Polish people never yearn for freedom. They fight for it!
To understand the courage and resilience of Warsaw (and Poland) I want to take you all back to 1920. After 120 years of not existing as a country on the world globe, Poland had become a country again after World War I. It was strong, vibrant, and ready to blaze into the 20th Century as an independent nation. However, it had made two enemies, Russia and Germany, with rabid instincts to retake the lands they had held during those 120 years. Germany was too busy recuperating from the economic depression and high unemployment during the 1920s to pay much attention to Poland, but Russia with its newly instituted Red Army tried to take Poland in August of 1920. World History rarely teaches how Poland beat the crap out of the Red Army and they went running back to Russia leaving Poland alone to “enjoy” the Roaring Twenties.
Poland experienced two decades of peace and prosperity. It was the envy of Europe. Warsaw was bourgeoisie and lively. Back in Germany, Adolf Hitler had set Germany on a route to European as well as world domination. In a rare and short-lived alliance of political, polar opposites, fascist Germany allied itself with communist Russia to CRUSH Poland so they could regain “their” lands of the 19th century. Very few history books tell students that Poland almost recuperated from Germany’s September 1939 blitzkrieg. Germany had exhausted its ammunition, and Poland was ready to turn them back: Enter Russia on Poland’s Eastern front. Poland could not defend itself on both sides, and it fell.
One of the saddest parts of the Nazi occupation was the Warsaw Jewish Ghetto that housed 200,000 Jewish people. Jews from all over Europe had been shipped to Warsaw for their holding until they could be forwarded to extermination camps such as Auschwitz Birkenau or Treblinka. Two heroes (on opposite ends of the survival spectrum) emerged: Irena Sendler and Janusz Korczak. Irena Sendler was a nurse in Warsaw who with her resistance group helped save over 1000 Jewish children out of the Warsaw Ghetto. Although she risked her life, was beaten, and tortured (like whipped the soles of her feet then they broke her legs), and almost executed several times, she survived and lived until 2008. Janusz Korczak was a children’s author (“King Matt the First”) and a doctor. He took care of the orphaned, Jewish children in the Warsaw Ghetto. When the Nazis decided to ship the Jewish orphans to Treblinka for extermination, Dr. Korczak refused to leave their side even after Christians and the resistance begged him to stay in Warsaw and fight. Janusz died with his children in Treblinka.
Americans call the August 1944 uprising to take over its city the Warsaw Uprising but the English words in Warsaw say Warsaw Rising. The people of Warsaw knew the allies were headed to Berlin, and when they arrived in Warsaw to help deliver it, they wanted to show them that they were a free city who had liberated itself. They fought for 3 months: men, women, children (ran electricity lines and utilized the sewer city with great effect), clergymen, EVERYONE. Part of the city was even FREE. However, German forces were still embedded in the city, and their supply lines were still healthy. The Polish people hoped and prayed that either the allies or the Russians could send help, but help never came. If you travel to Warsaw, the Uprising Museum is a MUST SEE.
The Germans may have been losing ground in Western Europe, but they were going to severely punish Warsaw for its uprising. Because so many Germans were still rat-nested throughout the city and could not be evacuated (Russian forces were just a few miles away waiting to pounce on German troops to arrive… if they arrived!), Germany gave all civilians 48 hours to get out of the city, flee to wherever, because the bombing planes were going to OBLITERATE the city, and they did. In the Uprising Museum, there is a 5 minute 3D video of the post-obliteration of the city. It looks like a nuclear holocaust: The church to the right is St. Augustine’s church. It was spared, not because the Nazis respected this Catholic Church, but because it held Nazi ammunition, foods, and medical supplies.
So, Poland became communist in 1945. The Polish people suffered greatly under communism, but they persevered.
In 2019, the Polish people are “loud and proud”. They refuse to allow foreign powers to tell them what to do with their people and their government. They are very nationalistic, and keep their wonderful culture flourishing. They love families. The Polish government even pays its families to have more children. The families spend time together, eat together, shop together, and go to church together. The Caylor-Browns experienced their awesome nationalism and hospitality, and we were so impressed. We definitely want to learn more Polish and return to Warsaw soon.