Tag Archives: Russia

September the 1st

On the 1st September 2009, 70 years after the breakout of the Second World War, world leaders will come to Westerplatte in Gdańsk, Poland, where it all began. They will pay tribute to the victims, line the paths of reconcilliation and vow to make sure similar things don’t happen again. But as delegations iron their shirts and pack bags, many people feel let down again.

Germany and Russia, the perpetrators of the 1939 attack on Poland they conducted in agreement and concord with each other, are sending the highest authorities: Angela Merkel, who is engaged in a longstanding genuine effort for German-Polish (and other) reconcilliation, and Vladimir Putin, who isn’t. Among those attending are many heads of states. The EU will be represented by the prime minister of Sweden Fredrik Reinfeldt, a country currently holding the presidency. Jerzy Buzek, the newly appointed speaker of the European Parliament, former Polish prime minister, will act as a symbol of a new era in Central Europe.

It is however the absentees, who are most talked about. It is a very important occasion for Polish politicians, and diplomatic world knows it. Absence, therefore, says a lot. French president Nicolas Sarkozy, Gordon Brown the prime minister of the UK and the American president Barack Obama decided they had more important things to do, are sending their representatives of lower rank. These decisions received very cold reception among many Poles. They feel France and Britain have betrayed Poland in 1939, by not providing military help to which they have commited themselves in treaties. And thay say, together with the USA they betrayed Poland once again after the war, leaving her for Soviet occupation. Therefore Poland, an ally that managed to defend longer than France, has become the only ally that didn’t actually win the war. And today, many feel, that these leaders can’t even manage to find three hours to appear on official celebrations. This is noted, and Poles have a good memory – as one of commentators put it on a Polish news channel.

This is a very important day. For many decades we weren’t allowed to talk freely about what happened during the Second World War. Communist dictatorship blanked out half of our war fate from official memory. Some Western countries were able to remember what happened and have moved on. We didn’t, we are remembering it now. It is the last big anniversary when witnesses are still alive. We need this – a Warsaw pedestrian told Polsat News.

Popular feelings are reflected in the press, which comments that relations with Poland have become the last priority for the United States. And that she is not getting anything in return for being America’s faithful ally. Polish effort in Iraq, and Afghanistan turn out not to be “lives and money well spent”. Oil contracts did not happen. Promised investment (off-set in return for aircraft deal) is not coming. USA are pulling off the missile shield. And on top of that Poles still need visas to travel to the US. Opinion polls on Poland’s participation in wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are falling flat.

Gordon Brown and Nicolas Sarkozy are not coming either. Is it only because standing in Gdansk, they would have to refer to their countries performance as Poland’s allies? Or the opportunities their countries missed, after the war, to talk about Stalin’s atrocities? Or is it just relations with Poland are on the far end of important issues? After all Gordon Brown did bother to visit the shores of Normandy, when Nicolas Sarkozy invited him for remembrance ceremony.

Some point this could mean that the world is going back to making politics over the heads of smaller nations.

What happened 70 years ago changed the world and shaped today’s reality, we should make sure that it is accurately remembered. It involved two wicked ideologies, that co-operated until 1941. One executing a racist plan of cleansing the Europe of Jews, Slavs and other peoples, and their cultures, treasures and sights, to make room in the East for the German ‘race’. The other intended to expand its model of murderous dictatorship and dominane worldwide on the basis of changing the social relations. Hundreds thousands were enslaved and maked forced-labourers, millions of men, women and children were killed in concentration camps and gulags. Shot in łapankas, bombings, killed in battle. It all happed in the cultured Europe, among the statues of great philosophers and musicians.
We failed to remember what happened. Most people until this day are not fully aware of the atocities of Stalin. Being among the “winners” of the war, he and his people never got their Nurenberg Trial. We failed to make sure similar things don’t happen again.

As Mrs. Angela Merkel said in her video address, it is right and it is important to be in Gdansk for the 70th anniversary of the outbreak of the Second World War. Maybe we can stop failing?

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Poland’s earthquake zones

Panic! Run for your lives! Man the lifeboats, inflate the escape slides, and adopt the brace position… We’re living in an earthquake zone!

I kid you not, consider these facts:

Earthquakes in California in the last two weeks: None
Earthquakes in Poland in the last two weeks: 17!!

I predict an awful lot of people are currently scratching their heads and muttering something along the lines of “He’s really lost it this time… poor chap… probably gone stark staring mad from the endless rain…”

Not a bit of it, it’s all true I tell you. There are two earthquake hot spots in Poland, one centered on the town of Głogów in Lower Silesia and a smaller patch around Katowice. There are dozens of earthquakes in both these areas every year, with the Głogów region being the more active by a good fifty percent.

Poland’s earthquake hot spots

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Each red dot marks the epicenter of an earthquake that occurred in the past 12 months (source: European-Mediterranean Seismological Centre [EMSC])

“But hang on” you’re saying “aren’t these just little tiny tremors caused by people dropping televisions from 16th floor balconies rather than proper, full-on, tall-buildings-collapsing and people-running-in-terror kind of stuff?” Well, yes and no.

It’s true that a lot of these are in the range of 2 to 3.5 magnitude, which ranges between a slight lurch of the floor that could be mistaken for the effects of too many piwos the night before and rattling tea cups. But a surprising number are of magnitude 4 or above, which you would definitely notice, it’s not going to bring the house down, but you’d definitely look up from your newspaper with a puzzled expression on your face. Looking deeper into the United States Geological Survey (USGS) data for the area I quickly came across:

August 6 1983: Magnitude 5.8
March 25, 1989: Magnitude 5.3
October 28, 1989: Magnitude 5.1
December 31, 1999: Magnitude 5.4 (for millennial doom mongers)
February 20, 2002: Magnitude 5.0

Not to mention at least a hundred quakes of magnitude 4 to 4.9 between 1980 and the present.

