Poland – a European, modern & friendly place

Monika at work forwarded the link to these videos, both of which are interesting in their own way. Both were created specially for the Shanghai Expo. And they thought the commies were masters of propaganda.

After watching this one for a while I began to wonder if there was another country called Poland other than the one I live in because I didn’t recognise the place! I think the one in the video is in a parallel universe where everyone is made of plasticine.

They do a neat job of making Poland appear to be the largest country in Europe outstripping the rest of the EU by miles. Half of Europe is Poland! This is done by spinning seamlessly from the EU as a whole to limiting the data to just the newest member states. “Thanks to natural resources, Poland is very independent…” are all these fights with Russia about gas and the constant threats of running out of electricity just a joke then? Playing fast and lose with the word “very” I think. “Poland aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions”, sure it does, so do I.

It correctly highlights the fact that very important transport routes pass right through Poland but sort of avoids the fact that Poland is doing bugger all to make these routes suitable for anything more than donkeys – despite being the largest recipient of EU funds by 2013. Poland’s neighbours are mostly EU countries, I suppose is correct but does rather ignore the very significant and slightly dodgy neighbours to the East.

Can’t work out the narrators accent. Seems to be “Robotic BBC Voiceover”.

This next one most of you have seen already probably.

The more I watch this the more disappointed I am with it. I’m not sure it really gives anyone who doesn’t already know the history of Poland much of an education. What’s with all the fat guys? I’ve only ever seen about 3 fat guys in the whole of Poland and here there’s one every scene! What’s the scene at 4:10 all about, with the mill owner throwing money at grovelling peasants? Why was Poland partitioned and fell into the chasm? Also, not a single Jew in the whole film – surely something wrong there. Anyway, it’s only 8 minutes and worth watching even if it is pants, sorry PARP.

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47 thoughts on “Poland – a European, modern & friendly place

  1. “sort of avoids the fact that Poland is doing bugger all to make these routes suitable for anything more than donkeys – despite being the largest recipient of EU funds by 2013.”

    Now that is a tad unfair, considering that road system is pretty much one big construction site. Rail has it worse, but there is hope that improvements here will come next.
    Also, current government manages to build a lot more roads in times of crisis than previous managed in times of prosperity…

    Also, while I’m in full agreement that second film is unreadable without background in Polish history and leaves impression that all the Poles did was running around on horses until communism came and built modern country, there is a shot of synagogue there. And of Orthodox church. So there’s token mention.

  2. True about the colours.
    I will defend the styrofoam though. Poland is one of few countries which actually retrofit old buildings to bring them to the XXI century’s energy efficiency standards and styro is the best and cheapest option.

  3. Interesting how both use the visual language of computer games. This seems to have become the default for corporate and national statements.

    I quite like the first one. It errors on the side of optimism, but it would be weird if it didn’t given what it is.

    The second one is mawkish, World of Warcraft, militaristic nonsense. It reduces history to an adolescent fantasy of picturesque tragedy and heroic, blood-spattered triumph over cartoon bad guys. You’d think that a nation with Poland’s history would have a more mature attitude, but the reverse seems to be the case. I can’t believe this is an official national statement. Can you imagine a German or British video like this?

  4. Yes, seen this one already. It’s obviously nowhere near as bombastic as the PARP video in the post, but I still find it disturbingly fetishistic. Why do we need a highly detailed reconstruction of war-damaged Warsaw? What is this trying to tell us? Is it not just feeding a national taste for the romance of martyrdom? Why the romantic background music.

    We know Warsaw was devastated. A lot of places were devastated in WWII: Stalingrad, Hiroshima, Dresden, Berlin, vast areas of London etc. What’s so special about Warsaw?

    The trouble with fetishised, romanticised images like this—again using the visual language of games like Modern Warfare—is that it feeds the kind of simplistic mentality that informs the comments you will find under these videos:

    USA, English and France sold Poland… but were saving your ass… Cowards!!!!

