certainly stands out on the map. But despite looking rather daunting, Pszczyna features only three consonants one after the other (the digraphs sz and cz stand for one sound each). But we’re just getting started in terms of difficulty…

4. Następstw

The final letter sequence in the Polish word for ‘consequence’ features a headache-inducing cluster of four consonants, but don’t worry. You’re not likely to encounter ‘następstw’ too often since it is the genitive plural (and thus not infrequently used) form of the word ‘następstwo’. What’s genitive plural, you ask? In Polish, words like adjectives and nouns have six or seven versions depending on their grammatical function in a sentence. But never mind that now.

5. Źdźbło

We’re sorry. We know ‘źdźbło’ looks really awful. But no worries, it’s actually only four sounds, not five: Ź, DŹ, B, Ł. Surely, that’s slightly helpful news? Either way, this terribly difficult word means ‘a tiny leaf of grass’.  

6. Bezwzględny

Here we have five consonants AND five sounds to be pronounced. Fittingly, it means ‘ruthless’.

7. Szymankowszczyzna

Now that you’re an expert, the name of this small village shouldn’t pose too much difficulty (the longest consonant cluster is a mere three consonants long). You will be reassured to learn that it is one the longest place names in Poland and most places you’ll visit are actually easier to pronounce.

8. Szczebrzeszyn

Another town, Szczebrzeszyn is famous for being the beginning of the most famous Polish tongue-twister. Ready?

W Szczebrzeszynie chrząszcz brzmi w trzcinie

It means ‘In Szczebrzeszyn, a beetle buzzes in the reed’. No? Try again!

9. Grzegorz Brzęczyszczykiewicz :)

This name appears in the cult Polish movie How I Unleashed World War II when a Polish prisoner pretends to be thus named in order to thwart the Nazi officer who has to keep track of prisoners’ identities. His reaction is probably illustrative of most foreigners’ frustration with the devilish Polish phonology.

BONUS: Try putting them all together! Apologies in advance..

The ruthless Grzegorz Brzęczyszczykiewicz went from Szczebrzeszyn to Szymankowszczyzna and then Pszczyna. And though he was sometimes overwhelmed with bile, oblivious of the consequences, he eventually found happiness in a tiny leaf of grass.


Bezwzględny Grzegorz Brzęczyszczykiewicz wyruszył ze Szczebrzeszyna przez Szymankowszczyznę do Pszczyny. I choć nieraz zalewała go żółć, niepomny następstw znalazł ostatecznie szczęście w źdźble trawy.




BALLADYNA is a tragedy written by Juliusz Słowacki in 1834 and published in 1839 in Paris. It is a notable work of Polish romanticism, focusing on the issues such as thirst for power and evolution of the criminal mind. The story revolves around the rise and fall of Balladyna, a fictional Slavic queen.
It had been compared to Macbeth, dramas which show how evil and prone to suggestion human nature is. The author claims that it is impossible to righteously reign the country if the power was gained unlawfully.