So. Your neighbour buys a car. The fastest production car on Earth. “Life begins at 250!” – he says, smirking, trying to get on your wick. He succeeds. You challenge him to a race. Right away! “I’ll beat you barefoot and single-handed!” – you yell – “Ready, steady, go!” – and off you go, indeed, and you run, your teeth gnashed maniacally.
The neighbour needs a few seconds to rethink what you’ve just said, then he accepts the challenge but can’t find the key, so needs to rethink whether the car opens with a key, or with a thumb pad, or a voice recognition system, or is there Scottie to beam him inside, and yes, I guess, it’s that hi-tech, so he spends more time looking for some Star Trek uniform, then, being not too slim, he takes even more time to position himself in it, then in the car, which might start chasing you – oh wouldn’t she swirl to 60 mph in 2.5 secs, but you – you slyfox, you – took wicked turns through the bushes and then abrupt jump down some rocky road, so the neighbour’s got to watch out, slow down not to scratch his baby. Then, the way starts looking civilised, almost German – and the man overtakes you – 5 minutes after you set off. You lost your breath, you lost your boots, you lost your teeth – but not your pride. — You won! — For 5 minutes you were faster than the fastest car on Earth! If that’s not a victory, what is?
In short: your victories are all about how you define your objectives. Is it the final scene that rules the landscape? Well, my guest here suggested some of the Polish victories were: Tannenberg. Moscow. Vienna. Monte Cassino. Saratoga. The Miracle at the Vistula.
And I brag to differ:
= Tanneberg (1410) — If the aim’s to pick a fight with Western Europe, that’s some, duh, victory. But if the aim’s to take the enemy’s capital and impose upon him your terms of the peace treaty – then Poland sustained a major defeat.
= Moscow (1610) — If the aim’s not to launch a bunch of adventurers into the Kremlin but to start a royal line of Polish monarchs steadfast on the tsar’s throne – then Poland was defeated.
= Vienna (1683) — If the aim’s to clear the path towards the forming of Austrian Empire to destroy Poland in return – call that a victory.
And then, Poles don’t appreciate they scored some real victories. Great Polish victories. Greater Polish victories. Greatest Polish victories. They’ll be dazed and confused. “You mean, eh, we actually did win all of that?”
To end something in a victory – is not too Polish. It’s Polish to win a battle and lose a war. To suffer for suffering’s sake. To have false history classes instead of true middle classes. To sell cheap myths why we don’t buy expensive cars. Come, stranger, cry rivers with us.
So, in the other half of this episode I’ll tell you why — instead of crying — you can laugh at the myth of the winged horsepower of Poland. A bonus, some truths about Poland’s top sabre. (I mean, you need to know Wolodyjowski if you want to survive in Poland! Watch out for the shortest guy in the movie:
And stay tuned for more.)
PS The Battle of Warsaw (1920) was a victory – but that’s why it’s called a miracle. (And it must be added that soon after the battle Poland re-betrayed Ukraine. As if the reaction to the first betrayal should not teach us anything.) And Saratoga (1777) was a battle co-starring one Pole’s fancy to procure engineering work in America.
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