School of patriotism

Anna Cichoblazinska

During a lesson of Polish an eleven-year old boy was asked about the word 'patriotism': what he associated that word with. He answered, 'with the woods near my home town.' When he visited his father, working abroad, he longed for the countryside of his little homeland. The pupil did not read 'Pan Tadeusz' [Master Thaddeus] and even if he had read it the longing of the Poet for the tree-covered hills, situated over the blue Niemen River, would not have impressed him much. Should we first leave our homeland in order to long for it? To love it?
One must admit that in the epoch of freedom, which we all enjoy, we, adults, have not been able to build a system that would allow us to teach patriotism to the youth. We have so much relished our freedom, regained after long 60 years, that the opened the borders, the Mediterranean beaches, the monuments of Italy, France or Spain to became closer to us than the borderland springs of the Zaleczanski Landscape Park along the Warta River, the unique marshes of the Biebrza River or the charm of sunrise over the surface of the Mazurian lakes. We have admired our freedom forgetting that what is most precious, what is our treasure, is just at our hand's reach, that before we get to know the treasures of the world culture we should get to know our own treasures, those that can be found just behind our thresholds, which form our character and constitute our identity. We say that our freedom has not been threatened today, that are borders are secure, that a powerful military pact protects us, that it is the time to form a new model of patriotism. 'Does nothing really threaten us?' asks Prof. Dr. Katarzyna Olbrycht. 'My students tell me while packing their suitcases after the defence of their Master's theses: 'We will come back, do not worry.' Perhaps some will return but have you given them sufficient national identity so that they can avoid conformism, so that they keep their national identity, are proud of their nation?' Strong national character lets you survive many hardships and the feeling of community makes your life easier even when you are abroad.

Appealing for a new model of teaching patriotism

One cannot get to know the national heritage through verbal transmission or watching a film. 'One should touch the treasures of one's national culture, the places of national victories as well as martyrdom; one should look at them and confront one's imagination with the reality shaped by family or school transmission', says Dr Andrzej Przewoznik, Secretary of the Council for Saving Memory of Fight and Martyrdom. 'The Israeli authorities know it very well and see to it that the Israeli young people visit the German camp in Auschwitz, the place of the extermination of their ancestors. After such experiences the Israeli children will never forget that they are Jews.'
I think that the programme of education in Polish schools should obligatorily include visits to Katyn and Auschwitz. Without these two places of torment Poles cannot understand the latest history of their Homeland. Our state needs a programme of historical politics and a programme of patriotic education. Let us remember that the huge post-war migrations caused havoc in the family transmission. What was once a parenthetical lesson of history, at family table, where subsequent generations have sat, went into oblivion. Our grandparents who longed for Lwow and Wilno are passing away. Freed from their fatherland, migrating from the poor region of Kielce to rich Silesia or to the constructions in Nowa Huta, the young men are retired today and their children and grandchildren, like their fathers, seek their own places on the earth, but this time this is the Irish, English or Italian land. And how can one preserve the historical continuity in the family transmission?

Model of family vs. cultural transmission

We cannot forget about the changing model of Polish family, either. It is not a multigenerational family now. Parents and children sit at the Christmas Eve table, and more and more parents have only one child, actually an adult single since the age of entering into marriage has been delayed. While discussing the cultural transmission, including patriotism as its ingredient, we should not forget about the consequences of divorces. Many a time children celebrate four Christmas Eve dinners: with both grandparents and with new families of their parents, with children born in new marriages and children born in former marriages. Can we speak about the transmission of family traditions in such a muddle? And it is family that is responsible for the transmission of family traditions. Migrations and changing models of family make the Internet, modern technology, instead of the table, a means of communication with relatives. Currently, many Polish families have used meetings through the network as a substitute of the cultural transmission.

Patriotism vs. mass culture

Several months ago the National Centre for Culture launched a billboard campaign dedicated to the programme called 'Patriotism of Tomorrow'. The faces of two women on the billboards draw our attention. They symbolise the attitude of patriotism. They are the 86-year-old Kazimiera Kaminska, former prisoner during Stalin's times, and the 16-year-old Magda Giza, who cares for old little chapels in Warsaw-Praga. The programme is under the patronage of the Minister of Culture and National Heritage Kazimierz M. Ujazdowski. Is mass culture the best tool to promote love for homeland? Sociologists say that it is. And one can observe this recent trend. The musical piece 'Powstanie Warszawskie' [The Warsaw Uprising], recorded by Lao Che rapping group, the cartoons '1956 Poznanski Czerwiec' [1956 Poznan June] or 'Ks. Jerzy Popieluszko' [Fr Jerzy Popieluszko] by Maciej Jasinski have enjoyed great popularity recently. 'We, adults, spoil young people with our former habits: lack of confidence in institutions, distorted history, which is devoid of its sense of national identity, and deceptions committed by our powerful neighbours who had partitioned us and whose policy was continued by Hitlerism and communism', one of the teachers says during the session concerning patriotism. Do we really exaggerate the martylology of our nation? Should the modern understanding of patriotism be limited to work for family and local environment, to express citizen's responsibility by voting, etc? Do we not want to throw the baby out with the bathwater accidentally? Do we not confuse causes with effects? We attentively look at the American nation, the conglomeration of nations, races and viewpoints? When the sounds of the anthem are heard the Americans of Irish, Mexican, African and Polish background put their hands on the heart, thus honouring the American symbol.

