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The Warsaw Voice » Other » November 5, 2008
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Poznań: Roots of Polish History and Culture
November 5, 2008   
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Poznań is a must-see for all who want to explore Polish history and culture in the place that gave birth to them. "This is where Poland started," said Pope John Paul II during a visit to Poznań. And this is where it has survived, despite constant adversity. For over 1,000 years Poznań has been the birthplace of ideas radiating across the country and shaping the Polish national identity.

Ten centuries ago, Poznań was the first seat of the Polish rulers. In nearby Gniezno, Prince Mieszko I built his palace and probably was converted to Christianity in 966. This was a major turning point in the history of Poland, which became a part of Christian Europe and a full-fledged player on the political arena. The first Polish bishopric was founded and the first cathedral was built in Poznań. The cathedral became the burial site for kings and princes.

Nearly 1,000 years later, the city witnessed an event that had a significant impact on not only Poland, but Europe. In 1956, Poznań workers staged the country's first protest against the communist authorities. It was the starting point for the transformation that resulted in the collapse of communism across Eastern Europe more than three decades later. The protest was crushed by the military and claimed many lives. For the first time, the world was witness to the brutality of life behind the Iron Curtain.

As Poland's marks its Independence Day Nov. 11, it is worth mentioning another event that took place in Poznań. In 1918, when World War I ended, Poles were promised a free and independent homeland, after more than 100 years of foreign occupation. But there was one catch: Germany refused to relinquish the Wielkopolska region, so while Warsaw was back in the hands of a Polish government, Poznań was still answerable to Berlin. Poznań residents staged an uprising that lasted for several weeks and ended with success; the Germans were persuaded to sign an extension of the Allied-German armistice that included Wielkopolska, which was absorbed into Poland. Thus, the cradle of the Polish state returned to a reborn Poland. This year we are celebrating the 90th anniversary of the uprising.

Many of these historical sites can be visited on a special tourist trail, the Royal-Imperial Route, that emphasizes the unique character and history of Poznań. It recalls those important moments that have become part of the national history, particularly those that remind us that this is where Poland started... and survived.

Ryszard Grobelny, Mayor of Poznań
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