Sunday, May 23, 2010

Hello from Warsaw

where the River Wisla is threatening to overflow its banks.  There has been a watch on for several days due to flooding up river.  The weather has actually been quite nice since Gertrud and I arrived in Warsaw but there has been a lot of rain further north. 

We spent much of this past weekend visiting museums and hanging out in the old city ( which has been beautifully restored since the war during which an estimated eighty-five percent of the city was destroyed and 850,000 were killed.

Gertrud at Warsaw's Castle Square

We found the Warsaw Uprising Museum ( especially interesting. It documents the Polish Underground's uprising against the Nazis in 1944. There was also an 1943 uprising in the Jewish Ghetto ( Unfortunately both were cruelly crushed. 

Poland, with its unfortunate location between much larger and historically more powerful Germany and Russia has had a very tragic history. And there are many monuments throughout Warsaw paying homage to patriots who tried to stand up for Polish sovereignty and culture. Among the most important historical and culture figures are Frederick Chopin, Madam Marie Curie, Nicolas Copernicus and more recently, Lech Walesa and Pope John Paul II who Poles feel were the most responsible for the fall of the Soviet bloc and the Soviet Union.  They would strongly disagree with Americans who believe it was Ronald Reagan. 

The tragedies of Polish history are again very visible in Warsaw in the form of a large exhibit in front of the presidential palace honoring the recently deceased Polish president Lech Kazynski.  As you have probably read, he died this past April 10th in a plane crash, together with his wife and several senior government officials, near the Russian city of Smolensk, They were en route to an event to mark the 70th anniversary of the Katyn Forest Massacre in which thousands of Poland's elite were executed by Soviet secret police. In 2007, a Polish director made a film about the Katyn incident (   A friend recommended this film to us just a few months ago and we ordered it through Netflix.  It now appears that Lech Kazynski's twin brother, Jaroslaw Kazynski, who was formerly President, may run again to replace Lech.  Neither have been especially popular but Jaroslaw is likely to have a lot of sympathy on his side if he runs.

(Update on 7/5/2010: Jaroslaw Kazynski was defeated by Bronislaw Komorowski).

There is not much left of Warsaw's infamous Jewish Ghetto but a museum, now under construction to preserve its place in history, is scheduled for completion in 2011.  The following website also provides a history of the Jewish presence in Warsaw.

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