The Uprising is a key event in Polish history, and events commemorating it take place over a week, although the final one is in October, marking the end of the Uprising after 63 days. I pick up a sheet outlining the program and providing location maps from a holder in the tram.
On Sunday I go to the evening mass held in the square around the Uprising monument. A stage is set up amongst the figures and the area is illuminated with red light. The surrounding streets are closed to traffic, and the area is packed. I am, most of the time, doubly bewildered: I’m not familiar with the protocols of the Catholic mass, and I’m even less familiar with the Polish language. However, there are a few things I have no trouble comprehending. I recognise the Polish National anthem and am oddly moved by it. I know that participants are being honoured when I see a group of old people moving towards the stage. Young guides hand out free water, a far cry from the role of their age-mates in 1944. I jump when the salute is fired, wondering what on earth it was like to be under constant bombardment.
Leaving, I walk behind an old woman wearing an AK armband, an indication that she had been in the Home Army (Armia Krajowa).
(This photo was taken by PAP photographer Bartłomiej Zborowski.)
On Monday morning I have a bird’s eye view of the procession moving along ul Puławska, as it turns around our corner into ul Dworkowa to commemorate at the Uprising monument just down the block from us.
On Monday at 5 pm, the time the Uprising began, sirens sound, Warsaw traffic stops and people get out and stand beside their cars for a minute’s silence. We leave the playground to stand beside the road. Some drivers are obviously bewildered at the sudden stopping, but the man in the brown jacket knows exactly what is happening and stands with military stillness.
In the middle of all this my daughter says: “You know, I always get angry at this commemoration. Nothing like this is done to commemorate the Ghetto Uprising.”