  5. Mawkish – yes, definitely. On the other hand, what would you suggest instead? Someone who doesn’t know the real history of Poland won’t learn much from it. That’s true. I watched the second video again (I’d already seen it) to see whether it is really a militaristic nonsense. The parts showing warcraft are not dominant. I have a feeling that it is your overinterpretation. There are fragments presenting merchants, burghers, workers and peasants (actually, like Scatts, I do not understand that fat nobleman scattering something /money?/ onto the guys wearking in the field), a royal court, a university, Nicolaus Copernicus and Fryderyk Chopin. The question if the German or British would do such a video is, sorry, saying euphemistically, funny. We have a long history of being victims of wrongdoers. The Germans and the British were just wrongdoers themselves. People of good will today cannot imagine a video showing the glory of Cecile Rhodes or Keiser Wilhelm II. Come on, Jamie!

  6. Jamie, the special thing about Warsaw is that this city is ours. I can understand that you don’t feel it.
    Simplistic! Of course. Do you expect the viewers of those videos to be intellectuals? Why?

    OK, you’re right that that feeds some kind of mentality, especially among some youngsters and some politicians who haven’t grown up. On the other hand, let’s not exaggerate. When I was a teenager I read a story about the bombed cathedral in Coventry and this certainly caused hostile feelings against the Germans. Because the Germans were bad guys at that time, weren’t they?

  7. What’s so special about Warsaw ?

    In Warsaw died ~800.000 people. (mostly civilians)

    In the whole UK ~450,700. (383,600 military deaths)

    And now imagine London without the buckingham palace, teh big ben, the tower bridge, the Palace of Westminster, the Westminster Abbey and 85% of the pre war buildings…. then you will realize “what’s so special about Warsaw”.

    And all the Brits and the US gave us, is a cheesy movie

    !!! ha ha.

  8. I find the point that no one will learn Polish history from anything that lasts eight minutes stating the obvious. I’d like to see a clip that long that would achieve that feat. I don’t think that is its purpose either. However, for someone who might be interested in Polish history it gives a number of useful pointers for further research. It is simplistic, granted, but what would you expect from a short clip. It’s also fun to watch. Not everything has to be an Ingmar Bergman movie.

    Although there is a lot of military stuff in it (we did have to fight a lot of wars), the clip also shows how the country came into being, how the borders shifted, and, as Stefan mentioned, you also get a glimpse of Copernicus, Chopin, merchants, traders etc. If you think about it a bit more, it also shows how the Polish diet has improved. We have much fewer fat guys now than in the past.

    And don’t tell me the Brits don’t make similar stuff, even though they certainly are more selective. They won’t talk much about the camps in which they held the Boers during the Boer Wars, or how they colonized North America, but never seem to stop making movies/documentaries/Interviews etc, how they (practically) single handedly defeated the Germans in the Battle of Britain, in Africa, in the battle of the Atlantic, and so on, and so on.

  9. I especially “adore” second movie’s description:

    “Dzieło to, przygotowane pod opieką naukową wybitnego historyka, prof. Henryka Samsonowicza, jest stylowym wizualnym kolażem, który trafi w gusta zarówno wielbicieli wysmakowanej filmowej formy, jak i historycznych purystów.”

    They do live in a fantasy world – don’t they? Baginski does begin to irritate me. A lot. I think he should stick to animating fantasy and sci-fi stories…
    On the other hand I get that squeezing 1000 years of history in 8 minutes is tricky and somehow at the moment I don’t think any other attempt would end better…

  10. The first film is really positive and optimistic, which I quite like actually. No-one would make such a positive promotional film like that in Hungary today (although they might have a few years ago.)

    It does slightly beg the question – if Poland is so great, why do so many Poles emigrate?

    But I am sure someone will leap to correct this misconception of mine.

  11. This is just the other side of the same myth—that Poland was somehow a vast happy playground of moral innocents until the nasty neighbours turned up and spoiled it all. The Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth was a big place, you don’t get hold of vast tracts of land like that by being nice and peaceable.

    Why do we have all this ridiculous flag waving and marching about to celebrate Grunwald? There was no moral high ground in that conflict. It was just the attempted destruction of one state by another for purely economic and political motives. Nothing wrong with that—that’s what the world was like 600 years ago—but don’t try and sell us the idea that Poland was the innocent among nations.

