Walking around Warsaw on a daily basis, I have not become a stranger to witnessing memorials or places where something important in history has occurred. Everywhere in Warsaw it seems to be a reminder of the dark past. The oppression started on September 1st, 1939 when the German Nazis invaded Poland. The population was separated by the walls of the Warsaw Ghetto. People starved with the food rations that were issued, died of the lack of general hygiene, and tried to escape whenever they could.
During the rise of the Nazis, the Polish Secret Army formed. Everything was covert, preserving the element of surprise. The Secret Army was planning an uprising at “W Hour” or 5 pm. Although a surprise, it was a failure—killing over 200,000 people. Conditions stayed the same if not worse, and many were sent to be killed at nearby death camp Auschwitz. It was a tragedy that not even the level of pride could have helped and the Nazis stayed in power.
I woke up 73 years later on the date, to find that the city had a different mood than the other days. Every storefront had the Polish flag with red and white, and the traditional Polish flag with red and yellow, waving proudly in the wind. The city had more tourists than ever, it seemed, with all the streets buzzing even at 9 am. I continued on to my day when a coworker told me about the celebration that will be happening later that evening. It was going to start at 5pm with a minute of standing still, to honor those brave enough to take back what was theirs 73 years ago. Then after, parades and songs will be sung to showcasing the pride of the Poles.
At 4:30 pm, I left my internship to venture into Old Town. I figured that the road would be busy enough that I could see enough of everything that would be happening at 5. Three minutes of, the streets got more crowded and store workers shut down shop and stood outside. At exactly 5 pm, the busses and cars stopped driving, the people stopped walking, and sirens filled the air.
After, the streets were blocked off by police so that a parade of people could march while singing Uprising chants. People filled the sidewalks to watch the memory of the tragic event. Although I am not a native, I was able to stand and appreciate what was happening on the streets. This city and country was built on pride, and this anniversary showed that people were willing to risk everything they had to get back their country that was wrongfully taken away from them.
The Minute Warsaw Stood Still
Marking the Anniversary of the Warsaw Uprising
Every August 1st at 5:00 PM
Place: Any Busy Street in Warsaw