sobota, 16 sierpnia 2014

A short visit to Kraków

American students form the "Semester At Sea" project were given the opportunity to go to Kraków. The ship remained in Gdańsk while I took them for a 4-day bus trip.
Fran, the coordinator  and I had a really good time together, strenghtened by the necessity to handle various adventures to which we were exposed by some daring students :)

The major stop was in Częstochowa for lunch

We had the meal in the Town Hall Restaurant "Pod Ratuszem":

the Townhall

It was on the eve of the Assumption of the Holy Mary Day, so we had the opportunity to see some pilgrims heading for the convent seen at the far end of this photo.

Virgin Mary Alley leading to the Monastery with the sacred icon of Black Madonnna
(the tower in the background)

Coming back to the coach after lunch: Daniel on the left, in front of him Fran with her daughter Hannah, and her mother on the right
In Kraków there was much to do in terms of organisation and discipline:) We visited the city and Wawel Castle - City Guide Marta Szydłowska - thank you :), Auschwitz, the Salt Mine and Schindler's Factory where the latter showed a very good and comprehensive exhibition of the German occupation time in Kraków.

The two nights after sightseeing were fairly free. I was invited to dinner in the city centre by my American staff members, Fran, her Mum and the Mum's friend. We had a meal near the Main Market Square, the carriage ride including :)

Some quick snapshots during the guided tour:

The Cloth Market

St Mary's Church

One of the facades

Wawel Castle Yard

Royal decorations

Kraków is a vibrant city and features all kinds of entertaiment all over the week. Here a well known soprano Bożena Zawiślak-Dolny

Some photographs taken in the evening on the way to the city centre:

Marshall Piłsudski and the soldiers of the Legion formed by him in 1914.
My Grandfather Stanisław Thun was one of them

The Legion soldiers and the first stanza of a very famous Legion song
that was forbidden under the communist regime.

A famous Kraków-based lady painter of 19 c.

The plaque by a private sponsor for unkown reason  as the writer never had home in Kraków

On the way into the Old Town and the Jagiellonian University district
Jagiellonian University's Collegium Maius

The Jagiellońska street - a plaque commemorating the organisation "Zegota" bringing help to the Jews under Nazi occupation. Placed on the wall of the house the clandestine seat was located

Group photo taken down the Salt Mine in Wieliczka in the Chapel made of salt

My perfect company and me sitting to the left:
above me Lourdes, little Hannah and Fran, next to me Fran's Mum

Thank you Fran Slayton, the programme's coordinator, for the great time together, specifically when handling the results of the students' exploration of the city of the "total immersion" type which, as every language teacher will say, is the best method of learning :)

niedziela, 10 sierpnia 2014

70th anniversary of Warsaw Uprising

Every 1st August at 5:00 p.m., Warsaw freezes for a minute to commemorate the outbreak of the most fascinating insurrection of the WWII. It looks like this:
The Home Army, the clandestine army created by Polish officers after the fall of Warsaw in 1939, organising the resistance in occupied Poland, gave the order to start an open fight. Warsaw had been subjected to horrendous terror by the Germans where the inhabitants were fished from streets blocked at both ends and then taken to camps, where whole families or houses were executed for hiding one Jew, where for one killed German ten Poles were hanged in the streets.......
The order to start the rising was accelerated by the announcement that the Germans called 100 000 Poles for digging the trenches as they had declared Warsaw Festung Warschau. Failure to arrive for the call would be punished. And that meant only one punishment: death.

The start of the Rising was marked as "W" Hour.


The commemorating events are always organised by Museum of Warsaw Uprising, created by late President Lech Kaczynski.

The Insurgents along with their assisting members of family, should the case be, were invited by the Museum and the city of Warsaw to come and stay at the expense of the organisers. I came with my Mother, 90, who has a bad sight and unstable walk. We were lodged in Radisson blu Grzybowska, and at the reception were presented with a welcome letter by the owner who felt honoured to be able to host heroes.

The celebrations were planned for 3 days.

On the arrival every former soldier was asked to collect the “event package” containing the programme and umbrella. On the first day in the morning there was a meeting with the presidents of the country and the city in the Yard of Freedom of the Warsaw Uprising Museum. There were special buses taking the guests from each hotel to the venue. The day was hot so the umbrellas were just the right thing. Many volunteers were milling around distributing mineral water. During the ceremony, the president awarded many persons with various medals. It was also announced that the historic sign of the resistance presenting the letter “P” based on an anchor, that used to be painted on the walls of the occupied city, had been protected by a special order by the president.