  12. It’s a promotional clip. Of course, it will be optimistic and perky. Every country/company will make one of those when it tries to sell something. When I lived in Africa I saw a few of those telling me what a wonderful country I lived in, even though it was crime ridden hole.

  13. Considering the fact, that both movies were made for Shanghai Expo, then both are just the way they should be…
    After all Expo is a kind of travelling Disneyland. Visitors are families with bunch of kids who came for fun not for deep knowledge… The only goal is to leave a positive impression in the minds of the largest possible group of people.

    As for destroyed Warsaw movie, you know, some people say that everyone should visit Aushwitz once in live in order to feel what true war is about. This movie is in the same category, kind of warning and memento. Besides, maybe if more people will see what was lost, then some projects regarding reconstruction of some historical buildings will be easier to push trough

  14. This just isn’t the case. There hasn’t been a good old-fashioned Nazi bashing war movie made in Britain since the 1960s. The only people clinging to the ‘single-handedly-defeating-the-Germans’ myth are the idiots who inevitably pop up on forums and write “Yeah, Polish 303 squadron best in the world saved your asses!”

    My point is that if the UK or Germany or France made a movie like this, officially approved and for show at an international expo, highlighting their past ‘military glories,’ there would be an international outcry, and quite rightly. Those shifting borders and stirring cavalry charges were the same thing, just a bit further back in history.

    The annoying thing is that most Poles are remarkably level-headed and realistic about their history. The hero- and martyrdom-porn brigade just really annoy me (not that I’m implying you are part of it).

  15. This so isn’t a numbers game.

    Okay, so the Londoners and other Brits who lived through months of terror bombings got off lightly because not so many of them died and Big Ben didn’t get blown up. As always, I forced to concede this point because the numbers don’t add up. It’s true, it was a lovely war full of tea and crumpets and the tens of thousands who died didn’t have families and we never liked most of them anyway.

  16. I grant you that now in Britain and the West generally, the military jingoism is much more toned down than in Poland. It still exists though although on a much less “in your face” level. Poland still has a lot of growing up to do with regards to that, but I think will get there eventually.

    I’d say the lopsided ratio of military vs. non-military focus of the video is a result of the fact it’s directed at young and (some) middle aged males (and is made by males too). Admittedly, I quite like that kind of stuff and like the video, but recognize its one-sidedness. Regarding your point about the squadron 303, I also get annoyed when people completely lose the sense of perspective and scream “We cracked the enigma, the Brits got it from us and took all the credit” or “we took the Monte Cassino (after hundreds of soldier from other countries died paving the way for us) and the Brits excluded us from the Victory Parade in 1945” (that actually was shameful).

    Last point. The clip, not surprisingly, doesn’t show our military flops, and there were a few, which is also part of our history. We tend to brush over those events as if the people who fought in those wars/battles were less patriotic or less deserving of recognition.

  17. Of course it is not a numbers game. That’s why you should probably learn more about Warsaw during WWII. Then you will realize why Warsaw is “special”.

    Children in London were evacuated to Scotland. Children in Warsaw were killed by German rifle butts. In London the bombs were blind and did not really create much damage. In Warsaw the Germans systematically destroyed the most important buildings and pieces of art and culture.

    Read the letters of german soldiers,

    http://www.warsawuprising.com/witness/schenk.htm

    Then a SS unit arrived. They looked strange. They had no ranks on their uniforms and reeked of vodka. They attacked instantly screaming hooorrraaay and were dying by dozens. Their commander dressed in a black leather coat was raging in the back pushing his men to attack. A tank arrived. We rushed with the SS troopers behind it. A few meters from the buildings the tank was hit. It exploded and a soldier’s hat flew high up. We ran away again. The second tank was hesitating. We were covering the front as the SS-men were rushing civilians out of their homes and positioning them around the tank, forcing some to sit on the armor. For the first time in my life I saw such a thing. They were speeding up a Polish woman in a long coat. She was holding a little girl in her arms. People crowded on the tank were helping her to climb up. Someone took the girl. When he was handing her back to the mother the tank started moving forward. The child fell down under the tracks and got crushed. The woman was screaming in terror. One of the SS-men frowned and shot the woman in the head. They continued driving. Those who tried to escape were killed by SS-men.”

