Wednesday, 15 August 2007

Armed Forces Day parade, Warsaw

Today, 15 August, commemorates the anniversary of the Polish victory over the Bolshevik army at the gates of Warsaw in 1920. This day is now a public holiday, and a celebration of the Polish Armed Forces. Along with friends we braved the heat and the crowds to see the parade, which trundled fitfully along Aleje Ujazdowskie towards the presidential palace. Lots of stop-start activity, exhaust fumes, waiting, wailing infants, fainting old folk. But a crowd-drawer. Main battle tanks, rocket launchers and armoured personnel carriers passed tens of thousands under a hot August sun.

Above: Assault and transport helicopters, jet fighters and trainers flew overhead at low level. While there was an air of popular pride in the armed forces among the crowds, the same cannot be said for the politicians. Below: President Kaczynski takes the salute. His presence was met with subdued boos, comments such as 'no spitting' and 'Kaczor'. Not quite the respect accorded to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II as she takes the Trooping of the Colour. Nor does it say much about the chances of Kaczynski's PiS party in the forthcoming general elections.

The day was a chance to visit the Army Museum and stroll through Warsaw taking in its history. Below: Eddie standing by a pair of 20mm Oerlikon anti-aircraft guns from the Polish WW2 destroyer, ORP Blyskawica. Eddie's grandfather Tadeusz was the Artillery Officer on board the ship; he would have commanded these very guns.

After the parade, we walked to Ochota to dinner at our friends, who by coincidence live on the same street as my father did before the war. Along the way, we came across this commemorative plaque (below), marking the spot where my father's Home Army unit, Batalion Odwet ('Vengeance'), began its fight during the Warsaw Uprising.

Although the day's events generated plenty of enthusiasm for today's Polish armed forces, my thoughts are with our parents' heroic generation and the hell they went through. For the sake of our children and subsequent generations, I pray that Poland never suffers war ever again.

Left: Eddie and Sabina on their way back from the parade.

UPDATE, OCTOBER 2007: PiS indeed got a drubbing at the ballot boxes.

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