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“Freedom brings us together”

In August 2017, the motto of the 73rd Anniversary of the Warsaw Rising lured thousands of people of all generations to the Warsaw Rising Museum, and to an array of events commemorating this dramatic episode in the city’s history. By Katarzyna Kienhuis, External Exhibitions Department, Warsaw Rising Museum

“Freedom brings us together”

The Warsaw Rising Museum is a Polish cultural institution with a permanent exhibition depicting the struggle and everyday life of Varsovians during the Warsaw Rising of 1944 (1 August – 2 October, 1944). This was a watershed moment in Poland’s modern history, the culmination of the Polish Underground Home Army's Operation Tempest (Burza). The insurrection aimed to liberate Poland during the Nazi retreat, and in the wake of five years of cruel occupation. It was launched to establish a free Polish administration and prevent a Soviet takeover. The Warsaw Rising involved not only military forces, but civilian non-combatants as well. A major battle of the Second World War, the Rising resulted in the destruction of the Polish capital. Warsaw was razed to the ground, and 150,000 to 180,000 Poles died in the process. Meanwhile, Stalin’s Red Army stood a few kilometres away, watching Warsaw in flames. The destroyed capital was slowly rebuilt over the next five decades – under the watchful eye of the Soviets.

 

The staff of the Warsaw Rising Museum conducts scientific research and educational activities devoted to the Polish Underground State during World War II, and the museum’s oral history archive holds a collection of almost 4,000 interviews with insurgents and civilians. Adjacent to the museum is Freedom Park, with a memorial wall bearing 11,000 names of Home Army soldiers who fell during the Rising. Nonetheless, those who survived and are still alive are the most notable participants in the museum’s life, contributing invaluable assets for educational work through their willingness to bear witness.

 

Every year at the beginning of August, to commemorate the Rising, the museum becomes a pivotal point on the Polish cultural landscape, when history and remembrance move to the centre of contemporary art events. Accessibility is enhanced, as these events are not confined to the museum’s walls.

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