On 29th of October, 1909 the Galician Governorship of Austro-Hungarian Monarchy in Lviv registered the fourth mountain search and rescue organization in the world (and the first one outside Alps) – Tatrzańskie Ochotnicze Pogotowie Ratunkowe (Tatra Volunteer Search and Rescue). Undoubtedly, what contributed to this fact was the sudden death of Mieczysław Karłowicz, whose body was searched for by the previously formed Straż Ratunkowa (Rescue Guard). The project of establishing an emergency rescue service, presented already in 1907 (prepared by Karłowicz and Mariusz Zaruski), found many allies, and Zaruski became its first Chief (his deputy was the “King of Guides”, Klimek Bachleda, who soon died – in 1910 – in one of the rescue actions).
Zaruski dreamed of an organization based on military principles. What he had in mind was a kind of “Order of Mountain Knights”. In his memoirs he wrote:
In 1927, TOPR became the Rescue Section of the Polish Tatra Society, and in 1934 – the Rescue Section of Zakopane Branch of the Polish Tatra Society. During World War II, the Emergency Rescue service was led by Zbigniew Korosadowicz (it was him who led the famous rescue mission under Salatin).
After the war ended, the tourist traffic was slowly returning to life and therefore there was increased demand for well-trained rescuers. There were also being created the foundations of search and rescue services outside of Tatra mountains, which led to creation of Górskie Ochotnicze Pogotowie Ratunkowe (Mountain Volunteer Search and Rescue).
Nowadays, TOPR is a modern and professional search and rescue organization, employing high-class specialists in mountain search and rescue, supported by well-trained volunteers. Each year, TOPR intervenes about 2500 times, often saving lives of accident victims.