It is officially accepted that 1947 was the year WKS was founded, although its origins go back a few years earlier, and the process of forming the club as we understand it today was completed 10 years later. The progenitors of Lower Silesia’s leading club are teams from two soldier schools: WKS Pionier formed at the Military Academy of Sappers and WKS Podchorążak at the Military Academy of Infantry. The two clubs were merged in April 1949 to form Legia Wrocław, which was renamed the Central Military Sports Club (Centralny Klub Sportowy – CWKS) the following year, soon to become the District Military Sports Club (Okręgowy Wojskowy Klub Sportowy – OWKS), and then became a subsidiary of CWKS Warsaw. The name “Śląsk” appeared in the summer of 1957 with the transformation of the whole organisation into a civil-military club. WKS was also granted legal personality at that time.
WKS Pionier appeared in Wrocałw as early as August 1946, when the academy of sappers established in Przemyśl in October 1944 was relocated to Wrocław. Pioneer athletes who moved to the city located on the Oder River brought rowing boats and boasted footballers, boxers, athletes, hockey players, shooters and a sports games section. They were soon joined by canoeists, swimmers, gymnasts and fencers. The first section was football. In the autumn of 1947, Pionier joined the Lower Silesian A-League. This fact is considered to be the founding moment of the club, which 10 years later adopted the name Sląsk. The historic football match was played on 5 October 1947, and the venue for the game against Promień Żary was the AZS pitch in Zalesie. WKS won 2:1 Following the football players, representatives from other sections also entered the district championships.
The watershed moment in the club’s history was 12 June 1957. On that day, WKS Śląsk was established (it was granted legal personality on 30 July 1957). From then on, the club began hiring staff from outside the military, welcoming athletes from all over the city and training young people.
WKS was steadily growing and became the most popular club in the city, taking over this title from Ślęża. This was undoubtedly thanks to sporting successes: the footballers were already competing in the top division, the basketball players were competing on an equal footing with the best teams in the country, and the handballers had just won their first Polish championship in 1957.
In the late 1950s and early 1960s, a stadium was built on Oporowska Street with the capacity to hold around 20,000 spectators, along with a training pitch, club building, club hotel and club café. In turn, the old manege on Saperów Street was converted into a sports hall. A little later, the basketball players were able to move from a cramped room to a larger sports hall on Mieszczańska Street.
It took several years, however, before Śląsk was permanently recognised outside Wrocław. After many attempts, the footballers achieved promotion to the top division only in 1964. The men’s basketball team, though always among the top teams, waited until 1965 to win a historic league triumph. Only the men’s handball team won many titles in succession, both in the 7- and 11-a-side games.
The club’s debut at the Olympic Games was in 1964. In Tokyo, there were two basketball players (Mieczysław Łopatka and Kazimierz Frelkiewicz), two shooters (Józef Zapędzki and Kazimierz Kurzawski) and weightlifter Mieczysław Nowak. The latter won the first medal for the club – a bronze. At the Olympic Games in Mexico, the club saw its first victory at a major world event. Jozef Zapędzki won the gold medal in rapid fire pistol! Another addition to the medal collection was thanks to another weightlifter, Marek Gołąb, who won bronze.
The 1970s marked the era of Śląsk’s greatest successes in team sports. The men’s handball team was unbeaten in the country for seven consecutive seasons, and in 1978 reached the final of the European Cup, where they lost to Magdeburg in an away game. The footballers became one of the country’s top teams, made their debut in European cups, won the Polish Cup, and finally, in 1977, only dropped out of the quarter-finals of the Cup Winners’ Cup and finished 1st in the Polish top division – a feat they only managed to repeat in 2012. The basketball players never dropped below 5th place, and finally won 4 gold medals in just 5 seasons under coach Łopatka. The year 1977 was absolutely exceptional, when Śląsk made an achievement that was quite remarkable on the national and international scale. The Polish championship was won by three club teams, and the basketball players won the national cup.
Players of the club’s team sports were also successful with the national teams. The handball players formed the backbone of the national team that won an Olympic medal in 1976 and bronze at the 1982 World Championships. Władysław Żmuda II played regularly in the Polish national team during the golden age of Polish football. The basketball players with the white eagle on their chests had their great moments in the 1960s. The 1963 European Championships in Wrocław are particularly memorable, when Łopatka and Frelkiewicz led Poland to the vice-championship!
1980’s were somewhat less successful. Śląsk was a huge club at that time. Swimmers had an Olympic training centre in Wrocław. Zdzisław Hoffmann triumphed at the first Athletics World Championships. In 1988, wrestler Jozef Tracz won his first Olympic bronze in Seoul. The following year, judo fighter Rafał Kubacki became European champion. This was only the harbinger of the next decade that brought success for many sport’s sections.
Tracz confirmed his place among the world’s best by winning two more Olympic medals. Kubacki was already the best not only in Europe but also in the world (1993). The shooters were shooting gold. Alicja Wilczyńska won the European Championship (1989), Krzysztof Kucharczyk became world champion twice (1991 and 1994). Renata Mauer-Różanska beat Zapędzki’s result by winning not only 2 Olympic golds (1996 and 2000) but also a bronze medal, and a double European Championship on top of that. In addition to Mauer’s two medals, Mirosław Rzepkowski won silver at the Atlanta Olympics. It should be added that the basketball team won 10 championship titles between 1991 and 2002, also becoming the first Polish team to play in the Euroleague.
In total, over the nearly 70 years of its existence, Śląsk can boast 4 gold, 4 silver and 10 bronze medals at the Olympic Games, nearly 120 medals at the World Championships and around 210 at the European Championships, as well as numerous medals at the Military World Games, the Army World and European Championships, the Spartakiads, the Tournament of Friendly Armies and the Polish Army Championships. WKS has won the Polish team championship more than 150 times, the club’s players have reached the podium of the individual Polish Championships more than 3,000 times.