75th Anniversary of the Polish Underground State

September 27 marks the 75th anniversary of the beginning of the Polish underground Army (1939). 

The Day of the Polish Underground State was first celebrated in 1998, ten years after the fall of communism. The symbol, part anchor, part “P” for Poland is displayed on monuments in Polandthat honor the underground. From the root of the beginnings in 1939 the underground force would evolve into a large underground operation renamed in 1942 as the Home Army, or “AK” for Armia Krajowa. It is sometimes referred to as the Kotwica, Polish for “anchor.”

Besides being a fighting force, the Underground State also organized clandestine printing presses, theater, schools and other cultural initiatives to keep the spirit of Poland alive. Henry Zguda talked of going to ‘underground’ night school after the war broke out in 1939; he was able to finish some schooling that way. The Germans had closed all Polish schools after they invaded Poland September 1, 1939. 

Most historians estimate the size of the AK as at least 400,000, making it the third largest underground fighting force in Europe. The Army swore allegiance to the Polish Government in Exile in London, leading to an ironic historical cruelty. Towards the end of WWII the plans were for the AK to join forces with the Red Army against Hitler. The largest operation was the Warsaw Uprising, meant to last for three days until the Red Army joined them against the Germans. It ended after 60+ days and the death of 200,000 Poles, primarily civilians. At the end of the war, these soldiers who had fought so valiantly for their country, in hopes that the Soviet Army would join forces as equal enemies of Hitler and Germany, were instead executed as enemies of Russia, as sort of a preemptive murder of anyone who might organize others against the Soviets. 

A few months ago Quora (dot) com posted a question of its users. “Which country is the unluckiest through history?” Poland won more votes hands down than any other country in the world. As I’ve said before, geographically Poland lies between a rock and a hard place (Germany and Russia) and has suffered the consequences for centuries.

Note I tried, but could not find, a photo of the monument to the Home Army, that is not copyrighted. I did not visit the monument when I was in Warsaw.