Independence Day Commemorations
In Poland, this date has a special significance. This day commemorated Poland’s recovery of its independence after 150 years of having been partitioned by three powers and erased from the world map.
By no means did this date close the period of struggle for Poland’s independence. After twenty years, the Poles again found themselves under German and Soviet occupation. Therefore, Independence Day also commemorates in Poland other, future historic events.
Unveiling of the Commemorative Plaque Honoring the “Doomed Soldiers”
On Thursday, 10 November, on the eve of Poland’s Independence Day, President Andrzej Duda unveiled a commemorative plaque on one of the pillars of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, dedicated to the memory of the Doomed Soldiers. Defence Minister Antoni Macierewicz also participated in the ceremony.
“There would be no independence, which we’ve regained in 1989, 1990, if it had not been for the efforts by the Doomed Soldiers,” said President Andrzej Duda during the ceremony. “Today, when the memory of the Doomed Soldiers is restored to the collective memory of Poles, we bow our heads in the memory of all the heroes of Polish independence. (…) This independence would not have happened, had it not been for their bravery, because this memory, which was erased by the Soviet State by the hands of those established in post-war Poland by them, remained with the people. Because Poles, those who wanted to live in a free Poland, those who supported the Doomed Soldiers remembered their heroism,” said President Andrzej Duda
Defence Minister Antoni Macierewicz in his speech recalled the words of the Polish National Anthem: “Poland has not yet perished, so long as we live,” which, like no other words, as emphasized the head of the Defence Minister, “have accompanied us through the years and shape our thoughts, our conscience, our national identity. One could say that this couplet accompanied the Polish nation for a long time. From the time when Poland lost its independence, the anthem as a source of inspiration embodied the ultimate dream to its recovery, the highest good. It became what the Poles prayed for and what our nation fought for. (…) This couplet carries with it the essence of Polish patriotism, and so the conviction that the independence of Poland, our Homeland is such a great good that it is worth sacrificing one’s life for it. But also, that as long as we have a spark of life in ourselves, we will tirelessly fight for the independence of the Polish nation. And each enemy, each opponent, must know that the Poles will not rest in their fight for their independence. (…) There is no better, more dominant testimony of this Polish trait as was the fight, the struggle of the Doomed Soldiers. They showed that as long as the spirit lives on in the Poles, their fight will continue and will be effective.”
Taps are the last bugle call at night blown as a signal that lights are to be put out and also signaling a march, often with torches of a military unit or other organization through the streets of the city on the eve of important events. Thus, the evening’s commemoration was attended by, among others, representatives of the Office of the President of the Republic of Poland, Polish Armed Forces command representatives, veterans, veterans of foreign missions, schoolchildren and scouts.
“There are two dates in recent Polish history, modern Polish history, which not only historians, but also Poles cannot ignore or be indifferent to. It is the date of the terrible, incomprehensible act that one just cannot accept, the date of the fall of the Polish State. The time, when parliamentarians of the Republic, by their own votes, though due to foreign bayonets, but nonetheless with their own votes, allowed for the eradication of our Homeland from the world map. And so it was. And one needs to keep this terrible deed always in mind, so that this could never happen again. And also this second date, whose memory we honor today. The symbolic date of 11 November, when the Polish State after years of suffering, struggle, effort, blood, sometimes hopelessly picking up arms, sometimes experiencing breakdowns, finally rose again,” stressed the Minister of National Defence during the taps.
The 11 November Ceremonies
In the framework of the 11 November Independence Day commemorations, various events were held attended by government officials and the military. These events occurred at a few separate venues.
In the morning hours, at the Temple of Divine Providence in Wilanów, a Holy Mass was celebrated with an accompanying Act of Thanksgiving and Trust in Divine Providence. The service was attended by the highest State dignitaries, including among others, President Andrzej Duda, the Marshals of the Sejm and Senate Marek Kuchcinski and Stanisław Karczewski, Prime Minister Beata Szydło and Deputy Minister of National Defence Prof. Wojciech Fałkowski.
At 10:20 a.m., President Andrzej Duda and Prime Minister Beata Szydło, together with a delegation, laid a wreath before the monument of Marshal Józef Piłsudski, near the Belvedere Palace.
Afterwards, decoration ceremonies were held at the Belvedere.
At 12:00 noon, in front of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, a ceremonial roll call and changing of the guard took place, and at 1:00 p.m., a wreath was laid at the foot of the monument to Marshal Józef Piłsudski.
The Minister of National Defence, together with Prime Minister Beata Szydło and other politicians took part in the Independence Day commemorations organized in Kraków. The celebration began with a Holy Mass at the Cathedral on Wawel Hill. After the Holy Mass, politicians gave their tribute to Marshal Józef Piłsudski and Lech and Maria Kaczyński, resting in the Crypts of the Wawel Cathedral.