The outpost of the Museum; the portrait of young prof. Kiezun

The Insurgents and invited guests are arriving at the museum on foot ...

.... or by electric cars from the bus station
Arrival of the scouts

The Remembrance Wall and the "Monter" Bell named after the Commander.
Me with my Mum

The umbrellas helped in the sun

Representatives of the USArmy

Volunteers offering mineral water

After the event, there were chairs provided for the elderly while waiting for the hotel buses

A volunteer informing about the right hotel bus

In the afternoon, at the Warsaw Town Hall there was another meeting to which the Insurgents were brought by special buses followed by a concert of songs written specifically for the occassion.
President of the city of Warsaw

The Town Hall with the stage setting
The show

Old friends have met

The Insurgents
Guests from London

Prof. Norman Davies sitting behind my Mother

In the evening a new film “City 1944” by a young director was shown on the National Stadium. It was the first night performance; the regular shows in cinemas across the country start in September.
The Stadium

Waiting for the film

Introduction by a piece of trumpet music

The next day saw the holy mass at the monument of the Insurgents in the Krasińskich Square at 6:00 p.m. The monument is located opposite the Military Cathedral.
The Cathedral in the setting sun

The Field Bishop arrives with assisting priests

The Military Representative Band is ready

The representative company firing honorary salute 

After the mass there were some speeches and wreaths laying. 60 of them. This was followed by a concert “The Song of the Walls” where original texts of letters carried by small boy scouts from one part of Warsaw to another were cited, accompanied by music.

The show was very moving and well performed

On the most important day, 1st August, celebrations in many parts of Warsaw started in the morning. 

We started at the Orlicz-Dreszera Park in Warsaw-Mokotów at 10:00 a.m.

Wreath laying at the monument

the horse guard

A volunteer collecting money for the renovation of insurgents' graves

The public

The public

Historic soldiers

From the park, my Mum took me to her sanitary post where she was looking after wounded insurgents

Behind this gate, on the left 5 insurgents were buried killed by Germans as they lay in their beds in the house

Here was an entrance into the cellars

Opposite the nurses' post, at number 15, a unit of Jews were stationing who were collecting the dead

At noon there was an oak tree planting and the Change of Guards in the Piłsudskiego Square.
The plate informing about the purpose of the oak tree

The Oak

My Mother was approached by a radio reporter and was asked to give an interview.

All around soldiers, scouts, Polish flags

The old heroes were being transported by the buses to most of the sites and in the afternoon to the key event – the “W” Hour at the military cemetery with thousands of graves and the Gloria Victis monument where the central ceremony is held every year.
We first went to the grave of my Grandfather, chief of one of the Sections in the General Commander's Office, responsible for the Home Army money. He was shot dead by a sniper on the third day of the Rising

Scout and academic corporation organisations marching towards the Gloria Victis monument

The grave of the Commander "Monter"

The monument devoted to all Soldiers of Fighting Poland

Gloria Victis

From that cemetery the buses took us to another cemetery which holds the bodies of at least 50 000 civilians murdered by the Germans over the first few days of the Uprising in the Wola city district.

Behind the soldiers a monument over the graves of the civilians

A prayer by 4 religious ministers: Catholic bishop, Lutheran bishop, Orthodox minister and Poland's Chief Rabbi

In the evening, in the Piłsudskiego Square, as usual there was a very touching gathering of many people coming to sing the old songs of the time of occupation and rising. The event gathers hundreds of thousands of people because the atmosphere is unique and everybody feels proud to be a Pole.
 Unfortunately, this year I did not manage to return on time from the cemetery.

The Insurgents were presented with an album with their portraits taken the previous year. There are 850 of them. Along one of the major streets in Warsaw, the album was put up on special stands.

The portraits along the street close to the Parliament

me & Mum

Me and one of the most famous Insurgents, who is portrayed on a post stamp issued on the occasion
Some 400 m further, on a fence of the Łazienki Park I found several posters presenting pre-war officers who took part in the Uprising, and found my Grandfather :) with the history of his military life.

My late Father also took part in the Uprising although very soon his formation ceased existing due to heavy fights.
Yet, it is marked on his grave that he used to be an AK soldier (Armia Krajowa - Home Army).

Although the Uprising was a military defeat, it was not in vain. As prof. Norman Davies put it 10 years ago when launching his book Rising '44 in the Gdańsk Shipyard, reputed for the Solidarity movement: "Solidarność would not be so obviously possible if not the Warsaw Rising of 1944".