Tomorrow is August 1st, 2016, but I will be thinking about what happened 72 years ago, the Warsaw Uprising.
Tomorrow is August 1st, 2016, but I will be thinking about what happened 72 years ago, the Warsaw Uprising.
Why am I writing about a Polish here, Władysław Sikorski, on what in the United States is a National Holiday, our Independence Day, the Fourth of July? Well, on this day in history, 04 July 1943, a Pole who fiercely worked to attain and protect Poland’s Independence died, albeit tragically.
Władysław Sikorski (Władysław Sikorski) helped organize and fought in the Polish underground that opposed Russia before World War I. He was a leader in the army that defeated the Soviet Union after World War II–most notably in the Battle of Warsaw–which helped guarantee Poland’s newfound Independence after 127 years of foreign domination. Sikorski held a number of posts in that new government, including Prime Minister.
After Poland was again ripped apart and split by Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union in the early days of World War II, Sikorski became the Prime Minister and Commander-in-Chief of the Polish government in exile, working tirelessly to help secure Poland’s place al a leader among the Allies.
He was tragically killed on 04 July 1943 when his plane crashed on takeoff from Gibraltar. Hi was a leader of the Polish cause and his death was a severe setback for the cause. No Pole after him had the influence and power he had with the Allies, and to this day some “conspiracy theorists” refuse to believe that his death was an accident, but rather blame the Soviets who coveted (and eventually dominated) Poland in a post-war world.
But on this day so many years ago, another person who fought for Independence died. You can read more about Władysław Sikorski here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/W%C5%82adys%C5%82aw_Sikorski.
I have a special place in my heart for Jan III Sobieski (1629-1696), King of Poland from 1674 until his death in 1696. Perhaps in part this is because I have read all about him in the excellent book “JAN SOBIESKI: The King Who Saved Europe” by Miltiades Varvounis, an excellent read, well worth your time. Perhaps in part it’s because I have visited many of the key places in his life, including his birthplace, Olesko, and visited some of the sites of notable battles in his live, including Chocim and a number of others places. But I will always remember him as the person who “stepped up to the plate,” so to speak. When all of Christian western Europe was threatened by a vastly superior Turkish force that had laid siege to Vienna, it was Jan III Sobieski, a seasoned military commander, who led an army 1/4 the size of the invading Turks, and decisively defeated them at the Battle of Vienna, thus earning, from the Pope, the title, “Savior of Christendom.” To my mind, Jan III Sobieski saved Europe. We need another Jan III Sobieski today. Today I honor his memory, and remember his life and the day he passed, 320 years ago today. I am honored that in 2010, i was able to visit his tomb in Wawel, Kraków. S. + P.
I still mark this day of history as one of sadness and remembrance for me. Life can be very fleeting. Never take anything for granted. On this day, three years ago, my dear friend Jurek (Jerzy) Markiewicz passed away suddenly. To this day I think of him often, and miss our early Thursday morning chats. I miss him dearly, but i cannot imagine how his family misses him as well. I wrote about him shortly after his death on these same pages here in a post titled simply, “I Miss My Polish Friend.” The pain has lessened through the years, but it has not completely gone away. I still miss my friend….
72 years ago today, on March 24, 1944, a terrible crime took place. In front of their six children, aged 2-8, Józef and Wiktoria Ulma were murdered by the German Nazis, each killed with a bullet to the back of the head. Wiktoria was about 9 months pregnant, too. And after that, each of the children was also murdered, executed, a bullet to the head.
What led up to this? In 1942, Józef and Wiktoria Ulma, prominent citizens of the small town of Markowa, gave shelter to two Jewish families, a total of eight Jews, hiding them in their attic. For nearly two years, they were hidden, sheltered, saved from the Nazi machine that was busy rounding up and murdering millions of Polish Jews.
But on that fateful morning of March 24, 1944, time had run out. Given up by an informer, a German patrol surrounded the house and caught all eight Jews. They were each shot in the back of the head. Next, Jóżef and Wiktoria were summarily executed, then each of their children, one by one. A few locals were forced to dig a mass grave and bury them all.
In all the Nazi-occupied territory in World War II, it was only in Poland that the penalty for sheltering a Jew was death, and death to you and your whole family. Thousands of Poles were caught sheltering and helping Jews, and they too were murdered.
You can read more about this horrific crime here:
But that’s not the end of the story. The story of the murder of Józef and Wiktoria Ulma does not end there. The bodies were later exhumed and given a burial in the church cemetery–that’s where they discovered the nearly born seventh child. In 1953, Józef and Wiktoria were recognized as “Righteous Among the Nations” by Yad Vashem. Of all nations so honored, Poland by far has the most people, because Poland by far did the most to help the Jews in World War II, and Poland by far had the most Jewish citizens that were murdered by the Nazis.
In 2004 a stone monument was erected in memory of this horrific crime. And now, in 2016, on March 14, a new museum opened, the Ulma Family Museum of Poles Saving Jews on the site that the Ulma family was murdered. The museum is a testimony to the thousand of brave Poles who gave their lives to save fellow citizens, and also to the thousands who suceeded. You can read more about the museum here:
It was 76 years ago today, on March 5th, 1940, that about 22,000 people were condemned to death. During April and May of 1940, they were murdered, killed with a shot to the back of the head and buried in mass graves.