    “I was setting explosives under big doors, somewhere in Old Town. From inside we heard Nicht schießen! Nicht schießen! (don’t shoot). The doors opened and a nurse appeared with a tiny white flag. We went inside with fixed bayonets. A huge hall with beds and mattresses on the floor. Wounded were everywhere. Besides Poles there were also wounded Germans. They begged the SS-men not to kill the Poles. A Polish officer, a doctor and 15 Polish Red Cross nurses surrendered the military hospital to us. The Dirlewangerers were following us. I hid one of the nurses behind the doors and managed to lock them. I heard after the war that she has survived. The SS-men killed all the wounded. They were breaking their heads with rifle butts. The wounded Germans were screaming and crying in despair. After that, the Dirlewangerers ran after the nurses; they were ripping clothes off them. We were driven out for guard duty. We heard women screaming. In the evening, on Adolph Hitler’s Square [now Piłsudzki Square] there was a roar as loud as during boxing fights. So I and my friend climbed the wall to see what was happening there. Soldiers of all units: Wehrmacht, SS, Kaminski’s Cossacks [ RONA ], boys from Hitlerjugend; whistles, exhortations. Dirlewanger stood with his men and laughed. The nurses from the hospital were rushed through the square, naked with hands on their heads. Blood ran down their legs. The doctor was dragged behind them with a noose on his neck. He wore a rag, red maybe from blood and a thorn crown on top of the head. All were lead to the gallows where a few bodies were hanging already. When they were hanging one of the nurses, Dirlewanger kicked the bricks she was standing on. I couldn’t watch that anymore….

    http://www.warsawuprising.com/witness/stolten.htm

    From a letter to his father, 5 October, 1944
    … The Capitulation was undoubtedly one of the most extraordinary things you can imagine. The reality of it puts all drama, all tragedy into the shade. They came out with fully deserved honours after true heroism in battle. In truth they fought better than we did. What we can learn from it is the following: 1) that nothing sensible can come from this kind of subjugation of an entire nation. Sad but true! 2) we don’t have a monopoly on fortitude, spirit, patriotism, and sacrifice (we can’t take the Poles’ credit away from them). 3) that a city can defend itself for months on end, with much heavier losses on the attacker’s side … and much can be learned from this by a neutral observer. 4) that although a fighting spirit and a pure and courageous approach can achieve a great deal, in the end this spirit will always succumb to material advantage.

    http://www.warsawuprising.com/witness/schmalz.htm

    During one visit I witnessed an event, which sickened me to my very core. The SS officer’s office was on the upper floor of a building and had a balcony that overlooked a large courtyard. The SS had lined up near a wall about 40 or so Polish men, women, and children of all ages. I distinctly recall a young woman holding hands with two small children. It was clear to me what was about to happen. I confronted the SS commander as to why these people were about to be shot. His reply was that they were being executed as a reprisal for the Germans that had been killed in the Uprising. He informed me that it was also none of my concern. Shortly, thereafter the hostages were shot before my eyes. I was disgusted by what I had witnessed and after 60 years later it still haunts me.

    http://www.warsawuprising.com/witness/thieme.htm

    As a matter of fact, the unfortunate Polish nation wanted nothing else but to live undisturbed by their two big neighbors. The uprising, which broke out as the Red Army was approaching, was only intended to secure the future independence of Poland. Now, however, the Russians were sitting close by Praga, the suburb of Warsaw, on the right bank of the Vistula River. The Russians were watching, and not grudgingly, how the last class of Polish leaders and intellectuals were being slaughtered. They even prohibited the Anglo-American alliance, which wanted to help the insurgents, from using their airports

    http://www.warsawuprising.com/witness/stolten.htm

    From a letter to his parents, 16 September, 1944
    … After I was wounded for the second time I stopped fighting. A colleague of mine, who was very keen, replaced me. I’m quite pleased about the arrangement because I’d had enough. But I seem to have been too pleased with myself … I’m the commander of a base and deal with everyday company matters. Fifty per cent of my work involves furnishing flats for our officers. My boss is an interior decorator and he’s very demanding. I really enjoy changing things round. I’m on my fourth flat now. From half-ruined houses we take the best stuff: sculptures, sofas, rugs, etc. – soon it will all go up in flames. Everything is being smashed to pieces. We pick our way through utensils, rubbish, broken china, and dirt. Horrifying and unimaginable desolation. That’s the propagators of European culture for you. Let them steal! …

