Poland’s National Independence Day

National Independence Day is celebrated every year on 11 November to commemorate the anniversary of Poland’s resumption of independent statehood in 1918 after 123 years of partition by Russia, Prussia and Austria. The foundation of the Second Polish Republic is considered a key event by many Poles.

National Independence Day is the most important Polish national holiday. After years of partitions done by Austria, Prussia and Russia between 1772 and 1795, national uprisings (November Uprising of 1830 and January Uprising of 1863), struggles and efforts in various fields, Poles, owing to their steadfastness, patriotism and heroism, managed to regain their freedom. Józef Piłsudski, “First Marshal of Poland”, played an enormous role in Poland’s recovery of sovereignty.

The date of 11 November was announced a national holiday in 1937. Since 1939 to 1989, celebration of the holiday was forbidden. After the collapse of communist government, the holiday gained particular significance and it is now a red letter day.

Major celebrations, attended by Polish State authorities, are held in Warsaw at Piłsudski Square. Sharply at noon, a ceremonious change of guards takes place before the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

Some photos: courtesy of Jestem z Woli > http://www.facebook.com/Jestem.z.Woli

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68. anniversarry of AK dissolution – Jan. 19, 1945

The Armia Krajowa or Home Army, was the dominant Polish resistance movement in World War II German-occupied Poland. Till 1944, it absorbed most other Polish underground forces. It was loyal to the Polish government in exile and constituted the armed wing of what became known as the “Polish Underground State.”

przysięga AK

Estimates of its membership in 1944 range from 200,000 to 600,000, with the most common number being 400,000; that figure would make it not only the largest Polish underground resistance movement but one of the three largest in Europe during World War II.

Warsaw mural with words "Because this is my city..."

Warsaw mural with words “Because this is my city…”

It was officially disbanded on 19 January 1945 to prevent a slide into armed conflict with the Red Army including an increasing threat of civil war over Poland’s sovereignty.

The fallen AK soldier at his barricade - Warsaw Insurgents' cemetery

The fallen AK soldier at his barricade – Warsaw Insurgents’ cemetery

However, many units decided to continue on their struggle under new circumstances, seeing the Soviet forces as new occupiers. The persecution of the AK members was only a part of the reign of Stalinist terror in postwar Poland. In the period of 1944–56, approximately 300,000 Polish people had been arrested, or up to two million, by different accounts. There were 6,000 death sentences issued, the majority of them carried out. Possibly, over 20,000 people died in communist prisons including those executed “in the majesty of the law” such as Witold Pilecki, a hero of Auschwitz. A further six million Polish citizens (i.e., one out of every three adult Poles) were classified as suspected members of a ‘reactionary or criminal element’ and subjected to investigation by state agencies.

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fot. Sabina Chyla

Festival of Light in Wilanów Palace Museum

Wilanów Palace (Polish: Pałac w Wilanowie) is a royal palace located in the Wilanów district, Warsaw.  It survived the time of Poland’s partitions and both World Wars and has preserved its authentic historical qualities, also is one of the most important monuments of  Polish culture.

The palace and park in Wilanów is not only a priceless testimony to the splendour of Poland in the past, but also a place for cultural events and concerts, including Summer Royal Concerts in the Rose Garden and the International Summer Early Music Academy. Since 2006, the palace has been a member of the international association of European Royal Residences.

fot. Sabina Chyla

fot. Sabina Chyla

Wilanów Palace was built for the Polish king John III Sobieski in the last quarter of the 17th century and later was enlarged by other owners. It represents the characteristic type of baroque suburban residence built entre cour et jardin (between the entrance court and the garden). Its architecture is original – a merger of European art with old Polish building traditions. Upon its elevations and in the palace interiors antique symbols glorify the Sobieski family, especially the military triumphs of the king.

fot. Sabina Chyla

fot. Sabina Chyla

This winter the Palace Museum hosts a special event – The Royal Festival of Light – Labyrinth of Light, and several hundred meters of spectacular illuminations of buildings – a view that waits for visitors around the palace and gardens in Wilanów.

fot. Sabina Chyla

fot. Sabina Chyla

Every day (till the end of March 2013) as soon as it gets dark, thousands of lamps are lit on the palace facade, collegiate St. Anna church, the main gate of the building and the adjacent townhall.

fot. Sabina Chyla

fot. Sabina Chyla

All photographs: courtesy of Sabina Chyla > http://websta.me/n/sabi.sabinachyla

In the garden, at the Palace Orangery, Labyrinth of Light lights up (an area of ​​800 sq. m) which is the highlight of the festival as well as the visual mapping on the facade of the palace and the church (see the film below).

