Poland celebrates 99th anniversary of independence

Today Poland celebrates its National Independence Day, 99 years since the end of its partition between Russia, Prussia, and Austria after the First World War.

Previously, the weakened Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth had been carved up by its neighbors for 123 years. 1918 marked the beginning of the relatively prosperous Second Polish Republic, which lasted for 21 years until the invasion of Poland by the USSR and Nazi Germany at the outset of WWII.

Krakow celebrates the day with a large annual parade, singing on the Main Square, and free entry to the National Museum. There will also be an anti-government gathering on Plac Szczepański at 13:30 organized by the Committee for the Defense of Democracy (KOD), who state seemingly without irony that “no one has the right to use [Independence Day] for political purposes.”

This objection most specifically references a recent announcement by Jarosław Kaczyński, de facto leader of the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party, of a competition to design a monument commemorating for next year’s holiday dedicated to the victims of the 2010 airplane crash in Smolensk, Russia. The accident, which claimed the lives of several high-ranking Polish government officials (including his brother, then-President Lech Kaczyński) has become a rallying point for right-wing conspiracy theorists who believe that it was a deliberate act by Russia.

Nationalists will also take to the streets in Warsaw today for a huge annual march. How huge? Last year it included 75,000 people under the slogan “Poland, the Bastion of Europe” and was remarkable for breaking a four-year string of violence and arrests. This year’s theme is “We want God” and, according to some observers, may be one of the largest right-wing marches in the world.

However, especially in Krakow, it is likely that the vast majority of festivities will be friendly, safe, and nonpartisan celebrations of Polish culture and history, and that the biggest danger for most will be a lot of closed shops.

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27 thoughts on “Poland celebrates 99th anniversary of independence

  • November 11, 2017 at 8:16 pm

    The coverage of the Warszawa march by the right-of-centre, nationalist UK paper ‘The Daily Mail’, highlighting the presence of ‘far-right nationalists’ among the marchers is a bit rich.

    • November 11, 2017 at 10:16 pm

      Meanwhile in Krakow, Mr K repeats his call for reparations. All well and good, and the government ought to present these demands in some kind of international forum with impartial arbitrators, but how sympathetic will outsiders be to Poland when they see news coverage of what is supposed to be a national celebration with headlines about ‘far-right extremists marring’ the event? I bet a lot of the real frail old veterans of the AK and other army formations are not huge fans of the loud and vocal minority who get themselves written about in the foreign press.

      • November 12, 2017 at 11:16 am

        There were huge photos of the architects of Polish independence, Pilsudski and Dmowski (who were not exactly on friendly terms, but that’s another story), but I didn’t see any evidence of Paderewski. Did I miss him or has he been relegated to some kind of minor status?

      • November 12, 2017 at 3:40 pm

        Curious, The New York Times is significantly different in content than either The Krakowpost or the news.pl stories.

    • November 12, 2017 at 4:34 pm

      Hi. I’m in the U.S.A. I saw an article in the Wall Street Journal that said 60,000 people showed up & that they were anti-semetic and anti-muslim. The article said the attendees want to nationalize foreign businesses there. Is any of it true? Were counter-protesters present? If so, did there numbers rival those of the anti-semites & anti-Muslim groups? Also, we’re Jewish and Muslim people present? If so, does anyone know what it was like for any of them?

      • November 20, 2017 at 2:35 am

        It is safe to say that there were 60,000 patriots at the march. However, no amount of defensive spin on the part of some Poles will disguise the fact that the march itself was organized by far-right groups and consequently attracted people who are most definitely fascist.

        Quite a few foreign media outlets who should have known better, were very quick to label the entire march of 60,000 as ‘extremists’ or worse. Many of these were predictably left-of centre publications such as the UK’s ‘Independent’, but many others, such as the Wall Street Journal (which has since corrected the impression given by its coverage) or the UK’s ‘Daily Mail’ are right-leaning papers.

        There were indeed counter-protesters present. A few women from an anti-fascist group were physically roughed up and verbally abused by some marchers.

        Some foreign media outlets do seem to revel in presenting a negative image of Poland and if correspondents have to backtrack on what they say initially, then it does suggest a very poor level of journalism. But if fascists – however small a number – were allowed to march in Polish cities, shouting offensive slogans as a way of celebrating Polish independence and the myopic government takes days to notice anything, then the legacy of the greats of Polish history, such as Kosciuszko or Pilsudski, is in danger of being squandered.

  • November 12, 2017 at 10:31 pm

    So. Violence after all. A woman is in hospital in Wroclaw after a confrontation with people who would no doubt describe themselves as patriots. Other women were verbally abused in Warszawa.