    We live near a power station. I often get to see beautiful well-built flats with elegant furniture. In Hungary tool was most impressed. It seems that small, mainly Slavonic countries are in the lead when it comes to aesthetic taste. Could it be a sign of great times to come for them? The Germans can’t compete, and neither can dusty old France – I’m leaving Russia out of the picture. How long will it last? … its present direction, leaving aside the prospect of the unpredictable ‘wonder weapons’ or whatever. In Warsaw you can see the real face of this war – more terrible than in our own country. I’ve got used to the sight of male corpses – they’re a part of everyday life; but not to the remains of women’s bodies, where a life of love and innocence once grew, or when I see the bodies of children, all of whom I consider innocent whatever their mother tongue and all of whom I love in these horrendous times … – I know you will say I must not write about it …

    …………and compare it to London during WWII.

  18. 99% People in Poland don’t even lived when there were war. That’s not deaths and suffering most of us really are angry about.

    People mostly mind the result – Poles after 20 years of earned independence, after doing the right thing, was betrayed by west, sold to Russia, and everybody forgot about us for 50 years.

    Stupid puppets ruled there for 50 years making this place Burkina Faso of Europe. After 1989 we made nice come back, now Poland isn’t poor, but it isn’t wealthy either. Poles don’t go work in UK without a reason. We still have like 20 years to get to the level of prosperity of the western Europe, even Germans, who started that damn war in the first place.

    So it is painful for everybody. Most people don’t like to admit they are materialists, so they say about deaths and suffering, and monuments, etc. But I think it’s the real reason.

  19. You have James Bond, Robin Hood, Bravehart, Ivanhoe, Henry V, Sherlock Holmes, A Bridge Too Far , D-day and so on. Plenty of heroic propaganda.

    htt p://www.amazon.com/British-History-on-film/lm/R3PR32PN2XDXII

    BTW, here is one example why Poles are so sensitive about this issue:

    htt p://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_World_War_II_films

    Enigma (2001 UK film)

    The film – and by association the book – have attracted criticism for their portrayal of the Polish role in Enigma decryption.[4] Critics argue that in the film the fictitious traitor turns out to be Polish whilst only slight mention is made of the contributions of pre-war Polish Cipher Bureau cryptologists to Allied Enigma decryption efforts,[5] while historically, the only known traitor active at Bletchley Park was British spy John Cairncross who passed crucial secrets to the Soviet Union.[6]

    As you see, the western propaganda is still working.

  20. A few subtitles would help greatly. Then people would know they are looking at Copernicus and not just some weird looking guy with a bad wig and an interest in astrology.

    Copernicus is one of the easier things to spot even without subtitles but how many Chinese (or other expo visitors) are well versed in Polish history? There’s an awful lot that flashes by without leaving any trace of what it was and why it was important.

    As someone else said, it almost leaves you with an impression that communist rule was a good thing. The sun shone, buildings got built, the farmers were happy…..

  21. How about buying me a 300 jigawatt internet connection first so I can watch it in less than 20 minutes and without interruptions!

    I find this “Destroyed Warsaw” movie not much more than an exercise in computer graphics. To be honest with you, my imagination of how bad it was based on tales and photos is worse than what this movie shows us.

    I think the destruction of Warsaw is as valid a thing to show as other atrocities and obviously more important to Poles than to others. I think there are factors that make it different to some of the other examples given, namely the collusion between the Germans who were leaving and the Russians who were supposed to be coming to the rescue and could have saved much of the destruction. Also the complete flattening of the ghetto, one of the only things to come across well in the movie.