Hanukkah at Grzybowski square in Warsaw

Hanukkah also known as the Festival of Lights, is an eight-day Jewish holiday commemorating the rededication of the Holy Temple (the Second Temple) in Jerusalem at the time of the Maccabean Revolt of the 2nd century BCE. Hanukkah is observed for eight nights and days, starting on the 25th day of Kislev according to the Hebrew calendar, which may occur at any time from late November to late December in the Gregorian calendar.

The festival is observed by the kindling of the lights of a unique candelabrum, the nine-branched Menorah or Hanukiah, one additional light on each night of the holiday, progressing to eight on the final night. The typical Menorah consists of eight branches with an additional raised branch. The extra light is called a shamash and is given a distinct location, usually above or below the rest. The purpose of the shamash is to have a light available for use, as using the Hanukkah lights themselves is forbidden.

On December 8, 2012 the Jewish Community in Warsaw celebrated the beginning of Hanukkah. Grzybowski square located next to the Nożyk Synagogue and Warsaw Jewish community centre was the place of the ceremony for the second time. Before 2011 the Hanukiah was placed in front of the Palace of Culture and Science, nearby.

fot. Jewish Comminity of Warsaw

fot. Jewish Community of Warsaw

fot. Jewish Comminity of Warsaw

fot. Jewish Community of Warsaw

fot. Jewish Comminity of Warsaw

fot. Jewish Community of Warsaw

fot. Jewish Comminity of Warsaw

fot. Jewish Commuity of Warsaw

fot. Jewish Comminity of Warsaw

fot. Jewish Community of Warsaw

fot. Jewish Comminity of Warsaw

fot. Jewish Community of Warsaw

Fall in Love with Warsaw on Christmas

This year Warsaw has changed its Christmas illumination for the brand new one ….it is taking us to the world of fairy tales, it’s colorful, magic and beautiful….

The entire Royal Route, The Old and New Town, and finally, the 27-metre high Christmas tree on the Castle Square, started to shine on Saturday – December, 1st.

This day at 16:00 hrs., on the Castle Square, the  live concert “The Great Illumination” took place. Like every year, it was an event filled with magical atmosphere and overwhelming emotions. The surprises held in store for that occasion amazed us throughout the evening, in anticipation of the climax which is the spectacular lighting of Warsaw’s Christmas tree.

Warsaw’s Christmas illumination will stay on until February 2.

Lutheran cemetery in Warsaw

All Saints’ Day (Nov.1) and All Souls’ Day (Nov.2) in Warsaw

The tradition of Wszystkich Świętych (All Saints’ Day) and Dzień Zaduszny or Zaduszki (All Souls’ Day) began in the first centuries of Christianity. Today, it is an important holiday in many countries that are predominantly Catholic. All Saints’ Day has been designated by the Roman Catholic Church as the day to pray for the Saints of the church. All Souls’ Day is a day of prayer for all who have died. In Poland the tradition is to light candles and visit the graves of deceased relatives. Beginning on November 1st and throughout the following week, cemeteries are filled with people, flowers, and thousands of candles (znicze). These special candles can burn anywhere from 24 hours to a week, depending on their size. At night, during the week following All Saints’ Day, they give the cemeteries of Poland a glow that can be seen from many kilometers away.

Old Powazki cemetery in Warsaw at All Saints Day

Old Powazki cemetery in Warsaw at All Saints Day

However, due to later common misunderstandings, it is performed nowadays mainly on All Saints Day, but, in that case is not called Zaduszki – the word Zaduszki originates from dzień zaduszny which can be translated as the day of the prayer for souls, and thus is more closely related to All Souls’ Day.

Lutheran cemetery in Warsaw

Lutheran cemetery in Warsaw

The first day of November is a holiday in Poland. Streets are filled with silent and solemn crowds, and cemeteries glow with thousands of candles, presenting a unique and picturesque scene.

It is important to note that cemeteries and memorials are an important aspect of Polish culture throughout the year. Grave sites are most often cared for and maintained by family members and friends. Throughout Poland you will also see monuments and plaques commemorating those killed during World War II.

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Indian Summer in Warsaw

An Indian summer is a heat wave that occurs in the autumn. It refers to a period of considerably above normal temperatures, accompanied by dry and hazy conditions, usually after there has been a killing frost. Depending on latitude and elevation, it can occur in the Northern Hemisphere between late September and mid November.

historic Saxon Gardens in the city centre

historic Saxon Gardens in the city centre

In different countries people name it differently. In British English St. Martin’s Summer was the most widely used term until the American phrase became better known in the 20th century. In Welsh, it is known as Haf Bach Mihangel or (St.) Michael’s Little Summer. The phrase Saint Martin’s Summer is widely used in France.

