The 1st of August is a date that will forever be remembered in Polish history. On this day in 1944, the Polish Resistance army commenced 'Operation Tempest' in Warsaw.
After 5 years of extreme hardship under Nazi occupation, the Polish Resistance Army saw an opportunity to take the city back from Hitler's retreating forces. However when promised help from Stalin's Red Army did not materialize, the Nazis came crushing down on the Polish insurgents. The result was the death of 200,000 people and the virtual destruction of the entire city.
Perhaps the best way to learn of the struggle, hardship and sacrifice made by many Polish men, women and children, is to visit the Warsaw Uprising museum.
Located on Grzybowska street, the museum is full of artifacts, articles, transcripts and interactive screens, allowing visitors a true insight into goings on in the capital during the uprising. A small cinema in the museum also allows you the chance to see the film below in 3D, which shows the complete and utter devastation caused by the Nazis' retaliation to the insurgents.
Following the end of WW2, in the era of communist Poland, the insurgents were labeled as fascists and endless propaganda was produced to slur the Polish fighters. Stalin did his upmost to erase the Uprising from social memory, making it forbidden to pay homage to the rising. During this time no anniversaries were commemorated nor statues erected.
It wasn't until the fall of communism that the line damning Poland's "irresponsible and clumsy commanders, who ignited the rising only to defend the interests of the London Government and the propriety classes" was dropped.
Since then, times have changed. The people who decided to take their opportunity to end the brutal fascist occupation are now largely remembered for their brave attempt at defending their country's people, livelihood and way of life. The fact that many different people were involved in the uprising is not lost either. Jewish and Slovakian soldiers were an active part of the team, while small numbers of other nationalities also contributed to the cause.
Every year Poland's capital now remembers the rising at 17.00 on August 1st, by standing to a minute's silence while war sirens play out throughout the city. A few years ago this moving moment was captured for a short film, which can be seen below:
The uprising is also commemorated every year in the Warsaw Uprising run. Runners choose between a 5 or 10 km route, winding its way through ul. Konkwiktorska, Bonifraterska, ul. ul.Miodowa, Krakowskie Przedmieście, Karowa, Wybrzeże Gdańskie and Sanguszki finishing at Konkwiktorska. The photo on the right was taken as the runners dashed their way towards the finishing line in the city's old town.
Our city will of course be doing its own commemoration of the uprising, starting today at 17.00. Just like in Warsaw, sirens will ring across the city.
At 1645 on Promenada Staromiejska, a ceremony will also take place next to the statue of Polish cavalryman and intelligence officer Witold Pilecki. Then later on at 6pm, many churchgoers are expected to gather at St. Elizabeth's church for a special mass.