    Dresden, London, Hiroshima even, were by comparison relatively straightforward acts of wartime aggression.

  22. I agree that the ‘historical’ video is naive, reinforces some myths etc. Above all it is illegible for someone who’s not familiar with the Polish history. For example, the symbolism of the cross at the beginning of the clip (baptism of Poland), and then crosses on the Teutonic Knights’ shields may be confusing (who is who?). The picture is ambiguous, not informative and reinforcing some myths of Polish martyrdom. Fortunately the latter is readable for Poles only (well and Jamie…. and Professor Norman Davies… and maybe somebody else).
    Scatt’s suggestion that some subtitles would solve the problem is worthwhile and the author should take it into consideration.

    What we can see here is that our Anglo-Saxon hosts prefer the first video even if they are perfectly aware how much this picture differs from our reality. It is a pure propaganda of success which the Chinese may easily verify asking a few simple questions.

    The conclusion is that history is not our hosts’ favourite subject, whereas optimistic propaganda, even having nothing to do with the truth, is.

  23. The myth of an innocent victim bullied by the neighbours – I absolutely agree. There were periods in history when the Poles were bullies. The argument with the size of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth is not the best. Lithuania had conquered a vast tract of Russian (Ruthenian? BTW I’ve got some problem with the English name of Old Russian embracing the ancestors of Russians, Belorussians and Ukrainians) before its Grand Duke became King of Poland.
    The Teutonic Knights were cast away from Hungary where they had been invited, on uncovering their plans of expansion. A Polish duke invited them to his land. The Teutonic Knights were colonisers and from the very beginning their interest was in opposition to that of Poland. I can agree with almost all Jamie’s points but as for the Teutonic Knights I recommend some more specific studies.

  24. Auschwitz is a good example. There are guys who claim that the Holocaust was nothing exceptional since there had been other peoples suffering from genocide (Armenians for instance). I would be really cautious with assertions like “why do they think they are exceptional?”

    The fallacy lies in the implied claim of our hosts that they are representatives of an objective universal truth. However, when your doctor tells you you’ve contracted a terminal disease you don’t think “I’m not exceptional. Millions of people died of the same disease”. I think we have a right to talk about our problems. Otherwise somebody may think that a few bombs in London were worse than a complete destruction of Warsaw.

  25. “What’s so special about Warsaw?”
    What’s so special about London?
    Every country has it’s martyrdom and celebrates it the way they choose to.
    Australians celebrate being send by the British to a wrong place and being slaughtered. They get very offended when someone mentions that ten time more Turks and threefold of French died there as well. What’s so special about Gallipoli?
    “USA, English and France sold Poland… but were saving your ass… ” That’s a different story altogether.
    Are you trying to deny Teheran, Yalta?
    I strongly recommend a great book “Question of honor”. Available in English and Polish at Bona.
    Also if you can find and watch “The Polish Battle of Britain” it was on Ch 4 in March and SBS (Australia) in November.
    Lest we forget, each in our own way.

  26. That’s not what I was trying to say. I ‘quite liked’ the first video because it looks highly professional and has a thoroughly modern feel to it. It’s a thousand times better than previous ‘come-and-do-business-in-Poland’ videos I’ve seen that looked like Microsoft ads from 1986. Nobody takes the content of these things literally—but this one plays the style-over-content game very successfully in my view.

    The second one just feels incredibly old-fashioned, despite its slick Shrek-style graphics.

  27. Poland will finally be “modern and friendly” when it stops making clips trying to tell people about how “modern and friendly” it is. I thought that moment had already arrived, but no such luck. ;)

  28. Basically, ‘nice’ Mr Stokes and some of his friends feel the need to damn anything Polish with faint praise.

    If a ‘Brit’ had done anything of that ilk it would be subject to merciless ridicule.

    They genuinely don’t believe Poles to be capable of doing any better.

  29. First clip very business like and, although a little creative with the ‘truth’, most watchable.

    Second clip have seen before. Proposterously stirring until the moment the European symbol chillingly came up at the end like the Holy Grail. Wiped the smile off my face in an instant.

