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.
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.
Polish Independence Day in WarsawTo 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.
The official state aspect of the day's proceedings tends to be a well-attended balance of celebratory and slightly sombre events. Unfortunately, however, recent years have seen the occasion co-opted by far-right political groups, who organise their own rallies and marches in the capital, sometimes leading to clashes with the police and counter protestors. Some years have seen peacful celebrations (like last year's march) others haven't (Independence Day events in Warsaw made the international press in 2017 for all the wrong reasons). Regardless of what happens this year, you can bet that there will be a lot of people from all political spectrums celebrating, waving flags and setting off flares on Poland's Independence Day!
2023 Independence Day
This Nov. 11, an Independence Run starts on Jana Pawla II Avenue at ul. Stawki at 10 a.m. and goes toward Aleja Niepodleglosci, turning at ul. Rakowiecka. There is also a military parade, which starts at noon at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Meanwhile, the Polish national anthem will be sung in front of the Royal Castle at the same time (take your pick!)
The independence march (which is not a state-sponsored event, but rather is usually organized by nationalist groups) typically begins at 2 p.m. at Dmowski Roundabout. Then it follows Jerozolimskie, across the Poniatowski Bridge to the National stadium around 16:30 - 17:00 when there's a post-march concert. This schedule is not official but it's the general route and time that the march has followed in the past. This is not a candy-throwing parade like you might find on the Fourth of July in the US, but more of a demonstration.
Remember: stores are closed on Nov. 11 so plan accordingly!