A 5.8 magnitude earthquake, such as the one that occurred in 1983, is not the kind of thing that goes unnoticed, especially if you happen to be living near the epicenter.

Głogów: Earthquake hellhole of southern Poland

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Red dots are EMSC-recorded events from the past 12 months, yellow dots are historical USGS-recorded events of magnitude 4 or above

I don’t know about you, but that looks like a weird pattern to me. In between dozing off and constructing makeshift sundials in geology lessons I seem to remember something about fault lines and Rings of Fire and all that jazz. These just look like isolated patches.

I have two theories:

Theory 1: The anti-missile shield is already under construction in caverns deep beneath southern Poland. When Mr Armani Dinner Jacket finally launches his missiles two giant robotic arms will emerge from the ground and swat them out of the air with equally giant ping pong bats. Living in Głogów or Katowice at this time will not be a good thing, but when has it ever been.

Theory 2: The Chinese have secretly burrowed through the Earth and are extracting Poland’s coal from underneath. They will then use this coal to add to their already impressive smog project, which is in fact a cunning oriental version of the missile shield. Living in Głogów or Katowice is not improved by this either.

I just looked up the recent data and there have been three earthquakes in Poland in the last 48 hours, one of them magnitude 4.6. The Big One is surely just around the corner…

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Additional Information (for those who want to check up on me)

European-Mediterranean Seismological Centre homepage

Google Earth files for viewing recent seismic event locations (pretty cool however you look at it)

Historical seismicity in Poland (EMSC data; 1964–2008)

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Non-Polish soldiers Poles are proud of

One of the legends the Pole would hold dear in their heart is that of husaria. You know – the winged, well armed, invincible Polish cavalry everybody knows. (You do know, right? Well, you do now.)

British hussar, next of kin?

But why well-armed? But why winged? But why invincible? But why Polish?

The hussar’s scale armour wasn’t the best solution, not to mention other flaws.

The wings were probably for parades only and not used on the battlefield. Don’t believe that the sound of the vibrating feathers was to frighten enemy horses. (Pointless, it would be. Infantrymen and artillerymen are not horsemen, while any hostile cavalrymen could just put plugs in their horses’ ears, right?)

Husaria was not invincible. It’s quite ironic that many YouTubes glorifying the supposedly greatest horsepower mounted by man use Krzesmir Dębski’s tune (often started at 1:30) named Husaria ginie – “Hussars Dying”. Dying? Someone managed to kill them? Yup.

Thank you Mr Dębski, we know some great composers are Polish. Husaria of the Polish legend, however, isn’t Polish: The cavalry became a heavy formation, when a Hungarian prince of Transylvania made it such. “Our” CO in the battle of Kircholm (1605) was Ruthenian; his forces were more Lithuanian than Polish. The same Ruthenian led “us” at Chocim (1621). The commander at Kłuszyn (1610) was as Polish as his Ukrainian birth-place or his Ukrainian burial-place. And so on.

Whenever an English name for husaria is required, the terms “Polish Hussars” or “Winged Hussars” are used, both not accurate. When you take a look at a Kossak, don’t believe your eyes:

More winged, more Polish

Take some Brandt for more reality:

Less winged, more real

And the statistics are not too favourable for the Polish worshipper of husaria: had he a time machine, he’ll probably end up non-Polish. Even more probably, he would not be a nobleman. But a peasant, a townsman, a merchant, a jester. What’s wrong with jesters? Well, the company of brothers keeps dreaming of the days of the old winged glory.

Henryk Sienkiewicz, a genius, no doubt, who led the Polish mind into such twisted and lazy patriotism had to work out something for the little folk, too. Not every reader can imagine himself tall enough to jump to the hussar’s saddle. You know: “Aren’t you little short for a stormtrooper?” And so we were given Michal Wolodyjowski.

He was short. He had that French problem. He was not too good with ladies, he would fall in love quickly, platonically, not too physically. When he finally got married, he didn’t leave offspring. Though he tried hard. It’s no laughing matter, in the times of wars, it’s was an important man’s duty to produce more defenders of the state. Some offenders, too. (See PS.)

In the books, Wolodyjowski is called the First Sabre of the Republic, a most skilled duellist. Not the last one, sure. But generally, he was a raider, quick for forays, quick for retreats. He knew how to hide behind his horse when the enemy started shooting. Accidentally shot, that’d be a stupid cause of death for a fine swordsman, right? (So what it’s not chivalrous? I’d love the skill! But ask the greater Polish mind if it is ready to take pride in the ability of getting under the horse to avoid a stray bullet.)

And how did Wolodyjowski die? What were his lifetime’s dodges and tricks good for? Well. How Polish. He decided to blow himself up with the castle he didn’t manage to defend. A romantic death — so that someone else’s grandsons may revel in the biography’s unhappy ending.

By the way, Wolodyjowski didn’t pluck up all of his courage to follow the lit fuse. But there was a Scotsman beside him, fortunately, who did the boom job.)

PS: Did Poland have any other good formation? Of course! Try to learn more about these guys, mercenaries, murderers, pillagers, rapists, outlaws, adventurers, some quite usual breed of their times. And damn, they were efficient!

Stay tuned for more.


Here, I’m nice. There, I’m mature.

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Defeats that make Polish people angry

 

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.

 

= Monte Cassino (1944) — If the aim’s to send the soldiers of Poland [betrayed in 1939 and re-betrayed in 1945] to their Mount Doom in Mordor of Italybe my guest, call it a victory.

 

Right?

 

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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