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A Brief history of Poland


10-31-2018
ostatnia aktualizacja 10-31-2018, 13:43

Our Veterans Day on November 11th invokes the end of World War I. For the Poles November 11this their Independence Day. In 2018 Poland celebrates its centennial.



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No, Poland is not 100 years old. On November 11, 1918, Poland proclaimed its return to the world scene as an independent state. It also affirmed the continuity of its history: almost 900 years of its statehood, nearly a millennium of Christianity, and several thousands of years marking the presence of its people in the area around the Vistula River.

To tell the story chronologically, DNA research suggests that the denizens of contemporary Poland descend from Eurasian settlers who originated in the Iranian plateau but put their roots down between the Vistula and Bug rivers some 3,000 years ago or more. A seminal watershed in Poland’s history was its Christianization in 966. That year also marks the official entry of the Polish state into the ranks of bona fide Christian European duchies. It became a kingdom in 1025.

The medieval Crown of Poland eventually grew into the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth (14th to 18th centuries), which was the largest, most powerful, and freest nation in Europe. Kings and parliaments were elective.

Over one million citizens had a vote and it was pre-modern times. It exceeded in number and freedom both Greek democracy and Roman Republic. Habeus corpus applied since 1436; no taxation without representation was enshrined in thecon- stitution since 1505; and freedom of conscience, not only for Christians but also for Jews and Muslims from 1573. The Commonwealth of Poland-Lithuania, the Rzeczpospolita, was partitioned by its predatory neighbors: Russia, Prussia, and Austria (1772, 1793, and, finally, 1795.)The Poles never reconciled themselves with the loss of freedom. They rose up in arms mul- tiple times at home and they fought abroad from Europe through North and Latin America. From 1918 to 1921 they fought seven border wars, including defeating the Red Army to stop the spread of Communism. Unfortunately, in September 1939, after a brief interlude of twenty years, Hitler and Stalin destroyed the Polish state as World War II broke out. Poland was driven under- ground, where its resistance units fought against both the Nazis and Communists. Abroad, the Polish army-in-exile never wavered in the service of the Allied cause.

In 1944-1945, the Red Army pushed the Wehrmacht out of Poland. There was no liberation: red totalitarianism replaced the brown one, Stalin substituted for Hitler. An anti-Communistinsur- gency persisted into the 1950s. Later, the Poles turned largely to non-violent struggle. From 1980 to 1989 “Solidarity” led the greatest charge for freedom. It prevailed and, eventually, Poland became a sovereign state and a parliamentary democracy once more.

Thus, November 11, 2018, Poland’s Independence Day, encapsulates the effort of Polish generations to be free.

Marek Jan Chodakiewicz
16 September 2018

 
  
 
 

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