The months of August and September are especially nostalgic for Varsovians in large part because of the long shadow the both heroic and tragic events of the Warsaw Uprising still cast over the capital to this day. One of the hardest things for generations of Poles to process is the fact that Warsaw was all but abandoned by both Western Allies and the Red Army. The latter of which in fact had already reached the boundaries of the city before the conflict even began and could have intervened to tip the scales and prevent the massive loss of life and total destruction of the city. Only once the Nazi’s had finally flattened the city entirely and begun their full-on retreat to Berlin did the Red Army march into the city. They flooded into the decimated capital as liberators, without firing a single shot during the Uprising itself. And so began 55 years of Communist rule and Soviet control over Warsaw and Poland.
Though Poland never joined the Soviet Union, the Communist government was all but personally installed by Stalin and he would control the Polish ‘satellite’ with an iron grip until his death in 1953. While many of Stalin’s more outright atrocities are well documented, what many don’t realise is how much of a master propagandist he was and how well he wielded what can only be called ‘soft power.’ Very quickly after the end of World War II he immediately saw for the allocation of funds to help rebuild the Polish Capital. Many of the buildings were constructed in the brutalist yet grandiose socialist style and are still standing to this day. None are grander than the Palace of Culture itself.