Thursday, October 8, 2009
There are so few of them left
Every year the gathering is smaller. The old fighters still make the trek up the mountain, a hillside of cement steps leading up to the gleaming monument, symbol of the Polish resistance. And each year, as it comes to the final night of annual remembrance and the bonfire is extinguished, wreaths are laid to honor the fighters who have died the past year. Every year there are more wreaths and fewer participants. Speeches are made, soldiers salute their erstwhile comrades, and a small crowd looks on as the dwindling squads of resistance army, the Polish Home Army, fighters shake hands and repeat their stories. They wear their old armbands -- more or less the only real uniforms they had, and those hand-made, crudely fashioned. Some have berets and a few wear regular Polish Army uniforms. Of course, these remembrances have been possible only in the past twenty years since the end of communism. Before that, the heroics of the Poles during World War II were hidden from view -- even from the participants themselves. It was not possible to note and celebrate these politically incorrect events. The Soviets saved Poland. All by themselves. Isn't that special. Can you imagine, having your own history hidden from you? Your own stories discredited? Told that what happened, didn't? Yes, I know. Some of us can. Distortions and omissions screw with our sense of reality. It happens. The Polish people are determined that their history not be messed with anymore. They remember, they teach it to their children. At the last night's ceremony, a group of costumed school children sing and enact the songs of the fighters, complete with a tender love story; hey, it happened. After the evening's program was complete, the children lit torches from the bonfire and stood guard on the steps down the mountain, lighting the way back into today's world.