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Sunday, 1 August 2004

Participation of the President of the Republic of Poland in the celebrations to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the...

On 1 August 2004, the President of the Republic of Poland, Aleksander Kwaśniewski, took part in the celebrations to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the Warsaw Uprising. In the afternoon, President Aleksander Kwaśniewski and German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder laid bunches of flowers and lit candles at the Little Insurgent’s Memorial.Subsequently, the President of the Republic of Poland, Aleksander Kwaśniewski, laid a wreath, on behalf of the Polish nation, at the Memorial to the Invincible Fallen in Warsaw’s Wola Cemetery.Wreaths were also laid at the Memorial to the Invincible Fallen by German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder, UK Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott and US Secretary of State Colin Powell, who attended the anniversary celebrations. In the evening, the President of the Republic of Poland and the heads of the foreign delegations taking part in the celebrations to mark the 60th anniversary of the Warsaw Uprising attended a ceremonial concert ‘For Freedom and Dignity: A Tribute to the Heroes of the 1944 Uprising’, closing the anniversary celebrations.Addressing the audience, the President of the Republic of Poland said:Most Esteemed Soldiers of the Warsaw Uprising, people of the Capital, and you, dear Warsaw, an indomitable city! Dear guests of today’s celebrations from nearby and from far away, from the neighbouring countries and from wherever Poles are scattered and the memory of this event is alive. It is this memory of the Warsaw Uprising that is an element of Polish identity. Sixty years ago, Warsaw spoke on behalf of the entire nation with armed struggle. The Uprising bore evidence that independent Poland was alive; that it firmly claimed its rightful place in the family of free states. Aware that the fate of their country was being decided during those days, the Poles went into combat with full responsibility and resolve. Nor was this an isolated episode: this had been a consistent attitude of the people of Poland. World War II broke out on our very borders; we were the first to offer armed resistance to Hitler’s criminal war machine. Even defeated, the Polish people never collaborated with the occupying Nazi force. They persisted in resistance and hope. They built an underground state on a scale unequalled across occupied Europe, with its own authorities, structures and an army.There are moments in history when a difficult choice must be made. The Uprising in Warsaw was not an act of despair, nor a foolhardy venture of some desperados. It was a well-considered decision setting specific military and political objectives. The Poles had the right to count on their plans to succeed, to count on substantial support from the anti-Nazi coalition. It is with respect that we think of the representatives of the Polish Underground State and the Home Army commanders who had to carry the burden of that fateful decision. Even though they could not overcome history, even though the awaited assistance did not arrive, they sent a clear message to the world, showing how great was the determination of the Polish people in their struggle for freedom and independence.On behalf of the Republic of Poland, on behalf of all my Compatriots, with great respect I bow my head before the heroes of those sixty three bloody days: before the Soldiers of the Uprising, before the heroism of hundreds of thousands of Warsaw residents, before the dedication of those who made an attempt to relieve the city from across the Vistula. We are in your debt, we are your disciples. Warsaw fell, but it fell victorious. The Warsaw Uprising was recorded in the annals of history as a call of deepest patriotism, as an indestructible legend. It is from this message that the free, sovereign, democratic Republic of Poland grows out: our fulfilment and our pride.It is also from this message that a canon of values and attitudes grows out that provide a model for today’s youth, such as the love of our Homeland, being true to ideals and able to make sacrifices for the sake of others. These values, these attitudes are very much alive, they are found among young people. Today, they are expressed differently: we can see them in the universal drive towards learning, towards upgrading one’s qualifications, in openness to others and, at the same time, in concern for the historical heritage. We can see them even here, at this ceremony, in the behaviour of scouts and girl guides, young people helping in the organisation of the present events, in their respectful and helpful kindness. We thank all these young people. Pass on this tradition of patriotism and loyalty to Poland!I believe that the Warsaw Insurgents may be proud that their last will is being fulfilled, that the young people of Poland want to worthily continue their work. They do it in their own way, in the style of their era, but they are headed in the same direction: towards the glory of our common Homeland. May your attitudes find the greatest numbers of followers!We do appreciate the fact that at this moment, so poignant for Poland, we have among us guests, friends and allies. I want to reiterate the