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The Story of Princess Anastasia

We dedicate this page to Princess Anastasia and her yeoman swain Lech, and to the legend of their undying love – that has given us the Anastasia line: molded porcelain, cast in fire, and even today individually crafted in clay and hand-finished by Silesian Potters, in the little mediaeval hamlets around Walbrzych and Schawno Zdroj, hidden away in the Sudeten mountains and enchanted forests of unforgettable East Prussia and Southern Poland – a beautiful land of breathtaking castles and forgotten kingdoms, gallant knights and porcelain princesses, spun from fairy-tales and woven together with its richness of history and lore.

A thousand years ago, there lived in the valley of Silesia, in the Zamek Ksiancz(pronounced "Samec Sh-n-awsh") castle of Waldenburg – or Walbrzych as it is called in Polish (pronounced "Va-ub-jzhiq"), hidden away in the misty shadows of the Sudeten Mountains, a beautiful princess. Her name was Anastasia.

She was so lovely and desirable that all the princes of Europe of her time wanted to woo her. They came, one and all, bearing gifts of gold and ivory and silk, ere they may catch a glimpse of the mien of their moon-goddess, or a solitary rose from her hair. But our fair Anastasia had not eyes for any of these princely suitors. And yet, her beauty shined liked the Sun upon all Silesia – for she was in love.

But the apple of Anastasia’s beautiful doe-eyes was no prince – he was a common man. He was the handsome young Lech (pronounced "Lek"), who lived in the woods of Schawno Zdroj (pronounced "Shkav-noz-druie"). He was a potter, and made the most beautiful clay images that you could find.

Lech was a common man, and yet he had the fingers of an artist, and the heart of a lover. Anastasia had met him in the woods, working with his hands with ceramic clay beside a glorious patch of flowers, and he had made her a porcelain rose. However, he worked with his heart and the love that was within him, and the clay rose was more beautiful, and smelt more sweet than any real rose. The blushing Anastasia had flushingly accepted her rose, shyly given, and had run home to her castle tower, but she had left her heart behind. She had also taken with her not only Lech’s rose, but also his heart, for they were two beautiful young people whose hearts and souls had been joined to each others’, tied together by the eternal bonds of true love.

Monica BanerjeeIn the glorious sunlit days of the Silesian summer that followed, they met again and again, to lose themselves in each others’ eyes each time. And each time Lech would give her something he had made for her at his potter’s wheel. Anastasia would take her gift to her boudoir to love, admire and dote over, as she did her Lech, until her walls and chambers were filled his works. He had made each gift with his hands and his heart, and there was a part of him in each piece of clay. They kept her company and brought her Lech to Anastasia all the time when he was not with her.

So continued a long summer of love, until one day the cold winds of fall started to blow.

As all good things must, Anastasia’s days of happiness were coming to an end.

One day, the king, her father, found out about Lech. The king was furious. He ordered Anastasia to her room in the castle tower, and put a lock on her door.

He then quickly invited Gennady, the king of Bohemia (in the modern-day Czech Republic) – one of Anastasia’s luckless suitors – to come quickly to Walbrzych to marry Anastasia.

The old king also sent his soldiers to capture Lech, who was found, chained and brought to the king’s court. The king charged him with treason, and sentenced him to banishment for life – exile from the enchanted kingdom of Silesia.

However, as a last request, Anastasia was allowed to see Lech for one last time. When she saw him, she held him to her bosom, and with tearful eyes, bid him to make for her one last immortal gift of clay. Lech made her his last gift, a beautiful ceramic image of the princess herself, captured in the days of their joyful love, with the wind in her hair, and the sun on her lips, and the stars in her eyes. Giving her this last gift, Lech bid her good-bye, and left the castle.

Lech then left Silesia forever, with a heavy heart and sad memories of love and of his sweet princess Anastasia. But he vowed to spend all of eternity making with his hands and his heavy heart porcelain gifts for his sweet Anastasia, lest one day – perhaps in a kinder future lifetime – she could have them and know his love again. No one knows whence he went, and nought was he heard from again.

After Lech had departed, the king and Gennady went to Anastasia’s chamber to look for her.

But when they went there, Anastasia was nowhere to be found. They looked in her bedchamber, and then in the other chambers, and then all over the palace, and the castle grounds. And then they looked all over the city, and in the forest, and in all Silesia. But Anastasia too was gone forever.

Monica BanerjeeOnly, in her bedchamber – her porcelain statue was found. But no longer did it laugh as Lech had made it laugh. There were now tears in the eyes of the porcelain Anastasia, and nothing could stop them from flowing.

The legend was born that Anastasia had not wanted to live any more, without her Lech, and had entered the statue herself, to be imprisoned for an eternity in the porcelain clay that had once known, as she had, the touch of his strong yeoman potter’s hands.

The story goes that the only way Anastasia would return, would be if her fateful swain Lech were to be found again and brought back to the castle. If he should kiss the tearful rose-petal lips of the porcelain princess, Anastasia would come back to life again and smile.

The old king was brokenhearted and wished for all the world that he could make amends, but there was nought that he could do. He spent the rest of his years searching for Lech all over the world and waiting for his darling Anastasia to be brought back to life.

Lech was never found. But from time to time, one still finds here and there an odd piece of pottery bearing the legend, “for my Anastasia”. If you should come upon one of these, mark well where you got it, for you may have come upon the secret of the whereabouts of the illusive and handsome Silesian potter, and you may hold the key to the lost smile of Anastasia.

 

 
    

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