I shout: Europe! I am Polish!

Katarzyna Woynarowska

Patriotism. A dusty, useless concept? Do we feel something when we hear the word ‘homeland’? Are we patriots? Are we ashamed of our adherence to our homeland? Do we prefer to be considered cosmopolitans? The last election showed that we could mobilise at the moments that were important to our homeland. Perhaps we seldom speak about that since what is the meaning of our patriotic actions as compared with the heroism of our national uprisings or the times of the war, the heroism of those who risked their lives to fight for the right to use Polish, the heroism of those who were banned and longed for their country until their deaths...
What is our contemporary patriotism like? What is it like if it cannot be heroic and chivalrous? Jacek Magurski, a student at the University of Warsaw, regards himself as a patriot, and moreover, he thinks that patriotism is genetically conditioned. Intelligent and sensitive (?) people possess this characteristic, and patriotic education in schools will only properly form this feature in pupils. Marcin Rozen, who attends a grammar school in Busko, thinks that contemporary patriotism means being proud of the Polish nationality. After his graduation Marcin intends to work in the Republic of Ireland (he wants to earn enough money to pay the fee at a prestigious Polish private university) and he does not intend to be someone different - he is not a cosmopolitan (he does not know why) but a young lad from southern Poland. He is irritated by the attitudes of his peers who do not speak Polish correctly after staying one year in England and who show their environments that they prefer the English language than their mother tongue. We prefers the attitudes of young Frenchmen who show their French character with overweening arrogance; they think that all products made in France are the best ones. He also prefers the Germans who look for German products in shops all over the world because they regard them as solid and trustworthy. And what about us?
- Patriots love their country, want the best for it, are able to make sacrifices, are proud of their history, want good, noble and honest government,’ says Dominik Zdrojewski. He does not want to be ashamed of his country and his fellow citizens. He appreciates and knows the national traditions and he wants to preserve them. When needed he can pull up and works for the good of his country or in other situations he can tighten his belt. Patriots do not esteem nationalists and they do not like them, either. They include patriotism into the category of higher and noble feelings and naturally, they respect other nations. They do not humiliate other nations, which is the main characteristic of nationalists. Jacek quotes one note from the Internet forum, ‘Nationalism, like Nazism, communism, socialist, racism, etc. is an ideology that is imposed on man and is alien to his nature. But ideologies are not as important as the people who represent them. Those who have no imagination can yield to any ideology, including nationalism and various sects. A patriot, i.e. a man with big imagination, never yields.’ He gets irritated when someone identifies patriotism with nationalism. This is like comparing a Mercedes to a small Polish Fiat...
The young generation prefers concrete things to verbal declarations. Being used to democratic freedom of speech young people are immune to the political gibberish, to buzzwords that do not convey anything but nice sounds. Marta Jonczyk, who has just graduated in architecture in Krakow, has already been employed in a firm in London. She is leaving before 11 November. She wants to work hard so that she can return to Krakow in a few years and open her own workshop. ‘The patriotism known from history and literature lessons is a model for hard times’, she says, perhaps it was good for the pioneering times like the rebuilding of Warsaw and so on; today patriots are those who want to contribute to the development of their country, to its success. They invest in their children’s education, they do not cheat at work, they fight against corruption, are good parents, spouses and finally good citizens... Immigration does not exempt you from being patriotic but actually strengthens you to be patriotic. The legendary adherence to the Homeland of many generations of Poles who were forced to leave their country or who were forbidden to return has become an example of heroic patriotism. The wave of immigrants from the first decade of the 21st century makes a definite differentiation between the homeland and the state. People do not lose their national identity but speak against the state that has not given them changes to develop and sometimes even any choices. A young married couple Anka and Radek Sadowski work in a spa in southern England. At first they could not get used to the people and place but after six years they are treating the place as their home. They travel to Poland on holidays and in summer. They are so busy that longing for their country does not dominate their lives. In their opinions the question about patriotism is a question about privacy...’This is a feeling that you carry somewhere inside, but it is without the manifestation characteristic of the previous century. They were religiously indifferent in Poland but here they drive one hour and half to attend Catholic services. Jedrek intends to travel to Australia and he will study there; he is open to other cultures, countries and people. He is surprised by the question about patriotism. ‘I have never thought about it. I respect my grandparents who fought during the Second World War, but nothing more. Contemporary patriotism rather means adherence to customs, to concrete places, to the Church, to people... to your little homeland.’ Whatever his fate is he will be a Pole, a man proud of his roots. ‘Yes, I am a patriot’, he admits and says good-bye.

Let us not desire such Poland that will not cost us anything.
John Paul II, Jasna Gora, 18 June 1983
Patriotism: respect and love for your homeland, readiness to sacrifice for the country and the nation, putting common good over particular or personal interests, a feeling of strong emotional and social bonds with the nation, its culture and tradition.

"Niedziela" 45/2007

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