Joanna Rawik's impressions of the 76th anniversary of the Warsaw Uprising outbreak

The Romantics 44

          On top of the Mound of the Warsaw Uprising in the Czerniaków district there stands a monument in the shape of the famous emblem PW, impressive in its enormous size. Next to it - standard bearers. Right now you can listen to the speakers telling the Uprising stories intertwined with songs. Lots of people, mostly young. The atmosphere is unique, solemn, but at the same time familiar - gentle, social conversations with people you do not even know: one of them offers us some mineral water. Down below you can see a chaotic grove, a bit further - the town of Wilanów. The dusk is gently turning into night, the lamps in the town are going out one after another. Up here, the mound is floodlit by searchlights, next to us two drones are glimmering lightly, one smaller, the other bigger.

          Sharply at 9.00 PM, following a proper announcement, the speakers begin to resonate with the anthem of the Republic of Poland performed by the choir and orchestra of the Central Military Team. The white-red flag is being hoisted slowly, in a dignified manner. All of us gathered around sing all the four stanzas of the anthem, in a unison surprising for an assembly of common people, which only testifies to its subtle quality. Numerous delegations follow - solemnly announced, they place wreaths in poignant silence. The sky above the Mound is clear and bright. In such moments it is difficult to realize the horror of the events dating back 76 years. I learn that the Mound was built from the ruins of destroyed Warsaw, similarly to Szczęśliwicka hills and the embankments of the no longer existing 10th-Anniversary Stadium.

          The celebrations on the Mound crown a series of ceremonies I attended on Saturday, August 1, 2020, visiting a few places: among others the Warsaw Insurgents Cemetery in the Wola district, Powązki Cemetery, and the Monument to the Polish Underground State and Home Army on Wiejska Street.

          This is the first time I have taken part in the Uprising ceremonies in my long life. That is why I feel the need to share my impressions. They are staying within me - strong and surprising. I was born in a different country, I spent the war among Germans. Back then I did not see a single soldier, not one bomb fell on my head. I learnt about the war only later - through literature and movies. I thought about its tragedy in terms of an abstract phenomenon, not quite understood, or even totally incomprehensible.

          And now, after all these years spent in Poland, my second Homeland, I am talking with my Friend, whose ancestors took part in the Warsaw Uprising and whose father's brother disappeared without a trace on the very first day of the insurgency. The day after the celebrations, a question is asked in some radio debate: why do Poles repeat the same mistakes over and over again? In 1831, 1863, and then in 1944 they threw themselves into fight doomed to failure? My friend answers this question without hesitation: - Why? But that just Polish romanticism! And in this moment I understand instantly the spirit of this nation, its beauty, wild and untamed, that spoke to me in my childhood through the verses of Mickiewicz and Słowacki, and later Wyspiański. And it spoke to me even though at that time I did not know the Polish language well! Only much later did it dawn on me how different the Polish romanticism was from its counterparts in France or Germany. Once more I was overwhelmed by the power of POETRY.

          However, even during the Saturday's celebrations my Friend remarked sadly how poor the attendance was this year. - You know, in the past all these places were crowded with people! But the fear of the virus is so strong today that they prefer to sit within the four walls of their houses, safe from the pandemic? And I felt something more than sadness. How is it possible, where has all this wild Polish spirit gone? Has it been conquered by the fear for the worthless well-being of people living out their days? The fear of leaving this mortal coil sooner than expected? It is scary to think that perhaps those young romantics of 1944 fought in vain. For whom? I feel really sorry for them.

          This thought does want to leave my mind and I am truly sorry to end my impressions about this year's anniversary of the Warsaw Uprising outbreak in this way.

August 1, 2020

Joanna Rawik

translated by: Beata Murzyn

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