    What happened to your “wyspa tolerancji” (island of toleration), Panie Prezesie? Do you have the slightest idea of what’s happening on the streets? Your hero Pilsudski is spinning in his grave.

    • November 13, 2017 at 12:18 pm

      I wonder what Senator Anders’s father would have thought of the scenes on the streets of Warsaw?

      • November 13, 2017 at 6:20 pm

        The answer is that General Anders, who was the most honourable and principled man, would probably have been appalled at the sight of far-right extremists on the streets of rhis beloved Poland, as would most other soldiers of his generation.

        Since Senator Anders is a part of the current government, then perhaps she could suggest to the Prezes (or whoever will be running things after the upcoming reshuffle), that very strong words of condemnation are needed to repair the damage which has been done. There will no doubt be elements in the foreign press eagerly awaiting any excuse to lambast Poland, but the extremists were not imaginary. Hasło ‘Bóg, Honor i Ojczyzna należało do ludzi którzy poświęcili całe życie dla Polskiej sprawy.

        In the words of Edward Raczynski: “nie zmarnujcie niepodległości”

        • November 14, 2017 at 12:21 am

          Clear words from President Duda. Not so clear from Mr K who talks about “provocation”.

          “Ucho Prezesa” will need to revise its script.

  • November 14, 2017 at 10:43 am


    RFK: What are your views, sir, on the Palace of Culture, Warsaw’s most famous landmark?

    Warszawiak: We love to hate it.

    RFK: And what are your views on the foreign press?

    Warszawiak: We love to hate it.

    RFK: Were there 60,000 fascists marching the other day?

    Warszawiak: Nie wiem, troche faszystow na pewno bylo.

    RFK: You’re saying that there were a few fascists?

    Warszawiak: 60,000 nationalists is different from saying 60,000 fascists. It’s true that this march is a magnet for the extremists. Me, I’m just a patriot. We were there to celebrate, but some of the foreign press paints a false picture. There were alarmist and hysterical headlines all over the world.

    RFK: But the march itself was organised by right-wing groups, isn’t that so? How is that a false picture?

    Warszawiak: Look. I ‘m not interested in politics. I was there to celebrate.

    RFK: What do you think of the upcoming government reshuffle?

    Warszawiak: They can shuffle all they like. It won’t make much difference.

    RFK: Would you like to see anyone go?

    Warszawiak: (incomprehensible muttering)

    M. Karski: Can I say something?

    RFK: This isn’t a twitter page, you know, mate.

    M. Karski: Italy haven’t qualified for the World Cup!

    ALL: Che vergogna!

    • November 14, 2017 at 2:50 pm

      RADIO FREE KRAKOW – update

      RFK: You’re not trivializing this show of xenophobia, are you, Karski?

      M.K: Not at all. There was some genuine nastiness on display. But the reaction of this government is what is problematic. They are doing their usual fence-sitting and sending out mixed messages, in case they lose the support of the far-right.

      RFK: What would you propose, then? A police crackdown, like in the days of the Sanacja?

      M.K: I don’t know. All I know is that this government is going to have one hell of a job trying to repair the image of Poland.

      RFK: Did you just say a rude word? We don’t allow rude words here under the PiS regime.

      M.K: What the – ?

    • November 14, 2017 at 4:22 pm

      Why do these patriots cover their faces?

      • November 14, 2017 at 4:50 pm

        To nie jest głupie pytanie. Their march wasn’t illegal, so why are they unwilling to be identified?

      • November 14, 2017 at 7:58 pm

        In fairness, the Antifa people are a bit shy of being identified as well. It’s the extremists from both sides who cause the problems. The trouble is that the police do not seem to be impartial. Who deserves protection – protesting women of whatever political persuasion or aggressive young men, shouting threats and obscenities?

        But it looks as if the government has forgotten all about it and is concentrating on more important things.

        • November 14, 2017 at 8:19 pm

          RADIO FREE KRAKOW – signing out

          RFK: Don’t you think you’ve done enough pontificating, Karski?

          MK: Maybe you’re right. There are things I should be doing.

          RFK: What do you think of the Krakow Post?

          MK: They are very patient.

          RFK: Would you like to say a final word to our readers?

          MK: Yes. Keep reading the KP. Dowidzenia.

          • November 14, 2017 at 10:56 pm

            A final comment (I promise – and this is a forum for everyone, so please don’t let me monopolize it).