Is a Pole-Catholic really a stereotype?

The background for patriotic upbringing is the atmosphere of family. The research shows that adults have similar views concerning politics, religion or upbringing as their parents. Psychologists attempt to explain this phenomenon by the fact that parents meet the basic needs of children. In school this role is taken over by teachers, later by peer groups and religious community. The results of research show that these two values: patriotism and religiousness are closely related. It turns out that the ridiculed Pole-Catholic is not a stereotype, that there is a close correlation between patriotism variable and faith variable, although our religiousness makes us choose the dogmas in a selective way, which may also lead to reject or weaken such a value as patriotism. Below are the researchers' results concerning patriotic attitudes, conducted by Reverend Dr. Andrzej Sulka on national samples (women and men at the age of 16-65): 'Poles are characterised by a high level of patriotism, intensification of positive feelings for their own country and nation, and at the same time a low level of nationalism, small hostility or aversion to other nations. Such needs as submission, endurance, order, care, understanding oneself and others have positive relationship to patriotism. And such values as faith in salvation, national security, wisdom, beauty of the world, peace, equal rights correlate with patriotism'
- The values, which are weakly connected with patriotism, are: comfortable life, pleasant life and life full of impressions. 'The instrumental values, which strongly correlate with patriotism, are: helpfulness, obedience, honesty, understanding. The values, which weakly correlate with patriotism, are: self-reliance, creativity, ability, reflexivity. 'A high level of patriotism characterizes people who prefer the instrumental values of interpersonal character (sense of responsibility, respect and work for others), and who do not pay much attention to the instrumental values of personal character (self-sufficiency and self-reliance as well as intellectual values).
- As far as the needs are concerned patriotism is connected with submissiveness towards other people, avoidance of conflicts, preference for peace rather than for victories in interpersonal contacts, avoidance of risk, preference for what has been tested and what is certain, submitting oneself to superiors. - The higher patriotism, the lower religious crisis. Patriotism grows on the foundation of integrated religious life, ability to solve religious problems, acceptance of your own religious beliefs, identification with your own religious community, constant religious convictions, practices and values. - The religious attitude is a strong foundation to form patriotic attitudes. Patriots, more than non-patriots, are characterised by their strong faith in God: they acknowledge him as the Creator of the world, venerate him with due respect, regard the principles of behaviour resulting from faith as their moral duty.
- It is practically impossible to form patriotism without a strict connection with religious values and moulding religiousness. The strong sources of patriotism are: religious-patriotic upbringing and instilling patriotic feelings through the family, religious community as well as school and peers and passing from feelings to concrete religious activities. A child who gets to know the concept of common good and belonging to a group will become a patriot - this is the foundation to understand one's homeland.'
-Men and women differ on the concept of patriotism: men pay more attention to external values concerning humankind or a large group, e.g. a nation (national security, peace in the world, equality and responsibility); therefore, it is right to pay attention to military aspects in the patriotic upbringing of boys: defence, successes of the Polish army, figures of national heroes. The ability to make relationships, the system of commendation and social approval favour the patriotism of men. The author of the research suggests paying more attention to collaboration with peers than to competition in the upbringing of boys. The patriotism of women is characterised by preferring such values as understanding, honesty, wisdom, beauty of the world, and therefore, one should refer to appreciating the beauty of the countryside, culture and art in the upbringing of girls.

Directing young age

Upbringing is a slow process, requiring knowledge, sensitivity, ordered hierarchy of values and good models. Naturally, its foundation is family, then the institutions that support family, including school and peers. Neither parents nor educators should forget the fact that they mould the young age. And who young people become depends on what adults give them. The media bombard us with pictures of the increasing level of youth's aggression, suicides of children and young people, increasing level of juvenile crimes. These appalling scenes with young people as the main characters have caused many discussions about the Polish youth, family and school. It is a paradox that we needed deaths of young people to begin a national debate on upbringing, results of the non-stress upbringing programmes, all present pornographic films and computer programmes that teach aggression and kill natural sensitivity. Debates about parents who, being brought up in violence, teach violence to their children. Should we analyse the value of patriotism in this context? This seems to be a rhetorical question. It is enough to visit the Museum of the Warsaw Uprising...

"Niedziela" 35/2007

Editor: Tygodnik Katolicki "Niedziela", ul. 3 Maja 12, 42-200 Czestochowa, Polska
Editor-in-chief: Fr Jaroslaw Grabowski • E-mail: