Krakow

Polish Independence Day in Kraków

09 Nov 2016

While other parts of the world celebrate November 11th as 'Remembrance Day' (UK, Canada), 'Armistice Day' (France, NZ), and 'Veterans Day' (USA), for Poles the ending of the Great War was even more significant as it saw Poland finally regaining its independence and returning to the map of Europe after 123 years of being partitioned by Austria, Germany and Russia. With the signing of the Armistice between the Allies and Germany, famed military hero Józef Piłsudski was appointed as Commander-in-Chief of the Second Republic of Poland on November 11th, 1918. Piłsudski formed a new centralised government and went on to command Polish forces against Russia in the victorious 1920 Battle of Warsaw, a key turning point in the rebirth of the country. In true facepalm fashion, however, Independence Day was constituted in 1937 and celebrated exactly twice before World War II began and Poland found itself occupied again. In the communist era, the date of Independence Day was dubiously moved to July 22nd to honour the day the PKWN Manifesto - a document which basically asserted communist authority over Poland - was issued in 1944. After communism fell in 1989, the holiday was restored to its original November 11th date.

Marking the occasion in Kraków each year is a holy mass at Wawel Cathedral (10:00), followed by a very solemn military parade at 11:30 from Wawel to Plac Matejki along the Royal Route. In the evening things are a bit more lively as the Loch Camelot cabaret hands out free songbooks and leads the people in a rousing singing of patriotic songs on the market square beginning at 15:00. In addition, between 10:30 and 14:00, a special 'patriotic' tram circles the Planty with a choir performing national songs inside.

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