In the US, we honor our military veterans on November 11. The date is celebrated in many other countries as Armistice, or Remembrance Day. In Poland it is Polish Independence Day. Discussion of veterans reminds me of one of the most appalling snubs of the 20th century. Polish military veterans who fought as part of British forces during World War II were excluded from Victory Day celebrations for sixty years.
We are on the brink of losing all remaining untold first-person accounts. Any remaining survivors were likely quite young in 1939. Henry Zguda had just celebrated his twenty-second birthday in July 1939. If he was alive today, he would be 102 years old. His story survives because the universe knocked on my door and I said yes based solely on sheer instinct. It remains one of the best decisions of my life. What can you do if you know of someone with a story? Continue reading
Who remembers the Warsaw Uprising? No, I am not referring to the much better known Warsaw Ghetto Uprising that began in April 1943. The Warsaw Uprising began on August 1, 1944 as a heroic but ill-fated last stand against the occupying Nazis by Poles still living in Warsaw. The Polish Home Army (Armia Krajowa; AK) predicted that Soviet forces gathered across the east bank of the Vistula River would move in and assist the Poles in defeating Germany and liberating Warsaw. The Soviets did nothing but watch and gave no assistance to the Poles. By the time the valiant battle ended, an estimated 180,000 Poles (estimates range from 166,000-200,000,) primarily civilians, died in the effort. The death count includes an estimated 17,000 Polish Jews still in hiding or fighting with the Home Army. The Nazis subsequently bombed most of what remained in Warsaw. Any survivors were sent to concentration camps. Continue reading