Museum of the Military Forces in Nowa Huta well worth extra effort

Everything in the Museum of the Military Forces in Nowa Huta is a donation from someone who fought in World War II.
In that sense, the facility at 23 Gorali Estate is a showcase of personal war stories.   
The oldest military museum in the district, it opened in 1968. Because it doesn?t have any official backing, it runs on a shoestring, including volunteer help. That?s one of the reasons you must make an appointment to go through it.
When Nowa Huta was built after World War II ? then as a separate city ? soldiers who had fought on all fronts during the war began settling in it. Some decided to start a museum to honor those who put their lives on the line for Poland and to make sure that future generations would remember their sacrifices.
Those who founded the museum had to be careful that Poland?s Communist leaders didn?t view the effort as latent Poland nationalism, however. So the founders characterized the facility as a symbol of Polish-Soviet friendship.
Director Franciszek Baryla said that when Nowa Huta?s district government donated the space for the museum, ?there was a hairdresser?s downstairs and a community center upstairs. We were just given the building and were supposed to do everything ourselves. That?s the way it is today. We keep the museum running through entrance fees and donations.?
Three of the most prized exhibits are a complete uniform of Lieutenant Wyszczelski, who fought in both world wars; parts of the Polish submarine Sep (Vulture) that a former crewman saved when the ship was scrapped; and parts of Polish airplanes that saw combat during World War II.   
There are many military banners and photos of military personnel.
The most poignant pieces in the exhibit are mementos from Nazi death camps. Zbigniew Baster and Jozef Pawlik, artists who survived the camps, made realistic miniature figures that show everyday life there.
Another emotional display is a Polish flag made in a death camp from red cloth and white cotton. Visitors? favorite item is a 46-ton IS 2 tank that stands guard outside the museum.
?We were given this tank in 1969,? Baryla said. ?It is one of the three that survived the tragic Battle of Budziszyn.? We need a sentence here saying when the battle occurred and briefly what happened.
?Our secret dream,? Baryla said, ?is to have another tank ? an American Sherman ? because we want to show that both sides, Russian and American, set Poland free in 1945. But we don?t have the money to get it.?
Right now, everything at the museum is in Polish. But English explanations of the displays and English guidebooks are in the works. If the Ministry of Culture designated the museum a state project, it would have its own curator and regular funding. And that might lead to a larger facility. As things stand, the museum is cramped ? and its collection is growing.
That?s too bad, because the museum isn?t just a place where you can get a fascinating glimpse at Polish war history. It?s also a potential source of many screenplays, drawn from the stories of those who donated their mementos.
To get to the museum, catch Tram 1 or Tram 75 from the Plac Wszystkich Swietych stop to the Teatr Ludowy stop, about a 40-minute ride. Walk down Obroncow Krzyza Street about 300 meters, then turn left onto Gorali Estate. Number 23 is on the right.
Remember that you must make an appointment ? in Polish — to go through the museum. Call (0) 12 644-317. And when you go, bring an interpreter. No one at the museum speaks English.

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