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The Warsaw Voice » Other » September 30, 2009
From the Editor-in-Chief
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Worth Remembering
September 30, 2009   
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Poland, like other countries, has recently been the scene of a fierce battle over history.

Various states, political groups and groups of citizens pursue policies whereby they interpret history in a specific way. Such a policy is followed with full determination to serve a specific purpose. The main instrument is historical facts and the way in which they are highlighted and interpreted. The battle is waged not only over facts but also over the language used to describe them-there are even skirmishes over single words.

Even if we distance ourselves from such practices we should not forget about the past, erase it from our memory or deny the old Latin expression historia magistra vitae est, which means history is life's teacher-or another saying, no less accurate, that "those who forget the past have no future."

A year of momentous anniversaries-the 50 years of the European Union; the 20 years since the "Autumn of Nations," as the 1989 democratic changes in Central Europe, which began in Poland, are sometimes referred to; the 10 years since Poland joined NATO; and the five years since Poland joined the European Union-is coming to a close. Both globally and from the Polish perspective, we are dealing with a road from the past to the future, with a series of milestones along the way. There is a close relationship between them. If the European Coal and Steel Community had not come into existence 50 years ago as a result of the tragic experience of World War II and previous wars-proof of the victory of a new philosophy in European politics and the bedrock on which the united Europe of today has been built-we would not have any of these anniversaries.

Epoch-making events never come in isolation-they are all closely connected. Poland certainly does not stand on the sidelines of historical events. It has benefited from them and shaped them as well. If it had not been for the Solidarity movement, the 1989 Round Table talks, the first partially free parliamentary election in the Soviet bloc and the first noncommunist government in the Soviet sphere of influence, history would have taken a different course.

This year has witnessed yet another important anniversary, a tragic one-the 70th anniversary of the outbreak of World War II. On Sept. 1, 1939, Poland was invaded by Germany and on Sept. 17 Soviet troops crossed the Polish border.

History is life's teacher. Optimistically, the word "teacher" is oriented toward the future. Not even the best lessons can change the past. But they can change the future-if only we are diligent and if we learn our lessons together, rather than apart or against each other.
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