comment Expresses the opinion of the writer.
Everyone knew, of course, that it was August 1 – the anniversary of the 1944 anti-German uprising in Warsaw.
But on this day, the loud sirens were a signal that the threat from the east was becoming more real and dangerous. Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki made it clear that the Polish Armed Forces had already been sent to protect the Swalski Pass from possible attacks or provocations by Wagner’s soldiers.
So it was about an alleged threat that nearly a hundred Russian mercenaries could enter the 100-kilometer isthmus between Lithuania and Poland – a threat the Russians relied on to transport goods and equipment to the important port city of Kaliningrad.
If Suwalski were captured by the Russians, the three Baltic states would be simultaneously cut off from land communication with Poland.
But such a move would simultaneously trigger Article 5 of the NATO treaty, and is therefore not a particularly likely scenario – from the viewpoint of other member states.
But Warsaw nonetheless sharpened its tone over the weekend, when Prime Minister Morawiecki appeared on CNN and threatened a complete closure of the border with Belarus.
Over the years, I’ve talked a lot with many Polish friends and acquaintances about the fact that the country actually falls under the NATO umbrella, and I’ve often wondered about the professed fear of military aggression from the bear.
The answer was always – and still is – a wry smile. Real Poles do not count on beautiful promises from abroad. Their Western allies have often failed them. And no one has forgotten the history books – and the tales of their grandmothers – for hundreds of years of oppression and exploitation on the Russian side.
“Here, they are, according to my father, the three greatest liars and criminals in the history of the world,” said my Polish comrade through Kraków—pointing to the full picture in the Museum of the Resistance.
She referred to Joseph Stalin, Winston Churchill and Franklin D. Roosevelt — the same men she knew in school who saved Europe from German Nazism. However, that story was missing an important element:
Poland never became free after World War II – but for the next 45 years it was a satellite state of the Soviet Union under a communist regime.
The bombing of cathedrals is a very strong signal
At that time in August 1944, the Nazi bombs attacked all over the occupied capital by resistance fighters of all ages.
Homemade bombs and grenades rained down on all representatives of Hitler’s army and on every corner armed grandmothers and / or young children waited with mortal contempt for German soldiers.
The Polish Interior Forces – the Armia Krajowa (AK) – expected help from the Red Army, which by this time had reached the other side of the Wisła River.
However, orders came from the Kremlin that the generals should leave their troops stationary. From Joseph Stalin’s point of view, it was better to exterminate the brave heroes of the Polish resistance. Because they represented, after all, a bourgeois movement which it was only fair to get rid of.
The result of this Soviet mockery was the loss of 200,000 Polish lives, and Warsaw was subsequently laid in ruins. When the Poles laid down their arms after 63 days, the Germans could have recorded a loss of 26,000 soldiers.
The Red Army did not enter the city until January of the following year.
At the Museum of Resistance in Warsaw hang portraits of Stefan Olkosnik, a young officer who, after fighting in 1940, fell under the AK banner, went underground and carried out resistance work until his part of Poland was liberated by the Red Army in January. 1945.
Immediately arrested, he was accused of bourgeois and nationalist activities – and with others in a similar situation deported to hard labor in a camp deep in Ukraine.
When he was allowed to go home after one year, Olkosnik was so exhausted by hunger, violence, disease, and other hardships that his family and friends did not recognize him.
The fate of the man is used as a symbol for the hundreds of thousands of Poles who died over the centuries from forced labor in such inhumane penal colonies.
The real catastrophe for the country began at the end of the 18th century, when Austria, Prussia, and Russia repeatedly invaded parts of Poland.
Finally, Russia and the German Kingdom of Prussia divided the rest between themselves. For the next 200 years, the country will become a colony under the Three Nations.
The worst of all was the condition of the population in the Russian-controlled part. But the Prussians were not famous for their particularly humane treatment of their subjects. When the tsar’s tax collectors went too far, or when the managers of large estates treated their Polish peasants with excessive brutality, they periodically protested.
All of these rebellions were severely crushed, ringleaders killed and crowds of sympathizers shipped east for hard slave labor.
Let’s win the enmity of a dictatorial war criminal
After the First World War, the victorious powers decided that the Poles should return their land.
They demanded that the borders be placed where they were before, to which the Soviet Bolsheviks did not agree. When Lenin sent large forces to capture Warsaw in 1920, things went completely wrong for the Russians – who were stopped and defeated by the Poles.
The loss of human life on both sides amounted to several hundred thousand, but the young republic was saved from ending up as part of the new Soviet Union.
In 1939, the country was attacked from the west by Hitler’s armies. It may turn out that the non-aggression pact between Stalin and Hitler – concluded two months earlier – also contained a secret clause that the two dictators would divide Poland between them.
After the Germans occupied most of the country, the Red Army moved in and captured the eastern half.
The Polish officers who were in the Soviet section were sent as prisoners of war. When the Red Army wanted to set up its own units with Polish soldiers two years later, it soon became apparent that at least 20,000 officers were missing.
The Germans found many of them in mass graves in the Katyn Forest near Smolensk. They were all killed by shots to the neck.