  30. O ile mnie wzrok i słuch nie myli 1 film pokazuje, że połowa mieszkańców krajów które weszły do UE razem z Polską było Polakami, nie połowa Europy jest Polską. Zanim napiszesz pomyśl.

  31. The old country was called Kievan Rus. Definitely nothing to do with Russia or Old Russian territory, except that the Tsars of Russia liked to claim it’s theirs. While the Lithuanians did conquer it, the princes of Kievan Rus retained their power and culture, that’s why it’s not seen as bullying. The “Polish princes” were either from the Kievan Rus or Lithuania, and they didn’t consider themselves their own oppressors.

  32. The “fat guy” is a Sarmatian (old style noble). They thought that fat means good and healthy. He throws coins at the (slim) people because it’s the period of Poland’s economy’s downfall. So the peasants are kept alive via charity instead of fair work opportunities.

    I understand that Poles talk about history a lot, and that foreigners who come to the country are fed up with it. However, a country’s history places it in the world’s history, and Poles want to mark theirs. It may be too much for those who are exposed to it often, but still there are many people all over the world who know nothing about Poland, or, what’s far worse, know only someone else’s myths about the country. Neither UK nor US have the problem.

    The things we know about other countries are nearly always some kinds of myths. If one wants to learn some solid history one really needs to read many books. Otherwise one is just happy to know some superficial facts. All nations nurture myths. And very often the myths are far from true. Like the one that Brits have been tollerant people. Or that Anglo-Saxon feminists freed women all over the world. Or that Brits were the good guys and Napoleon the bad guy.

    This is the way we all like to think of ourselves. We need some general image to which we can refer.

    If Poland and other post-Communist countries appear now to be very concerned about history it’s because we have to rethink the image imposed on us by the Communists, and create a new one in its place. It will take some time.

    If it seems needless to Brits and other people from the West it’s because their self-made myths are already well established and they’re an old story that every kid knows.

    On the whole, come on, you guys have made so many movies about your history that countries like Poland will never catch up. How many movies about King Arthur or Robin Hood there are, and how many about Wanda who didn’t want a German husband, or about Lech, Czech and Rus?

    The difference in showing battles comes from the difference in our respective geopolitical situation. Poles fought mostly on their own territory. Those were defensive wars. The British wars on their own territory were struggles between each other, otherwise Brits have a long history of conquest abroad. Obviously, Poles don’t triumph over their occupation of Moscow, but Russians do have quite many movies, theatre plays and even operas about it, where they are the victims of Polish aggression, even though they had invited the Poles.

    A Mazovian Duke did invite the Teutonic Knights to help him strengthen his northern border. Do you know how many arrived? Seven. He didn’t invite the huge army of Western Knights to raid the territory centuries later. Of course it was a time when countries were a one man’s property rather than the homes of their peoples. But if the Battle of Grunwald is seen as a success in so many countries today, that’s because it allowed us to create the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth on our own conditions. Just like the outcome of WWII allowed the Western Europe to create the EU. From our point of view there can be no harm in promoting it since it serves to unite neighbouring countries in friendly cooperation. That’s not the same as celebrating one’s conquest of another country.

    The Polish royal dynasties of the medieval times were bullies. The Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth of the Early Modern Era wasn’t. It doesn’t mean that there were no border disputes, only that the country didn’t have any major designs on occupying other countries. That’s because the nobles were the soldiers, and they’d have to decide in the Parliament to send themselves to war. Not many people are that crazy. If you made a poll among the American troops whether they’d rather be at home or Iraq, war would be unlikely. Similarly, the nobles engaged only in those wars they saw as necessary to their own defence, but otherwise pacifism was a part of their foreign politics. Which is why the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth isn’t called an Empire.

    If, on the other hand, they had decided to use their peasants as conscripts and send them to occupy Moscow, Stockholm or Berlin, they might have been successful in reshaping the map of Europe, and today we’d learn about their conquests, but likely we wouldn’t make movies about it.

  33. Actually, people in glass houses, I find, shouldn’t throw stones. I am sorry to put everyone through this but here is some rebuttal material….

    And here’s one that may explain our lack of action to help the Poles at the beginning of WWII…..

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