Before playing it, I thought that this was one of many videos of Warsaw schoolchildren and teens performing the haunting song “White Eagle.” I featured that song in its original recording by Natalia Sikora here, where I also provided the lyrics. The song is a salute to the youngest fighters of the 1944 Warsaw Uprising. It is specifically about the 11-year-old Wojtek Zalewski, who saved his entire platoon and was killed in action six days later. The song is in slow tempo like a funeral march.
The chorus that begins just after the 1:30 mark is a soaring counterpoint to the somber verses. There are many covers and performances of that song, but this one is a bit different because as I learned, it’s performed by the ethnic-Polish community in Lithuania:
Playing this video for the first time, I noticed the unusual accent right away. It’s known as zaciąganie, or the eastern drawl. The way to understand the difference, is that standard Polish has a crisp sound to the foreign ear, while Russian sounds melodious. Similarly, the eastern-borderlands Polish has that Russian-like softness of sound. Two examples, from the spoken verse delivered by the little girl after the 2:00 mark. My first example is the word “dzieci,” which means “children” (nominative case). Standard Polish pronunciation is JEh-chi. The eastern drawl is more like DYEh-tsee. The second example is “ciepłej,” which means “warm” (feminine-singular, locative case). Standard Polish sounds like CHEP-way. The eastern drawl is more like SYEP-lay.
There is a lot I like in the choreography here. Love the link between generations, expressed through the older boys’ holding the younger children by the hand. Protective, fraternal. And as to people-watching, the teenage boy wearing the long coat catches my eye as having a trustworthy physiognomy. He steps forward after 2:00, when the girl finishes reciting her verse and hands him the mic. He’s the type I call “gentle giant” — a big young man with a baby face. I associate the type with loyalty and strong character.
There are 164,000 ethnic Poles in Lithuania, legacy of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth of the 16th century. Most live in Vilnius and southeast of the city along the Belarussian border. Some are descendants of landowning Poles who settled the region centuries ago, others are descendants of polonized Lithuanians and Ruthenians. Lithuania, in fact, plays a huge role in 19th century Polish Romanticism and national heritage in general. Highights:
- The joint Polish-Lithuanian Jagiellonian Dynasty and its victory over the Teutonic Order at the Battle of Grunwald (1410).
- Poland’s national epic Sir Thaddeus (1811) begins with an invocation to Lithuanian countryside as the muse.
- Poland’s greatest modern statesman Józef Piłsudski (1867 – 1935) came from a polonized aristocratic Lithuanian family.
- Poland’s arguably-greatest modern writer and poet Czesław Miłosz (1911 – 2004) was of Polish and Lithuanian origins. His writing is animated by the spirit of what he calls his true homeland, the Lithuanian countryside of his youth.
The schoolchildren’s performance of “White Eagle” above: does this arrangement, in particular the intro, pay homage to Zbigniew Preisner’s score to Dekalog V? The theme of the fifth installment of the Krzysztof Kieślowski’s Dekalog series is, after all, “Thou Shalt Not Kill.”
I visited Lithuania not-quite twenty years ago. Anecdotes for another time perhaps. My knowledge of English helped me communicate where you’d expect it would: in tourism centers. I studied the basic courtesies and useful phrases in Lithuanian prior to my trip, which also came in handy. With an older taxi driver who took me from a train station to the Hill of Crosses, I communicated in my rudimentary Russian; he’d have grown up during the Soviet years, when every captive nation had that language drilled into its young. But in Vilnius, to my surprise, I was able to communicate with almost everyone in Polish. Same grammar and vocabulary as mine, just the difference between our respective accents.
… The title of this post. Micronations. To me it is as clear as it was to Miłosz, that his native realm in that corner of the world is a nation onto itself.* His hostility to Polish nationalism before and during WWII was not a function of his youthful Leftism. It was, as I see it, the provincial patriot’s wariness of the empire and its capital, Warsaw.
(*I am not advocating separatism in Lithuania. As far as I know, the country’s Polish minority has good relations with the majority, and stalwartly supported Lithuanian independence from the Soviet Union.)
Northeastern Italian-Americans and Appalachian mountain men are micronations in the United States. In Poland there are the Kashubian people along the Baltic coast and Highlanders in the Tatra Mountains. Though they speak an intelligible Polish dialect, Silesians in southwestern Poland did not consider themselves to be Poles prior to WWII, and they have a separatist movement. In eastern Germany, Sorbs are a Slavic language group; Bavarians and the Hochdeutsche Nordic Germans don’t strike me as having a whole lot in common aside from language. Just a few examples.
We on the national Right shouldn’t ignore the distinction between larger national identities and regional micronations. As the devil of our day pushes for the ugliest common denominator through abolishing the differences among peoples, so the remedy is more respect for those differences, on down the scale. Kinship and integrity to weather the globalist storm.