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The Warsaw Voice » Other » November 5, 2008
INDEPENDENCE DAY
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90 Years of Independence
November 5, 2008   
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The Poles are not original-like so many other nations, they see themselves as being exceptional. We have our special qualities distinguishing us from others because we had a unique history. You can hear the same from the Ukrainians, the Russians and the Lithuanians, from the Italians, the French, the Irish and the Basques, if we limit ourselves to Europe. Actually, all nations had a special history which, combined with other factors, served to develop their unique qualities.

And that's probably how it is. You can understand little of the behaviors and attitudes of people, both groups and individuals, unless you learn about their past. Without their history people seem to be like puppets moving across the stage of life without rhyme or reason, without cause, sense or motive, propelled only by a primitive immediacy and shortsighted goals.

Ninety years ago Poland regained its independence. It happened recently, almost yesterday; three, four generations ago. Quite a sizable group is still alive who welcomed that moment as individuals who were fully conscious of what was happening. The trauma of losing one's own country, the constant account-settling and pointing at those who were to blame, dramatic attempts to regain independence, have been a central theme of the last 90 years. All of Polish culture, all Polish conversations, many Polish collective and individual decisions, also the process of raising children and shaping their awareness, were marked by this motif. Freedom, statehood, independence were put on a pedestal. They became a myth and a goal; one that turned out to be achievable though in a sense unattainable. We regained our independence de facto three times: in 1918, in 1945 and in 1989. Each time, we had our reservations about it, some justified more, some less.

But, we have our independence. If it's imperfect, this is on a par with our own imperfection. If it's limited, this is on a par with the circumstances of the modern world. If it's wise-this is on a par with our own wisdom.

The trauma of losing one's own country, the constant account-settling and pointing at those who were to blame, dramatic attempts to regain independence, have been a central theme
of the last 90 years.

Andrzej Jonas
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