Today is Poland’s 100th anniversary of regaining its independence after 123 years under foreign Partition. The date was November 11, 1918, when the occupying Russian, Prussian, and Austrian empires collapsed in wake of WWI and withdrew their garrisons from Partitioned territory. History’s Great Man, Józef Pilsudski, stepped into the chaos and claimed himself the head of the reborn Polish state. Two years later, he led Poland to a decisive victory over the invading Soviet army, ending Lenin’s plan to capture Berlin and start a Europe-wide communist revolution.
This year’s Independence March almost didn’t work out. Just three days before the event, Warsaw’s mayor Hanna Gronkiewicz-Waltz, member of the pro-EU opposition party, revoked nationalists’ demonstration permit but thankfully courts overturned her ban at the eleventh hour. Last year’s march broke national records for largest crowds, at 60,000. This year’s estimates are upward of 200,000. Here are scenes from today, see the video below:
- 0:01 – Chanting “Honor and glory to the heroes!” The heroes being saluted are national martyrs in general, Armia Krajowa partisants in particular.
- 0:05 – Chanting “God! Honor! Fatherland!”
- 0:12 – Camera pulls back and you see members of Italy’s nationalist party Forza Nuova among Poland’s National Radical Camp (ONR) members. ONR’s flag is green with the stylized arm holding a sword.
- 0:15 – Poland’s president Andrzej Duda addresses the nationalists right there on the street:
“I wish you a successful celebration. Long live Poland. Long live the free, independent, sovereign Republic. Honor and glory to the heroes!”
Subsequently, more footage of ONR and FN participants.
- 1:00 – Cut to another part of the march, the singing of the national anthem.
- 1:18 – Footage of various parts of the march.
The remaining minute of the video shows as the evening darkens the sky and there are various scenes with absolutely lovely capture of ordinary people marching. November is cold and miserable in Poland, best kind of weather. The 2016 Independence March was pounded by sleet. Yet it looks warm, with so many patriots marching together.
I watched a Polish talk panel discuss the event. It was a friendly discussion with Krzysztof Bosak, one of the organizers of the march. He’s the young man with the blue necktie who does most of the talking during the first twelve minutes. As I learned, Bosak is a former member of parliament, now leader of National Movement, an umbrella organization of various right wing populist groups, including ONR.
I’m translating a bit of what he said:
I can’t emphasize enough, how many obstacles were thrown at us in the run-up to this march. And yet, this year’s march was more impressive than ever. There were scores of delegations from other countries. I spent a long time today with a Catholic journalist from the United States, who was tremendously impressed with everything he saw. [Laughs] Contrary to the American embassy, which had issued warning about this event, he never felt threatened. He simply felt wonderful, walking with Poles who were demonstrating their patriotism. Even when he saw some of the nationalist groups that the foreign media call extremist.
Later he says:
I think that all members of All-Poland Youth, of National Radical Camp, from Independence March Association, from National Movement, understand that it just so happens, that we carry the burden of organizing the best, the largest patriotic demonstration in Europe.
Before he leaves after the 12 minute mark, Bosak goes over some insider-politics stuff that took place in the lead-up to the march, including the Warsaw mayor’s revocation of nationalists’ permit to march and the legal negotiations that rapidly took place that led to reinstating their permit. He concludes:
Simply put, the Nationalist community is a community of mature, competent people who know what their aspirations are and are capable of bringing them to realization.