Once upon a time, long, long, ago... a young prince of Krakow, Henryk Probius, set about restoring the fortunes and domains of a fragmented Poland. In order to do this, he had to go to Rome, and gain the Pope’s approval. His big problem was lack of money, so he appealed to the nobles, merchants and knights of Krakow for help.
None answered his call, and in desperation the prince turned to a terrible witch who lived in isolation in the darkest corner of Malopolska’s countryside.
The witch agreed to help him in his quest but, as is often the case, there was a snag with the hag. She would help the prince raise the money to travel to Rome, but he must go alone and leave behind his own knights. His mission would, she assured him, be accomplished, but only if he allowed the knights to be transformed into pigeons until his return.
Reluctantly, the prince agreed, and the next day the transformation took place. The knights gathered in the square, the witch muttered her spell, and then... there were pigeons. They squawked and flapped and took refuge on the tower of the Mariacki Church, from where tiny stones fell and turned to gold.
The prince had the money for his mission, and set off to Rome.
It is often said that youth is wasted on the young. The same is true of money, and the prince spent all the gold before he even reached Italy. In poverty and shame he returned to Krakow, to beg the witch to help him, and to release his men from their enchantment.
Of course, she was nowhere to be found, the spell was never lifted... and the knights remain, imprisoned in feathered bodies, waiting for their prince to return, restore them, and reunite their nation.