Polish-style Independence Day

I seem to be slipping into “yesterday” reporting. Yesterday was the Independence Day of Poland. On days like these, you really gotta take your hats off to the Americans for the way they do 4th of July. Barbeque, pretty fireworks and general good spirits all round.

Dunno when it became a tradition in Poland for Independence Day to be a “watch your back” and “don’t get stuck in traffic” day. Instead of the loving feeling, especially with getting the real estate (although in a slightly dislocated format) back after over 100 years of limbo, it’s a day of publicly airing your grievances. Perhaps the hallmark (too grand a word) of independence is you have the freedom to gripe all you want. Here’s a scene of the demo’s in the city center yesterday.

One year, I chanced upon a rather hairy demo by skinheads (ok, cheesy word play) demanding “Poland for Poles only”. There were lots of padded commandos on duty so I felt safe despite obviously not looking like a native.

Anyway, seems like a good time to dig out my article in the Warsaw Insider about the national anthem of Poland, written for the Euro2012 issue:

The Song of Fights (Warsaw Insider, June 2012)

As you listen to the rousing national anthem of Poland at the EURO2012 opening match, your ears will tune in to the refrain of “Marsz, marsz, Dąbrowski”. Who’s this Dąbrowski chap and what’s the whole story?

Mazurek Dąbrowskiego (Dąbrowski’s mazurka), the Polish national anthem, was born in exile in 1797 when Poland existed not on the map. (BTW, the mazurek here doesn’t refer to the sweet Easter treat but Polish folk dances with a triple time groove.) Its story is complicated since it’s not all about god saving a queen, but it’s deeply entwined with the country’s rocky past.

Version one was written by Józef Wybicki in the Cisalpine Republic (present day Italy) to rally General Jan Henryk Dąbrowski and his battalion. In hope of resurrecting their homeland, Polish soldiers allied with Napoleon, thus finding themselves serving under French colours in Italy. Wybicki’s words urged Dąbrowski and his men to return to Polish soil to save the nation.

Instated as the national anthem in 1926, Mazurek Dąbrowskiego has since undergone several revisions to be in synch with the political climate of the times. A hymn that once began with “Poland has not yet died” now starts with “Poland has not yet perished” (there’s a subtle difference though I am not sure what).

Given that we are not expecting any incoming missiles, perhaps it’s time to update the text again? A lawyer to whom I threw this question riposted with: “We like fighting. We had several uprisings in our history. The anthem is related to those events. I can’t imagine any other anthem. Our anthem says a lot about fights which were very important in our history.”

Thankfully, the fights this month are on football pitches.


About kitfchung

Experienced food and travel journalist based in Warsaw, Poland.
This entry was posted in Poland. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s