Highlights of Polish History
Set out on a journey through the history that has shaped today’s Poland. Here you will hear the beating of the “heart of Europe,” as Norman Davies, a historian, calls our country.
Oriana Fallaci had Polish ancestors?
The controversial Italian journalist Oriana Fallaci, who died in September 2006, could trace her family roots back to a Polish aristocrat, claims a Polish-Italian translator.
Happy Independence Day, Poland! Some of those years were pretty hard, some were legendary, some were marked by suffering and some were filled with joy, but through it all, you have always made us proud! See what happened in the 101 years since Poland regained her independence.
The Gdańsk Agreement: birth of Solidarity
On August 31, 1980, after two weeks of negotiations, an agreement was signed between the strikers at the Lenin Shipyard in Gdańsk and the communist authorities. This ultimately led to the establishment of the Solidarity trade union and set off unstoppable and irreversible change in all of Eastern Europe.
Anna Walentynowicz, the spark that led to Solidarity
It was the firing of Anna Walentynowicz in 1980 that sparked the strike in Gdańsk, which resulted in the signing of the Gdańsk Agreements and which changed the fate of Poland forever. Out of the Gdańsk Agreement the ten-million strong independent trade union "Solidarność" was born.
Every year, at 5 p.m. on August 1st, to mark the anniversary of the Warsaw Rising, alarm sirens are heard on the streets of Warsaw. The city comes to a halt. In holding a minute of silence, Warsaw residents pay tribute to the fallen insurgents and those who survived.
Warsaw, like a Phoenix
“I have seen many towns destroyed, but nowhere have I been faced with such destruction.” – General Dwight Eisenhower said after his visit in the capital of Poland after the end of Second World War. The city was totally destroyed by Germans in retaliation after the Warsaw Rising. The biggest freedom surge in the history of World War II broke out 75 years ago.
June 1976 and the Workers’ Defence Committee
On June 25, 1976, some 80,000 people in Poland took to the streets in protest against food price hikes. Demonstrations in Radom, Płock and Ursus turned into clashes with police forces, which led to arrests, detentions and dismissals. In response to these measures, the Workers’ Defence Committee (KOR) emerged to help the repressed workers and their families. The Committee operated until 1981, when its tasks were taken over by the trade union Solidarność.
Konstanty Rokicki, Polish diplomat and Holocaust rescuer
In the midst of World War II, Konstanty Rokicki, who worked at the Polish Embassy in Bern as vice-consul, produced several thousand of false Latin American passports which saved lives of “many hundreds” of Jews. In 2019, Rokicki was named Righteous Among the Nations.
The 4 things you need to know about D-Day
Discover the important role of Poland’s military during the Normandy landings and the Allied invasion of mainland Europe.
PL First to Break Free [TIMELINE]
“Dear viewers, on 4 June 1989 the communism in Poland came to an end,” said Joanna Szczepkowska, an actress, on Polish TV prime time news after the June elections. The first partially free elections triggered the collapse of the system not only in Poland but also in the whole Eastern Bloc. What was the path that led to the elections like? Let’s go back to the key moments of 1989!
Key anniversaries and patrons of the year 2019
On a yearly basis, Polish MPs vote on “patrons” as well as anniversaries to be commemorated and celebrated in a series of promotional events throughout the following year. In July 2018, the Sejm, the lower house of Poland's parliament, adopted an act proclaiming 2019 as the year of Stanisław Moniuszko, Gustaw Herling-Grudziński and Anna Walentynowicz; it also brought two major historical events to focus – the Union of Lublin and the Silesian Uprisings.
228th Anniversary of the May 3 Constitution
The text of the May 3 Constitution of 1791 is traditionally credited to King Stanisław II August, Grand Marshall of Lithuania Ignacy Potocki, and the priest and philosopher Fr. Hugo Kołłątaj.
The heroes of the two flags
In a walled-in area of 300 ha, the Germans in 1940 herded together some 400,000 residents of Warsaw and its environs and the displaced people from lands incorporated into the Reich. The appalling conditions inside the ghetto, disease and starvation killed dozens of thousands of them. On 22 July 1942, the German authorities began to empty the Warsaw Ghetto of its inhabitants. Those who stayed, decided to put up resistance in spring 1943. On 19 April 1943, an uprising broke out in the Warsaw ghetto — the largest Jewish armed struggle in the Second World War and the first act of resistance against the invader in occupied Europe. In spite of the disproportion of forces, the fighting would continue for almost a month.
