Telling the world about the Battle of Warsaw

2020-08-14 06:31 update: 2020-08-18, 13:22
The IPN's "War of the Worlds" exhibition. Photo: PAP/Tomasz Gzell
The IPN's "War of the Worlds" exhibition. Photo: PAP/Tomasz Gzell
Polish-prepared materials showing how broadly the 1920 Battle of Warsaw influenced European history are currently finding their way to readers in Germany, Italy, France, the Czech Republic, Croatia, Serbia, Lithuania, Latvia, Malta, Greece, and even Algeria and Indonesia.
The organiser of the project, dubbed "Telling Poland to the World - on the Centenary of the Battle of Warsaw," is the New Media Institute.
 
"When we speak with journalists and publishers linked to major press titles, we regularly sense a thirst for information and reliable written material that would give more insight into our part of Europe. Into how we think, why we react as we do, what we hold for important - into our DNA. And our DNA has been co-formed by experiences like the 1920 Battle of Warsaw, the Warsaw Uprising, or the Solidarity Union, so we have quite a few grand Polish stories to tell the world," says New Media Institute head Eryk Mistewicz.
 
Telling Poland to the World is a recurring campaign in the world's leading dailies and weeklies and on the web, in which leading Polish and non-Polish authors, historians, scholars and politicians write about Poland and its affairs. To date it has accompanied events like the centenary of Pope John Paul II, the 80th anniversary of the outbreak of World War Two, the 15th anniversary of Poland's EU accession and the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi-German death camp Auschwitz.
 
"The Polish phenomenon tells a story of democratisation that was different from what took place in western Europe," Poland's Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki writes in an article marking the Battle of Warsaw centenary. "This is a story of democratisation amidst the restoration of independent statehood and a political and social identity. A story of modernisation pursued against the imperialist, absolutistic and despotic intentions of the powers that came to dominate 19th-century Europe. This is a story in which Poland was set to a very exacting maturity test only two years after regaining independence, when it found itself confronted by a totalitarian threat - the Bolsheviks."
 
Mateusz Morawiecki goes on: "The Polish-Bolshevik war, in which the entire population put in a spectacular effort, was not just a clash between two huge armies under the strategic genius of their commanding officers. Also pitched against each other were both sides' intelligence services, which fought a battle of brains and encodement. A major hero of this secret front in the Battle of Warsaw was Jan Kowalewski, a Polish military intelligence officer who broke the Soviet encryption system. His work enabled access to information which played a key role in the Polish side's strategic plan. A silent hero, Kowalewski played a major role in the stoppage of the Soviet onslaught on Europe in 1920. What is more, during World War II Kowalewski played an important role in the Trojnog (Tripod) operation launched by Poland's London-based exile government. The aim of Tripod was to prepare an Allied invasion of the Balkans by resetting the alliances of Italy, Romania and Hungary, but unfortunately Roosevelt abandoned the plan under pressure from Stalin, although Churchill wanted to go ahead with it. If history had taken a different course, Jan Kowalewski could have saved Central-East Europe from Soviet totalitarianism and domination twice."
 
Daily press and weekly readers worldwide will be able to learn about the Battle of Warsaw from materials written by leading authors. Professor Andrzej Nowak, historian and holder of the White Eagle Order, explains the conflict's context: "Paris needed an ally to keep the Germans - conquered but unwilling to accept defeat or the Versailles Treaty - at bay in the East. France's heretofore ally, Russia, was steeped in revolution and the Bolshevik government had withdrawn from the anti-German coalition, signing a peace treaty with the Second Reich in Brest in 1918. When the Germans lost the war in the West, Russia, its central structures now controlled by the Bolsheviks, was entering a civil war. In this situation Poland became what the French side described as a "stand-in ally."
 
Cooperation between Russia's totalitarian communism and the new totalitarianism that emerged in Germany was to permit Stalin and Hitler to destroy peace in Europe. But Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Czechoslovakia and other countries in the region would not forget the preceding two decades of freedom, and would fight for their freedom until they got it. There would have been no 1989 if there had been no 1920. Both years deserve to be described as 'annus mirabilis'," professor Nowak writes.
 
Jaroslaw Szarek, head of the Institute of National Remembrance, throws light on the scale of the disaster from which Europe was saved by the Poles: "After they gained power in Russia, the Bolsheviks and Vladimir Lenin began to go about exporting their revolution to Europe. Their first westward march began already in late 2018 after Germany's defeat in World War One, when the Red army entered territories in Ukraine, Belarus and the Baltic states that the occupying German army had abandoned. Poland, which had just then regained independence, became the main obstacle on their path. The Polish-Bolshevik war began in January 2019.
 
"The Polish army was unable to stop the enemy's overwhelming forces, and was forced to retreat. Polish units kept pulling back to the West, but did not allow themselves to be surrounded and dispersed, remaining in full combat readiness. Faced with this deadly threat, the civilian population mobilised itself to very high levels, in which the Catholic Church played a big role. Over 100,000 Poles volunteered for army service, 30,000 of them in Warsaw," Szarek writes.
 
"The world is hungry for exciting stories. They help to sort out and organise excessive information, and either consolidate or change the way countries are perceived. Heroism is a Polish trademark, together with solidarity with others, cooperation, and a strong attachment to freedom. This is the Poland we are telling about in our stories, and they do raise the interest of journalists and readers worldwide," says Michal Klosowski, international project head at the New Media Institute.
 
The Telling Poland to the World - On the Centenary of the Battle of Warsaw project was developed by the New Media Institute with help from the Institute of National Remembrance – Commission for the Prosecution of Crimes against the Polish Nation. All the project materials will be available at www.Victoria1920.pl. (PAP)
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