Polish Independence Day in Katowice

11 Nov 2019
While other parts of the world celebrate 11 November as Remembrance Day, Armistice Day and Veterans Day, for Poles the end of the Great War is perhaps even more significant as it saw Poland finally regaining its independence, having been partitioned by Austria, Germany and Russia for the previous 123 years. After the defeat of various occupying forces Poles began to regain control over their country for the first time in more than a century, with famed military hero Józef Piłsudski appointed as Commander-in-Chief on 11 November, 1918. Piłsudski went on to form a new centralised government and went on to command Polish forces in the 1920 Battle of Warsaw, a key turning point in the rebirth of the country. Sadly enough, National Independence Day (Narodowe Święto Niepodległości) was constituted in 1937 and only celebrated twice before World War II.
Józef Piłsudski

In PRL (Polish People's Republic) times, the date was moved to 22 July to honour the day the PKWN Manifesto (a document that basically asserted communist authority over Poland) was issued in 1944. In 1989 after communism fell, the holiday was restored to its original 11 November date. To mark the occasion every year in front of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier on Pl. Piłsudskiego in Warsaw there’s the official Changing of the Guard with all the big wigs, president, prime minister and top brass in attendance. Outside of the capital, cities all over the country hold their own parades as well.
Historical Reenactment groups march through Katowice on Independence Day. Photo: WSZW.
If you're in Poland on this day you'll find that though a national bank holiday, most restaurants and bars will still be open; museums and shops on the other hand will be closed. Marking the occasion in Katowice each year is a wreath laying ceremony at the monument to Wojciech Korfanty in front of the Silesian Parliament. An orchestra and choir will perform in front of the Christ the King Cathedral (10:00) which is then followed by a holy mass (10:30). A solemn ceremony (12:00) then takes place at the monument to Józef Piłsudki but also includes a military parade. It's all topped off with a display of military equipment (13:30), back where it all started, in Plac Sejmu Śląskiego.

Things get a bit more lively in Chorzów too, as a patriotic picnic is also organised at Plac Europejski in front of the Silesian Stadium, where military equipment will also be displayed for everyone to peruse (11:00-17:00).


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