There's nothing Poles enjoy more than a big anniversary celebration. Part of it has to do with a turbulent history - marked by wars, foreign domination and moments of triumph. And it seems that history has stamped itself on the Polish character. An opinion poll has revealed a significant majority of Poles are proud of their national origins.
A special kind of music accompanied recent Independence Day parades in Poland marking an anniversary of the country regaining its independence after World War I, following 123 years of foreign rule. Asked 'Are you proud of being a Pole' by the CBOS Institute, ninety percent said 'Yes', and 54 percent declared they were 'very proud' of being a Pole. This 35 year old engineer believes the notion of patriotism has not lost its meaning:
"Patriotism is something every one of us should have inside, but not take too seriously. It's a kind of random where you get born. I mean, my mom could also be German so I would feel German right now. But, as a matter of fact, I'm Polish and I feel so. Wherever I go, I travel a lot around the world, everywhere someone asks me where I'm from, I say I'm Polish and I'm proud of it."
According to the survey, 36 percent of Poles are rather proud of being a Pole and 2 percent of those inquired are 'not proud at all'. Talking to a prominent writer on social affairs, Halina Bortnowska, I asked her if she was proud of being Polish:
"No, I'm not proud of being human, either. These things are given to us and are not something to be proud of. This is my privilege in a sense, but my achievement that I'm Polish. So, why should I be proud?"
Halina Bortnowska thinks there must be something in the character of Poles, which prevents them from celebrating occasions such as Independence Day in a truly joyous fashion. She herself believes that with almost three million people out of work Poles have little reason to be proud of their achievements. She goes back to the early 1980s to recall a moment of her enthusiasm and joy.
"The moment of the greatest public enjoyment I had in my life was when, in Krakow in the steelworks, somebody came back from Gdansk and told us that all these things we are doing now will be called 'solidarity'. And then the joy and tears, this is something, this is the right name for our hope."
...writer Halina Bortnowska recalling the formation of the Solidarity moment in 1980. Many outside observers of the Polish scene are struck by this sense of history - so important for Poles. Per Nyholm of the Danish daily Jyllands Posten:
"Poland has a unique historical experience in the sense that the nation has survived so many vicissitudes. Even when the state was not there the Polish nation, the Polish people, the Polish culture, survived. And, I think, that is very inspiring. It's very moving. That, of course, has made the Poles rather special people. And they, I believe, have a message to the rest of Europe which is to endure, that there is more to life - and especially maybe to a European life - than just money, welfare, beautiful houses, lots of cars, etc."
An outsider's view on Poland, by the Danish journalist Per Nyholm. Most Poles are not satisfied with their living standards and would like to be proud not only of the nation's past but also of its growing prosperity today.
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