Category Archives: Polish History

Polish History

An elite group of Poles

Only 21 people in history have scaled all of the 14 highest mountains in the world in their lifetime. These 14 peaks are the only things on Earth over 8,000 meters, and they are all in the Himalaya/Karakoram range. Three of the people confirmed to have scaled all of them, are Polish. Who Knew? That’s something to be proud of. Read more here.

Freedom: Made in Poland

A picture of the Polish embassy in Washington D.C. taking pride in the 30th anniversary of Solidarity:

Henryk Sienkiewicz Nobel Acceptance speech

I recently read a 2006 article about Polish troops in Iraq wherein an American General quotes Polish Nobel laureate Henryk Sienkiewicz:

“General Chiarelli also cited the acceptance speech Henryk Sienkiewicz gave in 1905 when he received the Nobel Prize for Literature: “‘She was pronounced dead, yet here is proof that she lives on. She was declared incapable to think and to work, and here is proof to the contrary. She was pronounced defeated, yet here is proof that she was victorious.’ Of course, in 1905, he was talking about his native Poland. But his words ring true of Iraq today.'”

This is from an article in the New York Sun written by Alex Storozynski, who runs the Kosciuszko Foundation.  Sienkiewicz won the 1905 Nobel Prize for Literature because of his “outstanding merits as an epic writer.” Read more here.

Polish special forces live the legacy of their WWII predecessors

In 1941, the Polish Government-in-exile in London authorized the creation of a top-secret special operations unit which existed for the sole purpose of parachuting into Nazi-occupied Poland to aid the fight for freedom. These highly-trained paratroopers were to assist with the planned uprising of the Polish underground resistance movement. They were called the Cichociemni –  which literally translates to “silent and unseen”. Their emblem was an eagle holding a wreath encircling the symbol of the Polish resistance movement, a combination of the letters PW (“Polska Walcząca” – “Poland Fights”):

Many Cichociemni did parachute into Poland in the final years of the war – but it was not enough. You can read more here.

In 1995, the newly created special forces unit GROM (which means thunder in Polish) – adopted the insignia and traditions of their WWII predecessors:

I love seeing the symbols, old and new, side by side.

A Magical Poland in the 1930’s

This video juxtaposes Warsaw’s carefree interwar years with the destruction that immediately followed.  This video, which depicts one of the most charming periods in Polish history, is well done and includes much original footage I hadn’t seen before – including young ladies walking the streets in the 1930’s followed by horrific scenes of the beautiful city on fire:

Poland’s Special Forces Here To Save the Day

I recently came across an article published in the early stages of the Iraq war,  which provided one of the most candid and colorful looks at Poland’s Special Forces GROM unit I have yet seen. Victorino Matus, writing at The Weekly Standard, interviewed General Slawomir Petelicki – the founding father of GROM, about how it all began:

“The need did arise in 1990, following Operation Bridge, in which Poland helped Soviet Jews enter Israel. Intelligence reports indicated that Hezbollah and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine were planning reprisals inside the Polish border. Then-Prime Minister Tadeusz Mazowiecki recognized the threat and approved of Petelicki’s plan for a new counter-terror force.”

Details on training tactics:

“GROM operators practice “killing house” entries (with commanders often serving as hostages), storm hijacked commercial airliners complete with mannequin terrorists and bullet traps, and lead raids onto ships and offshore platforms. All of this is done with live ammunition. The commandos are trained in paramedics and demolitions and many are SCUBA experts.

GROM operators are said to be martial arts experts and capable of “cold killing.” “We created our own style of martial arts,” says Petelicki. “I have an old friend who is a master of karate and jujitsu and is a sixth degree black belt. He created the style with other specialists–it is most similar to what the Israelis do.”

And what about “cold killing”? Asked if the ominous term refers to garrotes or piano wire, Petelicki replies “Yes.” Pausing to choose his words carefully, he explains, “Many things. For instance, we can create a weapon from . . . well . . . many things.”

Live ammunition? Piano Wire?  Their own form of martial arts? Brutal.

Interestingly, toward the end the article cites Polish Foreign Minister Radek Sikorski expressing his hopes that this cooperation be the beginning of a new chapter in U.S.-Polish relations:

“Sikorski thinks this could be the beginning of a special relationship with the United States, akin to the one shared by Great Britain, but warns “it is still in the very early stages and much will also depend on America’s staying power in the region, its willingness to remain interested in Central Europe.”

This article was written in 2003 and clearly the jury is still out on the success of the special relationship.

Read the rest of the article here.

Mainstream Media Adds to Misconceptions About Poland During WWII

Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Alex Storozynski penned a passionate piece about why it’s dangerous to play fast and loose when identifying who exactly was responsible for what during World War II. He is responding to several recent incidents in which mainstream media outlets (including NY Times, WSJ, LA Times) referred to Nazi concentration camps as “Polish”:

“The Nazi concentration camps were built by Germans, run by Germans, and guarded by Germans. The victims of those camps were Polish. Newspaper editors justify use of the term “Polish concentration camp” as geographical shorthand for “a German concentration camp in occupied Poland.” But this shorthand is Orwellian doublespeak that turns victim into perpetrator and distorts history. It perpetuates ignorance about the Holocaust and gives impressionable readers the idea that Poles built the camps. The Auschwitz killing factory was a product of German engineering, and both Polish Jews and Catholics were murdered there.
….
While there were Poles who committed atrocities against Jews during and after World War II, the Polish government convicted and executed those who killed Jews. The Polish underground established the Council to Aid Jews, Zegota, which rescued thousands of Jews. Irena Sendler saved 2,500 Jewish children from the Warsaw ghetto. Jan Karski sneaked through enemy lines to beg Churchill & Roosevelt to stop the Holocaust. They did nothing. Polish Army Captain Witold Pilecki volunteered to be arrested by the Germans and sent to Auschwitz to try to organize a prison break. The Germans executed thousands of Poles who tried to save Jews. The phrase “Polish concentration camp” desecrates their memory.”

Read the full story at the Huffington Post.