Across the road from my apartment is the grounds of Krasinski Park and Palace. Built in 1683 for the provincial governor of Plock, who was heir to a large fortune. He set about building this residence in Poland’s capital to fulfil his political ambitions and show pride in his family. It was purchased by the Polish state in 1765 and partly rebuilt after a fire in 1783 only to be completed burned down and demolished by the Germans in WW2. It was of course rebuilt and you’d probably never know, as with most of the restoration work undertaken in Warsaw.
The gardens have been accessible to the public since 1768 and the space is enjoyed by young and old today. Covering 9.2 hectares, there are different gardens, water fountains, ponds, deck chairs and places to lay. Heck, there’s even free wifi!
So it’s a really enjoyable stroll through the gardens on my way to meet my cousins at POLIN this morning. POLIN is the Museum of the History of Jews in Poland – all 1,000 years of it. And to be honest, that will feel exactly how long you will feel like you are in there for!
It’s an extremely comprehensive museum covering aspects of Jewish life and the struggles of the Jewish people, including Poland in WW2. There are lots of interactive displays and lots and lots of information. I did feel a little overwhelmed upon leaving to be honest. Don’t get me wrong, it’s definitely a great museum and if you have the time and the inclination to visit, you will enjoy it. I just found it a little much.
After a brief morning tea stop in the cafe of POLIN, we make our way alongside Krasinski to the Supreme Court of Poland, where we are visiting our cousin Dorotka. She’s an Under-Officer there and she’s agreed to give us the grand tour. Here in this building they try both civil and criminal cases. We start with a trip to the roof-top which has a lovely view over Dluga Street and across the city…
…before Dorotka locks us in a cell!
Lunch is served in the milk-bar style cafeteria, with a choice of 4 dishes. I choose the cutlet with potatoes and soup with a glass of kompot. It’s super tasty, as the simplest dishes are, and we chat a little about the family during the war, until the airport calls to say Katherine’s luggage has finally arrived.
The building itself is rather modern, having been built in the mid 1990’s; green metal stairways throw their hue across large panelled glass walls and an outer corner of the building is held upon the heads of three large copper women. It’s worth a look, even just from the outside.
Wieslaw comes to collect us and briefly shows us the Field Cathedral of the Polish Army across the road before offering to drive the Pruski’s out to the airport to collect their missing luggage. This is where Paula’s son was recently baptised.
Walking inside, along the side walls are memorial plaques to all those in notable military units who have lost their lives, including those in the Smolensk air disaster. Inside the cathedral you can see all sorts of decorative icons, including the headress associated with the legendary winged hussars.
Going our separate ways, I head back to my apartment to map out a plan of attack for this afternoon’s Warsaw Uprising Commemoration. I planned this trip to make sure I was in Warsaw for this event but one thing I hadn’t quite nutted out was exactly which vantage point I would watch it from. Paula had originally planned to come with me and we were going to head to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, but she couldn’t make it. I knew I wanted to be where the action was, I just didn’t know where that would be until I caught a glimpse of a Facebook post that mentioned the Rotunda near the Palace of Science and Culture. So that’s where I headed, stopping to buy an arm band along the way and pinning on a small brooch that some cadet girls passed me.
For those that don’t know about this day, the citizens of Warsaw spare a minute’s silence in which the whole city stops to remember those who made sacrifices during the Warsaw Uprising. Before coming to Poland, I had seen a video titled There is a City, which not only made me cry, but sums it up perfectly.
Anyway, standing on the corner of the Rotunda, trying to find the perfect spot (when I’m not actually sure what’s going to happen or where), I hear the road of motorcycles. Heaps of motorcycles. Which scares me at first. They roar up onto the middle of the Rotunda and wait. Everyone’s waiting. I have no idea what the time is, but then the chanting starts, so I guess it’s close to 5pm now. I have no idea what the chanting is either, but it tapers off, Polish flags go up and one by one, flares are let go. Smoke and red light fills the atmosphere. It’s hot and red. After the one minute of silence, the motorbike’s rev their engines. It’s hot and red and loud. And oh so patriotic and stirring. I feel tears start to well.
Then it’s over and the crowds disburse.