words of welcome addressed to the Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany, Gerhard Schröder, the representative of the President of the United States, Secretary of State Colin Powell, and the representative of the Prime Minister and the government of the United Kingdom, Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott. I would like to welcome all our foreign guests on behalf of the Republic of Poland. We are happy that we may experience these solemn and moving moments together with you. I also wish to offer thanks to those--some of them are present here, but far from all, as fate and time are merciless--but I want to thank those soldiers who air-dropped supplies over the fighting city. Warsaw remembers their dedication and courage with gratitude. We welcome you to today’s reunion and thank you for your support.Sixty years on is the time to thank all those who supported the Uprising. You can be assured of our highest esteem, and I would like to tell you on behalf of the generation that did not experience the war: you are those who stood by us, who showed solidarity with us, who helped us. You are our brothers; you are heroes of the common struggle in defence of freedom.I wish to emphasize the importance of Chancellor Schröder’s presence here. A moment ago, we paid tribute together at the Memorial to the Invincible Fallen: a tribute to all those residents of Warsaw who lost their lives during the Uprising. 104, 000 Varsovians--civilians who joined in the Uprising--were buried there, many of them in mass graves. Mr. Chancellor, this gesture has a historic significance. It is yet another important sign of reconciliation between our nations.We were divided by a chasm, a chasm full of pain and blood. And today, we welcome Mr. Chancellor to Warsaw as a representative of a friendly country with which we enjoy close relations, as an ally and a partner. Underlying this symbolism is our joint triumph, a triumph over evil. This is the yardstick against which to measure the historical distance that the Poles and the Germans have travelled towards each other. Mr. Chancellor, we do appreciate the critical and clear position taken by yourself and by the federal government on the property claims against Poland occasionally advanced in Germany. We are glad that we are united by a common opinion on how to commemorate European resettlements and expulsions. We regard you as our great ally in the struggle for historical truth! For the truth concerning the victims and the culprits!I firmly believe that the painful past we have behind us will be a lesson and a warning to our peoples, to Europe and to the world. Let us try to take it in and to understand it fully. Let us not isolate the past phenomena and events from their tragic context, let us not detach the results from their causes; let us not confuse the perpetrators and the victims. To show the historical truth in all its complexity remains our common challenge.But above all, let us seek understanding, thinking of the future. Let us work consistently to accomplish the mission imposed upon us by history. These Warsaw days of 2004 are a great step forward on this particular issue! They are an achievement for the next generations to draw upon. Ladies and Gentlemen!Let a message of reconciliation and hope flow from this place, from Poland’s capital, from Warsaw that was reborn out of debris, that is paying tribute to the Insurgents of 1944! Sixty years ago the Polish people wanted to win in armed struggle a space of freedom for themselves between the two totalitarian powers. Today, this wish has come true to a greater extent that we could ever dream of. A free and independent Poland is within a circle of friends and partners.Together with the Germans, the Americans, the British and with other nations we are in NATO, guaranteeing peace and security not only here and not only across our region, but wherever it can reach out with its values.We also participate in a new form of cooperation and partnership, unprecedented in the history of our continent: in the European Union. This is a great opportunity for the future. This is a great hope for the new generations of Poles.Mindful of the experiences and tragedies of the 20th century, together we seek to make the world a better place, to make those values that the Warsaw Insurgents, too, were struggling for prevail in it; the values you were struggling for, Ladies and Gentlemen, young Poles, young Varsovians in those August and September days of 1944: for the right to freedom, the right to happiness, the right to peace, the right to live in dignity.Our today’s Poland--wisely building its future, steadily expanding cooperation with other countries, able to work better and better, able to modernise itself, able, in spite of all the difficulties, to overcome the problems we encounter every day--this is our common success, this is a triumph of many generations. This is the result of struggle, hard work and sacrifice and, most importantly, of the love of our Homeland!And it is you who suggested this way of thinking and acting for the glory of our Homeland to all the successive generations. There are few equally magnificent victories of the spirit in history! It was then that this victory was achieved! Thank you, Insurgent Warsaw! Thank you, heroic Soldiers of the Warsaw Uprising!
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