Piotr Śmiłowicz's impressions of the 70th anniversary of the Warsaw Uprising outbreak

          The celebrations of the 70th anniversary of the outbreak of the Warsaw Uprising are in progress. This year the celebrations are a bit more low-key than 20 or 10 years ago, at least in the national scale. Most of all, what they lack is the presence of heads of states, which can be easily understandable as the current year abounds in exceptionally many anniversaries. Our state authorities have decided to concentrate on the celebrations of the 25th anniversary of the events of 1989, and have invited many notable guests, headed by Barack Obama, President of the USA, to attend the ceremonies. It is hard to expect these notables to visit Warsaw the second time during a month.

          20 or 10 years ago everything was different. In 1994 President Lech Wałęsa, who patronized the celebrations, invited Roman Herzog, President of Germany, John Major, Prime Minister of Great Britain, and Al Gore, Vice-President of the USA. What was mostly remembered was President Herzog bowing down before the Warsaw Uprising Monument. The celebrations of 2004 in turn were marked by the opening of the Warsaw Uprising Museum, built at the initiative of Lech Kaczyński, Mayor of Warsaw. The ceremonies were graced by among others Gerhard Schröder, Chancellor of Germany, and Colin Powell, US Secretary of State. This year's anniversary lacked all of them. In my opinion - for the best of the celebrations themselves, as they were devoid of any political inclinations. Every visit of foreign officials translates into the commemoration of the heroes of the Uprising, but on the other hand it may also be to the political benefit of the organizers.

          This year the most significant international feature of the ceremonies was the opening of an exhibition devoted to the Uprising in Berlin, honored by Presidents Joachim Gauck and Bronisław Komorowski. Naturally, this event also had a political context, but at the same time it has been probably the first successful attempt at moving the Uprising beyond our provincial spheres. As I see it, the lack of the political context of the anniversary has two positive effects. Firstly, on August 1 at 5.00 PM no jeers and catcalls, which have been going down into infamous tradition, could be heard at the Gloria Victis Memorial. And although these shameful incidents still occurred during the celebrations, they were smaller in number than a year or two ago.

          Secondly, the anniversary provided more space for discussions about the genesis and results of the Uprising than in the past - discussions that have been lasting for some time now, mainly owing to the publication of "Insanity 44", though this time they were not affected by the anniversary correctness.

          And thirdly, this year's celebrations were much more "socialized" than those 20 or 10 years ago. They were accompanied by a number of grassroots initiatives, inspired by social organizations, such as contests, anniversary runs, stage productions. Of crucial importance is their rich cultural coating, with its main elements being the premieres of two movies. The pseudo-documentary entitled "Warsaw Uprising" had its premiere as early as in May, while the movie "City 44" was shown at the National Stadium just a few days prior to the anniversary.

          All this allows me to formulate the opinion that although the celebrations of the 70th anniversary of the Warsaw Uprising outbreak were somewhat limited in national terms, perhaps they got across to people even more than in the past. And this is their greatest advantage.

August 14, 2014

Piotr Śmiłowicz

translated by: Beata Murzyn

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