Tag Archives: Stalin

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?

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Poles must stop living in the past

Friday, 1st of August, was a day devoted to remembrance of the 1944 Warsaw Uprising. Its heroism and glory, that had to be concealed during the years of communism. Now in full shine thanks to the massive media coverage… hours of live broadcasts on all news channels, metres of tape and pages of text have been devoted to various analysis, diaries, transcripts, comments, interviews…

The remembrance celebrations for the 64th anniversary of the Warsaw Uprising have become another episode in an endless celebration of history while the needs of the current inhabitants of Poland are being neglected. We should be focusing on making new and innovative things happen.

So let’s dash the burden of our troubled past and start living in the present.

Celebrations of history have become festivals of pride – of Polish pride. Pride for “our” people, for “our” struggle, for “our” greatness. But history is not something I want to be proud of. This is not a real achievement of the people of this country. The fact that we decide to focus all our popular celebrations around history means that we feel we have no achievements in the present. Or no other interests. And we know it. Festivals of music, festivals of flowers, festivals of wine, festivals of anything else never get quite the coverage as dead people festivals do. Will we ever see a festival of, let’s say, art that brings the whole country to a halt? That gets the attention of the VIPs? That sees parades and concerts all around the country?

OK, we have a country, we have freedom. Very well. Many people don’t. But what do we do with it? Where are our talents of music, drama, comedy, architecture, science, literature, management, politics… etc.? Why doesn’t our system encourage creative people to do great things? Things we can be really proud of. Things we can see as real and present achievements. Where is the innovative music and style? Architecture that makes an impression. Experimental media… outstanding performances… We don’t let our talents flourish, we offer second-hand culture. Half of our television programmes are imports from the UK (while our public television pays millions for substandard soaps), most of what is shown in cinemas is American, while the music in our iPods is half British half American. The things our system and our people create don’t even appeal to ourselves, so no wonder we don’t feel proud of our creativity.

Is the past is the only area of greatness in our minds? We must stop living in the past in order to move on.

It is very difficult for Polish people to ever dare to see things this way. We are raised with certain patterns of thinking, we are socialised to certain myths, and most of our schooling concentrates on preserving our National sentiments; sentiments for partitions, war, and communism. We are manipulated into the romantic notions that surround Nation. Analysing the past we take sides and engage emotionally, instead of remaining cool observers. Television programmes, papers and books are filled with sweet-like-sugar pictures of heroes. Pictures people seem to fall for, but these are pictures I never believed. For I know life, and things are always complicated and people are full of passions and fears, truths and lies, and are never one-dimensional. We are manipulated into being hysterically Polish. Like our parents. And their parents. This leads our schooling to neglect the practicalities of life, like communication skills, tolerance, organisation, work ethics – which cost us so much trouble… Is remembering really the main task of the Polish people? Shouldn’t we primarily concentrate on developing some other qualities?

We, the people of Poland, remember our history too much, too often, we try to hard, we concentrate on it too much. We put too much emphasis, and heart, into it.

Furthermore: history and common experiences (war, pain, victories over enemies, lashes from greater powers) are a feature of a discourse that talks about Nation. And Nation talking always shifts our focus from everyday things – Nation serves romantic high purposes. Nation talk also excludes non-Poles.
I would prefer our present focus to be on the inhabitants of Poland, and their happiness. Inhabitants you will note, is a broader notion than Nation. It doesn’t exclude anyone.

Another things is that the national remembrance excitement is becoming obligatory, and I really hate when I’m being told what to think and what to feel. Just as “Słowacki was a great poet”.

“If you’re Polish and you know it,
And you really want to show it,
If you’re Polish and you know it,
Clap your hands (Clap, Clap).”

I hate these never ending celebrations of dead people. As someone said, Poland is ruled by coffins. And the coffins that rule Poland and the minds of people of this country are both the coffins of great Polish people, and of Polish victims.

But the worst thing is that all those celebrations strengthen the wrong parts of Polish thinking. They concentrate on the past, on finding those guilty for all that present Poland lacks… And provide a good excuse. An excuse that we are never reluctant to use when something substandard is pointed at. An excuse that comes very handy to all those lazy bastards who complain and complain but won’t lift a finger to change anything. I always say this to people: nothing will change itself, you have to make it happen. If you don’t like something, like for instance the slow pace in which roads are being built: associate with others who share similar opinion, create a pressure group, influence the government. That’s how democracy works. Decision makers will not take notice of you unless they have to.

And I hate to hear all those hypocrites who one moment criticize everything about Poland, and the Polish people, and then suddenly on another occasion, praise such remembrance occasions. So you celebrate the existence of this failed state that disappoints you so much? Why should you celebrate something you don’t like? Something that you never felt good with, something that causes you only headache and embarrassment?

Stop! Wake up people! We are alive, why don’t start living for eff’s sake? Concentrating on the present and the future. On work and fun.

* * *

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,