Oops. I know I haven’t even finished describing our day from Thursday and it’s already Saturday so let me get on that stat.
After our trip to the Rakowiecka Prison, it was time for us to explore the Warsaw Uprising Museum. The day before, we had had a lecture from a visiting professor about the history of the Warsaw Uprising and since most of it was new to me, I will summarize some of the main points for you (just in case you are in my pre-lesson shoes).
In 1944, Poland was under occupation from Nazi Germany. The Polish Home Army in Warsaw decided to rebel in order to liberate Warsaw from the Germans. They thought their best chance for liberation would come when the Soviets came into Warsaw.
The uprising started on August 1, 1944 and initially the Poles had control over the city of Warsaw, but the Poles were unable to establish a relationship with the Soviets. This led to them receiving no reinforcements in troops, while the Germans they were fighting against kept receiving more and more help from their country. After four days of fighting, the Poles seemed to be gaining more and more control, but that all came crashing down on August 5 when the Germans began to attack the Poles en mass. Three days later, 100,000 Polish civilians had been killed and the tone for the uprising had been set — Poland was in trouble.
Even though the Polish resistance was able to free a ghetto in Warsaw, the two sides reached a stalemate and even more fighting ensued. The Poles surrendered the Old Town by the end of the month. Most communication had been cut off and members of the resistance used the sewers throughout the city to avoid the German occupied parts of Warsaw. Food was short and many other countries ignored Poland’s plea for help.
Once the Germans realized the Soviets were not going to take a side, they began to disarm the Polish Home Army, as it appeared to be the only solution for them. They began to destroy the city, killing even more civilians and forcing the rest out of the city. After 63 days of fighting, Warsaw was destroyed and the Poles were out of luck.
The Warsaw Uprising is a very important, yet sad part of Poland’s history. Every August 1, it is remembered around the country. It is so impressive to see that the city has been completely rebuilt since it’s complete destruction less than 100 years ago. The city is beautiful now, but it is interesting to see how it has changed from the pre-war period.
The Warsaw Uprising Museum is a special dedication to the events that occurred within those 63 days. The museum does a great job at both showing and telling visitors what life was like inside Warsaw during the Uprising.
We saw replicas of the posters posted throughout different districts in Warsaw that listed the names of those who had been killed or those who were sent to be executed. I even found a Buika on the list (not a relative since our name was spelled Bujko when in Poland, but still cool).
There were displays of the armbands worn by the Polish Home Army. They are only red and white bands since whole uniforms were too expensive. I was so impressed that the museum even knew the names of the soldiers who wore each armband they had displayed. When so many people were killed and so much of the city was destroyed, how do they know who wore which band?
There was a whole section with documents identifying remains that had been found after the occupation. It was so sad to see how many were unable to be identified. Each document described the age of the remains as well as what they were wearing and the type of injuries sustained.
The entire museum was so well done and it documents such an important part of Polish history. I’m really glad we got to see the museum, especially after our lecture on the Uprising.
After our museum tour, it was off to the train station to get our bus and train passes! In an excursion that should have taken about two minutes each, we spent over an hour trying to get our monthly passes in a completely shut down train station. After a whole day on our feet, this was not what we wanted to be doing with our evening. It was dinnertime and we were all hungry and tired. And we had to deal with our bus passes. And then get on the bus for the 45 minute ride back to our hotel. It made me miss Boston and the crazy T and T stations so much!
Just a few fun pictures from the museum:
Hanging out in the replica sewers