Happy birthday Poland

Polish flag

Today, 11 November is the birthday of the modern State of Poland. What’s more is that 2018 marks exactly 100 years since Poland was restored as an independent country.

11 November 1918 is remembered in the West as the day that World War One ended. For people in the East of Europe, it meant the end of domination by the German, Austro-Hungarian and Russian Empires. Out of those ashes, new independent countries were born. One of those was Poland

Polish history goes back to the early middle ages. However, in 1795 Poland ceased to exist as a State. It was conquered, overrun and portioned by the Prussians, Russians and Austrians.

For 123 years there was no Poland. But there was a Polish culture. The Polish people are proud to say, that during those long years of occupation, there was a revolution every generation. Every generation of young Polish men grew up, rebelled and died.

As an example, there was the uprising of January 1863. This lasted for over a year before 35,000 Polish rebels were crushed by a Russian Army 145,000 strong.

But this is about Poland’s rebirth and not it’s historical past.

11 November 1918. The 2nd Polish Republic was formed. It was immediately involved in a number of regional wars to establish its border. The Polish-Ukrainian war of 1918-1919. The 1919 (7-day war) with Czechoslovakia. The Polish-Lithuanian war of 1919-1920 and the Polish-Soviet war of 1919-1921

On the 1st September 1939, Poland was invaded by Germany and the newly created Slovak Republic. 16 days later the Soviet Union attacked from the East.

During WW2, the Polish resistance movement, known as The Home Army, numbered 400,000 (although some sources have it as high as 600,000). As well as sabotage, they fought several full-scale battles with occupying German forces, particularly in 1943 and 1944. Being aware that the Soviets would not arrive as liberators, they attempted to liberate themselves. Operation Tempest started in January 1944 with efforts to seize key cities. The most famous part of which was the Warsaw uprising of August 1944. All ended in failure.

At the end of WW2, the Soviet Union kept all the Polish territory that it had seized during the September 1939 invasion, absorbing that area into what is now Belarus and Ukraine. Poland’s western border was moved further west taking land from Germany. Poland settled down to uneasy Soviet occupation.

However, the Home Army continued its armed resistance against the new invaders and the Polish Communist government. Active guerrilla warfare lasted into the 1950’s. Known as the Cursed Soldiers, the remaining resistance fighters were gradually hunted down by NKVD execution squads. The last known Cursed Soldier was killed in an ambush in 1963, almost 20 years after the Soviet invasion.

Civil resistance continued in many forms with numerous protests. As I have written previously on Whaleoil,  the Dwarf movement being just one example. In 1980 the Solidarity (Solidarność) Trade Union was formed. At one stage it numbered 10 million strong.

The government responded by imposing Martial law, which lasted from late 1981 to 1983. In the end, the government was forced to negotiate. This lead to semi-free elections in 1989.

Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, the last Soviet / Russian troops left Poland in 1992.

In May 2004 Poland joined the European Union. Since then the economy has grown steadily and it is now the 10th largest in Europe. Although on GDP per capita, it ranks at 25.

On Sunday 11 November, millions of Poles will be celebrating their independence. Both formally, and with marches in the streets and parties. Their independence was bought and paid for in blood. The memories are still fresh and they will not be giving that up again.

 

Happy Birthday Poland

 

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Kiwi expat living in Europe. Wandering the maze of life, trying to find the cheese, while avoiding the rat traps.

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