The Daffodils campaign
POLIN Museum created the Daffodils Campaign – Remembering Together to commemorate the Warsaw ghetto uprising. Every year on April 19th, hundreds of volunteers hand out paper daffodils to raise awareness of the uprising and its significance.
9th "Cursed Soldiers" National Remembrance Day
"The war is not over [...]. We will never agree to a different life, except in a fully sovereign, independent and fair Polish State [...]. I give you my last order. Continue your work and activities in the spirit of regaining full independence of the state,” wrote the last commander of the Home Army, General Leopold Okulicki, nom de guerre “Niedźwiadek.” Many of his soldiers listened to their commander and did not lay down arms when World War II ended. They continued their fight for a truly free homeland.
Russian and Soviet graves on Polish soil
Poland is a land that has witnessed many military conflicts. The millions of graves and cemeteries – not only Polish – are reminders of our history’s tragic episodes. Soldiers of many nationalities, British, German and Russian, including one million and three hundred thousand Soviet Army troops were laid to rest in Poland.
Just Strong. About Ryszard Kukliński
It's been 15 years since Ryszard Kukliński died. As a colonel of the Polish People’s Army, he began, on his own initiative, cooperation with US intelligence services. In fear of a potential military conflict in Europe, he revealed to Americans tens of thousands secret plans drafted by the Warsaw Pact, including a plan of attack against NATO allies. Shortly before the martial law was declared in Poland, the CIA evacuated Kukliński together with his wife and two sons to the United States due to the threat of unmasking.
How to educate about Auschwitz in the 21st century?
“Auschwitz is a history of extreme dehumanisation. From the very beginning, the world realised that the remains of camps must serve as a dire warning. In order for this warning to be effective, education has to stir people’s imagination of their own responsibility for fighting evil or for passivity”. About the challenges in the education about the Auschwitz history today we talk with Dr. Piotr M.A. Cywiński, Director of the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum in Oświęcim.
The January Uprising of 1863 was the longest and largest Polish insurrection for independence of the 19th century. It broke another record too - the number of women who fought in its battles exceeded any previous armed struggles. The "Women's War", as the Uprising has been sometimes called, and great trauma it caused, brought enormous suffering, but, on the other hand, in its result, women’s emancipation became one of key questions addressed by the Polish Positivists. An indirect effect of the immense role women played in the Uprising was granting them suffrage shortly after regaining freedom and sovereignty. Polish women were one of the first in Europe to receive voting rights, i.e. as far back as in 1918.
The November Uprising – what were the Poles fighting for and why?
If you are interested in Polish history, there is a good chance that you have heard about the partitions. You may also have heard about the November Uprising, which began on 29 November 1830. And if you dig deeper into the subject, you will read that the uprising broke out in the Kingdom of Poland. But wait a second: there was no Poland at that time. Where does the Kingdom of Poland come from? And why did the Poles rise up if they had their own country? Unfortunately, as usual, Polish history is complicated – so let’s try to get to the bottom of it.
100 years of women's right to vote in Poland
On the 28th of November 1918 Polish women achieved the right to vote. Poland was one of the first countries in Europe to secure this essential issue. But it was not only about voting - Polish women during the period of the Second Polish Republic (1918-1939) were gaining more and more independence, proving their extraordinary role in Polish history and culture. Check what civil liberties and possibilieties did women obtain after Poland had regained independence.
11 Facts on 11.11
In just four years, the Great War “changed the skin of the world.” Previously thought impossible — Poland’s independence — became reality after 123 years of partitions. 11 November, 11.11, marks National Independence Day. What do you need to know about it? Here are 11 facts about 11.11!
Sing the Polish National Anthem
"Whoever we are, wherever we live" - with these words Polish program "Niepodległa" (Independent) invites everyone, from the sea to the Tartas and all over the world, to sing the Polish National Anthem on 11 November 2018 at noon.
Long live Independence!
Over the last year, more than 3,800 events have been submitted to the “Niepodległa” program, the aim of which is to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Poland regaining its independence. The upcoming weekend will be the fruition of all this hard work. Celebrate with us by taking part in the largest events in honour of Poland’s independence! Here are some of them.
