Friday, November 11, 2011

Polish Independence Day

Today is Polish Independence Day,
known in the native language as
Narodowe Święto Niepodległości.  

Jasna Gora Monastery, Czestochowa

When my grandmother was born in June of 1900, the country of Poland did not exist.  Yes, of course, the land was there (smile), but the name depended on the geographical region—Prussia, Austria, Russia, Germany.  After a lifetime of hearing that my grandma was born in Poland, I was initially stunned to see my dad’s birth certificate declare that she was from Germany!  Of course, now I know better.  But this shows the enormous impact that historical events can have on our genealogy research. 

Close-up of Battle of Vienna banner, Krakow

Poland has a long, complex political and military history, and the borders moved frequently.  The process of achieving independence was gradual to say the least.  November 11 marks the final separation of Poland from its Russian, Prussian and Austrian neighbors.  This national holiday has had a few celebration dates; it was finally moved to November 11 in 1989.   Just like July 4 is to Americans, November 11 is one of the most important celebrations for all Poles, whether in the homeland or abroad. 
Outside Wawel Castle, Krakow

When I visited Poland in September 2008, the city of Krakow was decorated with beautiful, colorful banners.  At the time, we didn't know their purpose. 
I've since learned that these decorations were to commemorate the 325th anniversary of Krakow's victory in the Battle of Vienna. Poland's Discovery Channel sponsored many of the decorations, to be used in re-enactment scenes.  

Krakow's Historic District

While recalling the past, I think these photos also show the beauty in an independent Poland today.
Main Square, Krakow

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