Warsaw Park

Warsaw Park

In many Slavic-speaking countries, the season is called Old Ladies’ Summer: in Russia Babye Leto (Бабье лето), in Ukraine Babyne Lito (Бабине літо), in Czech Republic Babí léto, in Slovakia Babie leto, in Croatia Bablje ljeto and in Slovenia Babje leto. In Bulgaria, the phenomenon is sometimes called “Gypsy Summer” (Bulgarian: циганско лято, tsigansko lyato) and in some places “Gypsy Christmas”.

Warsaw Northern cemetery

Warsaw Northern cemetery

In Poland it is simply called “Golden Polish Autumn” or “Babie Lato” (Polish: Złota Polska Jesień, or Babie Lato).

In Warsaw – full of parks and green spaces – it is particularly beautiful… see for yourself and enjoy 🙂

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1940-1944

17 September 1939

Sep. 17, 1939 - Warsaw Castle clock tower at fire

Sep. 17, 1939 – Warsaw Castle clock tower at fire

73 years ago at the beginning of WW2 and during the second week of the defending battle of Warsaw – on Sep. 17, 1939 – the Royal Castle of Warsaw was for the first time hit by a German missile….  the clock on top of the Sigismundus Tower stopped at 11.15 a.m.  The Royal Castle was not a military object, it was however the important symbol of the Polish State – once the official residence of the Polish Kings and the longest permanent seat of the Polish Parliament Houses, just before the WW2 – the official Residence of the President of the Republic of Poland.

As such it became a military target. On September 17, 1939, the Castle was shelled by German artillery. The roof and the turrets were destroyed by fire (they were partly restored by the Castle’s staff, but later deliberately removed by the Germans). The ceiling of the Ballroom collapsed, resulting in the destruction of Marcello Bacciarelli’s beautiful ceiling fresco The Creation of the World. The other rooms were slightly damaged. But immediately after the seizure of Warsaw by the Germans, their occupation troops set to demolish the castle. The more valuable objects, even including the central heating and ventilation installations, were dismantled and taken away to Germany.

On 4 October 1939 in Berlin, Adolf Hitler issued the order to blow up the Royal Castle. On 10 October 1939, special German units, under the supervision of history and art experts (Dr. Dagobert Frey, an art historian at the University of Breslau (now: Wrocław); Gustaw Barth, the director of museums in Breslau, and Dr. Joseph Mühlmann, an art historian from Vienna) started to demount floor, marbles, sculptures and stone elements such as fireplaces or moulds. The priceless artifacts were taken to Germany or stored in Kraków’s warehouses. Many of them were also seized by various Nazi dignitaries who resided in Warsaw. The Castle was totally emptied.

Disobeying German orders, and always in danger of being shot, Polish museum staff and experts in art restoration managed to save many of the works of art from the castle, as well as fragments of the stucco-work, the parquet floors, the wood panelling, etc. These were later used in after-war reconstruction. The great service done to Poland by Professor Stanisław Lorentz, in leading this campaign to save the castle’s treasures, is well known. Wermacht sappers then bored tens of thousands of holes for dynamite charges in the stripped walls.

In September 1944, during the Warsaw Uprising, the Germans blew up the Castle’s demolished walls. Leveling the Royal Castle was only a part of a larger plan – the Pabst Plan – the goal of which was to build a monumental Community Hall (ger. Volkshalle) or an equally sizable Congress Hall of NSDAP (National Socialis German Workers Party – ger. Parteivolkshalle) in the Royal Castle’s place and to replace the Zygmunt’s Column with the Germania Monument.

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A pile of rubble, surmounted by only two fragments of walls that somehow managed to survive, was all that was left of the six hundred year old edifice. On one of these fragments, almost like a symbol, part of the stucco decoration remained. This was a cartouche with the royal version of the motto of the Order of the White Eagle — “PRO FIDE, LEGE ET GREGE” (for Faith, Law, and the Nation – literally translated, the last word means a herd).

After the war the Castle has been totally reconstructed…. but this is another story……

Blue Angels of Praga district

In Praga district, the eastern part of Warsaw one can be met with different surprises…. one of them are cute blue little angels sitting or standing here and there….  They truly bring magic and smiles to the city streets.

This iconic and unique art project was designed and created by Marek Sułek – an art historian and critic, curator, University lecturer, author of texts on contemporary art who specializes in the theory of culture.

“The City of Angels” has been one of his recent projects. Blue angels with ugly, cartoon like faces and alike wings – definitely having little in common with universally shared notion of angelic beauty – appeared to provoke with their looks and to stimulate sense of humor.  They slowly become a funny symbol of Praga…

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