Who were they? They were mostly Polish Army officers, along with some other Polish intellectuals–police officers, professors, doctors, lawyers–all the cream of the crop (intelligentsia) of Poland before the Soviet invasion of 1939.
Who did this? 76 years ago today, Joseph Stalin (may he burn in hell forever) signed the order of Lavrentiy Beria, the head of the Soviet Secret Police (NKVD). In subsequent months, this was carried out at several sites, the most notorious of which is in the Katyń forest. Today this “event” is generally known as the Katyń Massacre.
Why did they do this? Russia and the Soviet Union have coveted Poland for centuries. Stalin wanted Poland for his own from before the start of World War II, but he also knew of the zealousness and fierce nationalism of the Poles. By murdering their top level of society, he hoped to quell any rebelliousness. Of course we know that in the long run, this did not work out so well for the Soviet Union, though we must be wary even to this day, as Russia still in her heart covets Poland.
Where can you find out more?
Then ponder this fact: The German Nazi’s uncovered the truth about the Katyń massacre in 1943 and published this for the whole world to know. Roosevelt and Churchill knew what the Soviets had done. Yet they still sacrificed Poland and gave her to Stalin as a “prize” at the Yalta conference. So whenever you think of Roosevelt as some huge hero, think again–the blood of 22,000 Polish Patriots is on his hands as well, as he did nothing to avenge their murder.
On Friday November 27th, 2015, for the Sanford Art Walk, I will be in front of Gallery on First demonstrating how to make these. If you’d like to make your own, stop on by, or read/view the following. They really are easy to make, once you get the hang of it.
There is a great online tutorial here: http://80thbirthdaypresents.org/polish-star-christmas-ornament.
You can read more online directions here:
And here is a YouTube Video showing detailed instructions: https://youtu.be/7JXWXG3hsRg.
Paper and size: You can use various types of paper and sizes, but you don’t want the paper to be to thick or it’ll be hard to roll. Here’s what we’ve used”
Few people today know the story of Irena Sendler. It’s a pity, because it’s a story well worth telling, a tale of a very brave and courageous woman.
On this day in history, Irena Sendler was arrested and tortured by the Gestapo, October 23, 1943. She was a Catholic woman, sentenced to death because she helped save an estimated 2,500 Jewish children from certain death, smuggling them out of the Jewish Ghetto and placing them with Polish families. She kept meticulous records in the mostly vain hope that these children could be reunited with their families after the war. Though tortured and sentenced to death, she never revealed the names of anyone who helped her, and she was rescued by the underground (Żegota, the Polish Council to Aid Jews) in 1944 and spent the rest of the war in hiding. She spent most of the rest of her life in relative obscurity. The communist government of Poland. In 1999 a group of American high school students learned of her story and produced a play about her. It was followed by a TV movie and international attention. You can read more here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Irena_Sendler and http://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/this-day-in-jewish-history/1.681204. In later years, she received many awards and tributes, and was nominated for a Nobel prize a number of time. In 1965, Sendler was recognized by the State of Israel as Righteous among the Nations. Late in life she was awarded the Order of the White Eagle, Poland’s highest honor, for her wartime humanitarian efforts. She died in Warsaw in 2008 at age 98. Several schools in Poland are named after her. And now you know the rest of the story.
Kotwica is the Polish word for Anchor. It’s a Polish symbol that became a Polish underground rallying point during World War II. It’s pictured here:
The symbol started as a stylized acronym for Pomścimy Wawer (“We shall avenge Wawer”). This was a reference to the Wawer massacre (26–27 December 1939), which was considered to be one of the first large scale massacres of Polish civilians by German troops in occupied Poland. It looks like an anchor, hence kowica. During the war it became a symbol for the Polish Home Army (Armia Krajowa), and a sign of the underground and underground activities. Many such activities were “signed” with the kotwica. Over time it came to symbolize the phrase Polska Walcząca (“Fighting Poland”), P-W.
Today it is also a symbol also used to remember the Warsaw Uprising which ended 71 years ago, on October 2nd, 1944. Today it stands for, among other things P-W, remember Warsaw (pamiętacie warszawa) and also for the Muzeum Powstania Warszawskiego, the Warsaw Uprising Museum, which i had the good fortune to visit in 2011.
September 17th was a grim day in history for Poland and lovers of freedom everywhere. On September 17th, 1939, the Soviet Union invaded Poland. Poland was already reeling from the German attack and start of World War II just a few weeks earlier. Using the secret protocols/map of the Ribbentrop-Molotov Pact–signed only a month earlier–the Soviet Union invaded Poland from the east. As a result, Poland was effectively divided between the Soviets and the Nazis, generally along the Curzon line. Poland would not emerge as a truly free country, free from Soviet/Russian domination for another 54 years.
It’s a sad story, and one the world often forgets. You can read more here: http://www.17september1939.com/. But, more importantly, never forget. A free Poland is vital to all of Europe. For hundreds of years, Poland was the savior of Europe, a powerhouse. Today she continues as a shining beacon of freedom and an example to freedom-loving people everywhere. Never forget!