Stalin responded to accusations of mass murder that the officers had fallen victim to the Germans. The Poles quickly realized what had really happened – and the Polish government-in-exile in London broke off all diplomatic contacts with Moscow.
Polish forces—along with the hundreds of thousands who fled their homeland to fight Hitler—engaged in some of the war’s biggest and worst battles. It began in Narvik, where half a brigade and two battleships were active in attempts to throw the Germans overboard – or chase them back to Sweden.
Battle of Britain
Polish RAF fighter pilots take a large part of the credit for the British winning a fierce air battle over Britain in the summer of 1940. Had the RAF lost, the Germans likely could have crossed the Channel and occupied the entire island.
Perhaps they themselves believed that a valiant war effort would mean that the heads of government of the Western Allies would offer a suitable reward in the form of a free and independent state.
Instead, Poland ended up on that side of the “iron curtain” on the map of Europe that was to fall in the coming decades under the yoke of the Soviets. The country was run by local communists, who were little more than vassals of their bosses in the Kremlin.
Solbakken will never forget the match: – I don’t think I’ll ever have an experience like this again
But the Poles did not flock to the party, and they bowed their heads to the new rulers only if necessary.
The Church came – again – to play a central role as the center of Polish nationalism and patriotism.
In 1970 the port workers went on strike, and in the following years the Poles managed to force the regime to allow free trade union movements. Many historians give them this right, when they claim that nowadays the “Polish Pope” – that is, John Paul II – played an important role in the collapse of the Soviet Union.
(It is worshiped nowadays as one of the most important national shrines in the country.)
The walls fell, and Poland was the first former vassal state where democratic elections were actually held in the summer of 1989.
The fledgling democracy faltered with bizarre parties and countless politicians who took advantage of the system for their own enrichment. But they – for the most part – all agreed that it would not be fast enough to build a serious defense – and thus firmly anchor the country in the European Union and NATO.
While we Norwegians reduced the army and annually cut the defense budget, the Poles went the other way.
News studio: The war in Ukraine
Eight years ago, I joined a group of young people marching from the city of Katowice.
They were between 30 and 40 men in their 20s and 30s who met this way every weekend. The rally opened with a 30 kilometer march, where everyone had to carry a minimum of 25 kilos of weight in a backpack.
The rest of the weekend was spent on shooting drills and other military exercises. There are many special guerrilla groups in the country, and most of them belong to a network belonging to the country’s entire defense.
(By the way, scouts also take an active part in this.)
They did not hide that it was about preparing for a possible attack from Russia.
And if the enemy appeared, the attackers could count on a warm welcome even in the smallest village. But what about the fifth paragraph, I wanted to know.
At first the company commander laughed out loud. Soon the entire crew followed, who gradually laughed in unison. They all sat in the school with their ears open when Polish history was being taught – and had no illusions.
False information – or a deliberate leak of the most important secrets?
Of course, what worries Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki most these days is not the threat of a major Russian offensive across the border with Belarus or attempts to seize the Suwalski Pass.
But 135 well-trained Wagner soldiers could bypass barbed wire and commit sabotage and violence – disguised, for example, as the work of pro-Russian “resistance groups”.
Wagner is the Waffen SS
In other words, a dangerous game.
Nobody really believes that Putin would take the opportunity to provoke an open war against a NATO country – and therefore against all of Poland’s allies.
Constantly making undisguised threats and giving historical lectures on the relationship between the two countries, the Russian bully knows full well that it would be a costly adventure for him to criticize the Poles.
But they still allow themselves to be teased, when Putin’s history teacher knocks his swords and gives his absurd explanations with more or less thinly veiled threats.
Countless families can tell of generations of grandparents – and mothers – who suffered harsh injustices under the Russian/Soviet regimes – not to mention the hundreds of thousands who never returned from the infamous labor camps in Siberia.
For them, this is dangerous.
It is not surprising that even high-ranking politicians resort to the sticky stick – allowing themselves to be provoked by anything that might sound like a threat to the motherland.
Currently, the debate in the country is heavily influenced by the impending elections in October. There is a lot at stake for the conservative patriotic PiS government, and party leader Jaroslav Kaczynski appears to be becoming increasingly desperate – failing to get large numbers of voters to slide down his “direction”.
But the opposition in the country is deeply divided, so many observers remain deeply skeptical that Kaczynski and his people can be overthrown.
In any case, in the next few weeks we are likely to account for more frenzy in the campaign and domestic politics.
Otherwise, the relationship with Russia is not a major campaign topic.
Because at least all sides seem to be in complete agreement on these matters:
Deep distrust of Moscow – and Putin’s true intentions.
Fear that Poland will again be beset by war – with millions of casualties, just as the last time Poland was attacked by an aggressive neighbour.
The people of “Chuj Putin” are still shouting in the streets of Krakow and other Polish cities, as they pass groups of Ukrainian refugees, carrying flags and banners, and collecting money in the streets for the resistance in their homeland.
It means “Putin is an idiot”.
This is how it can also be expressed.
“Organizer. Social media geek. General communicator. Bacon scholar. Proud pop culture trailblazer.”