            I may have been wrong about the Antifa protesters. They may look and behave like thugs, but the truth is, there would be no need for their protests if the fascists themselves were not in evidence. Yes, fascists, ladies and gentlemen. Fascists on the streets of Poland, the nation which was the first to take up arms against the fascists of Hitler and which held out on its own while other European Allies were thinking about what to do. The nation which suffered massively at the hands of Hitler’s fascist regime. And now we have fascists, shouting hateful slogans and man-handling and abusing women protesters, while the police protect the wrong people. The extremists may be a small minority and the marchers on the 11th may have been predominantly peaceful non-political citizens, or else nationalists, which is a different thing from fascists, but the government is either completely intimidated by the small minority of extremists or else is cynically aligning itself with them in the hope of gaining their votes.

            However unjust the impression given by foreign media may have been, the fault for all the negative coverage can be laid directly at the door of the Prawo i Sprawiedliwosc (Law and Justice) ruling party which not only allows far-right extremists to march, but turns a blind eye to their behaviour. What kind of law allows xenophobes to parade their hatred? The right-wing extremists don’t seem to know the difference between a Jew or a Muslim. How many of them know who Dabrowski actually was when they sing the national anthem?

            The government is busy patting themselves on the back for two years’ of progress, but massive damage has been done to Poland’s image, thanks to their negligence. I sincerely hope that the celebrations to mark Poland’s centenary next year present a different picture of a country which deserves to be at the heart of Europe, not because any Polish politician demands it, but because other European countries want it to be.

  • November 17, 2017 at 9:03 pm

    I promised not to comment again, but then again politicians also break promises, so I’m not exceptional. It’s just that I’ve read that apparently some of the Antifa people came over from Germany. I have no idea how true this is, but if it’s the case, then that’s pretty unacceptable. Maybe the police should just ban anyone who wears a mask? How about that?

    • November 17, 2017 at 9:44 pm

      But some of the far-rightists came over from other countries – England, for example. One solution might be to ban foreigners from taking part in the march altogether, but that would prevent friends of Poland from showing their sympathy and solidarity. What’s the answer? Serious, robust and above all, impartial policing which actually applies the law would be the main thing, that’s for sure. The party in charge of Poland should live up to their name. Not all foreign press coverage was exaggerated.

      The nationalists say how peaceful this year’s march was compared to other years. But if you were a woman on the receiving end of horrible insulting language and worse, I doubt if you would agree.

  • November 21, 2017 at 12:28 am

    Before the elite journalists of the world turn to whatever is next on the agenda, the prize for journalistic sloppiness goes to….

    the UK’s Guardian, which reported that “60,000 neo-Nazis” marched through Warsaw.

    Sorry, Graun. Perhaps a refresher course in non-tendentious reporting might be called for? Is there such as thing as objective news reporting any more? Or is every one an opinionated commentator in this online age?

    “Comment is free,” said a certain C.P. Scott. And you know the rest.

    • November 21, 2017 at 11:11 am

      (particularly disappointing from the Guardian, who are generally on the ball. Readers in Poland have no doubt heard of the Watergate affair, the result of investigative journalists at the Washington Post. The Guardian exposed the phone hacking scandal in the UK, which was something almost on the same level)


      • November 27, 2017 at 2:58 pm

        Still on the subject of the march, although, of course, everyone has moved on – no doubt the Polish embassy in the UK has been on the case of the Guardian’s phrase about ‘60,000 neo-Nazis’ which I mentioned above. I wrote to their complaints department as well, saying in effect that although I am very much against the current rightward shift of the present PiS government and I deplore the sight of fascists on the streets of Poland, nevertheless not all 60,000 marchers were neo-Nazis. That is journalism which is not only sloppy, but quite offensive. The fact that the march itself was organized by far-right groups is something else, and the columnist responsible for the above phrase should have taken that into account.

        My own personal view is that if people knew that the march was organized by extreme groups, then they should have stayed away, but to label all the marchers, not only the extremists, but the ordinary politically unaligned citizens, as ‘neo-Nazis’ is tendentious, to put it mildly.

        In fairness, this was only an opinion piece by an individual columnist and the Guardian headlines elsewhere spoke of ‘60,000 nationalists’, which no-one could really dispute, whether anyone disapproves of the term ‘nationalist’ and would rather use the word ‘patriot’.

        Perhaps next year, Premier Kaczynski – as he might well be – will consider having the march sponsored by less controversial groups if he wants to do something about the image of Poland.

        • December 1, 2017 at 12:40 am

          The Guardian article has been corrected to read:

          “In Poland this weekend neo-Nazis staged a march that drew 60,000 people on to the street.”

          So – there were not 60,000 neo-Nazis marching, but that description only applies to the people who organized the march.

          A concession,then, by the Guardian, to the ordinary citizens taking part in the march, but certainly not to the organisers.

          Perhaps next year’s march will be a true celebration of independence – without all of the aggressive shouting and sloganeering by the extremists but equally without all of the negative flak coming at Poland from abroad..


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