The whole world is celebrating with Poland
The 100th anniversary of Poland regaining its independence is being celebrated throughout the country, but also abroad with events and initiatives taking place that commemorate 11 November 1918. Some of them are hosted by Polish institutions, while others have been organised by the Polish diaspora around the world or by Poland’s many friends. Find out about the most interesting ideas and join in the great celebration!
With Polish panache — a few out-of-the-box ways to celebrate #PL100
11 November 2018 marks the 100th anniversary of Poland’s regained independence. Since the start of the year, thousands of events across the country have commemorated that joyous date in different ways. Each of them is important and exceptional, but some approaches have been particularly original and interesting. Let’s take a look at some of them.
The Starry Squadron – a film that went missing and Polish-American camaraderie in the sky
This year we celebrate 100 years of Polish aviation. Polish pilots are associated in the world with the famous Division 303 that made a name for itself during the 1940 Battle of Britain. Not everyone knows, however, that the division had adopted the emblem and tradition of the Kościuszko Escadrille (aka the Kościuszko Squadron) which also boasts a fascinating history including international and cinematic threads. Flying in that formation was Meriam C. Cooper who later directed the iconic King Kong movie. The story of those Polish and American airmen was the subject of pre-war Poland’s most expensive feature film. This is the story of the Starry Squadron.
Diamonds in the Ranks
Upon hearing the news that the most talented poet of the Generation of Columbuses, Krzysztof Kamil Baczyński, had joined the Home Army’s diversion units, the well-known literary scholar Stanisław Pigoń said: “We belong to a nation whose fate is to shoot at the enemy with diamonds.” Baczyński was not alone. There were many others – talented, young and determined, ready to die fighting for a liberated Poland. Thousands of them formed the Gray Ranks (Szare Szeregi) – the largest scouting resistance organisation in German-occupied Poland.
Bronisław Piłsudski — the Marshall's brother and a pioneer of ethnography
Józef Piłsudski was the well-known politician and military leader, who made an enormous contribution to the restoration of Poland's independence. So it might seem strange that his grandnephew, and the last male descendant of this family line, should be … Japanese. That happened because of Józef’s older brother Bronisław, whose biography could be a scenario of many a film.
Exceptional Polish and Romanian women
Fascinating stories of 34 Polish and Romanian women who had the courage to change their countries, Europe, and the world will be on at Bucharest’s high street until 22 November 2018. Mounted by the Polish Institute in Romania, this outdoor exhibition accompanies celebrations of the 100th anniversary of Polish independence and Romania’s Great Union Day, and is shown on the fence of the Royal Palace, which houses the National Museum of Art of Romania.
The pope who changed Poland
If it hadn't been for John Paul II’s first pilgrimage to Poland in June 1979, there would have been no Solidarity. “The Polish Pope as a spiritual authority contributed to the collapse of communism,” says Paweł Skibiński, Ph.D., historian at the University of Warsaw and between 2010-2015 director of Warsaw’s Museum of John Paul II and Primate Wyszyński.
Heroes from the "Ładoś list"
The so-called Ładoś list features the chief rabbi of the Netherlands, a friend of Anna Frank's, and a few professors of Israeli universities. Paraguayan passports were also issued to the leaders of uprising in the Bedzin ghetto and of the Jewish resistance in Slovakia, and a number of people who would later write their memoirs. Years later, at least one Survivor was killed in Israel's independence war. One of the Paraguayan documents features Dr Leon Rothfeld with the family, whose members included Adam Rotfeld, the future Polish Foreign Minister.
Prince Karol Stefan Habsburg has died
Prince Karol Stefan Habsburg, son of the last owners of Żywiec estates and one of the pretenders to the throne of Poland, has died in Stockholm. He was 96 years old.
Poland’s oldest painting of King Arthur is in Toruń
The oldest painting on Polish soil depicting England’s legendary King Arthur of the Round Table can be found in the north-central city of Toruń. The mural was accidentally discovered during the major renovation of a mediaeval tenement house. According to Dr Jacek Witkowski of University of Wrocław Institute of Art History, it dates back to the year 1400.
Archaeologists: We have proof of Roman legions’ presence in Poland
Roman soldiers traversed the territory of Kujawy region two thousand years ago. This is corroborated by the discovery of fragments of legionary riding equipment and uniforms, many of which have never been found outside the Roman Empire before, says Professor Bartosz Kontny.