Let us love the Polish flag

Maria Zmigrodzka

In February 2004 the Polish Parliament established a new national holiday on 2 May as the Polish Flag Day and at the same time it is also celebrated as a day of Polish immigration or Poles abroad, so called Polonia Day. This holiday falls after Labour Day and before May 3 when we celebrate the anniversary of the Constitution passed in 1791.
In the times of the Polish People’s Republic the flags, which had to be flown before Labour Day, were to be removed on 2 May so that the anniversary of the Constitution, which had been so strongly rooted in the Polish history and awareness, was not honoured. Special services were to watch that people removed all national emblems, fining those who were too slow or stubborn to remove the flags. The same situation repeated on 11 November.
The White Eagle, the white-red flag and the national anthem, written by Jozef Wybicki, known as ‘the Song of the Polish Legions in Italy’ or ‘Dabrowski’s Mazurka’ (1797), are the most important, commonly respected Polish symbols. They have accompanied us for many centuries. According to Jan Dlugosz, Emperor Otto III gave King Boleslaw Chrobry [the Brave] the sign of the eagle as an evidence of sovereign power, reserved for the Piast dynasty. In the 12th century the Eagle was on the coins of Kazimierz Sprawiedliwy [Casimir the Just] (1194) and then on the seal of Prince Kazimierz of Opole (1222). On the coronation of Przemyslaw II in Gniezno (1295) it was an official emblem of the kingdom. It was placed on the Polish rulers’ banners; it was commonly put on the red background. Thus we have the red and while colours. The Jagiellonian insignia of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth had those colours. The White Eagle of Poland and the Pursuer (Pogon) of Lithuania (a white knight riding a white horse), both on a four-parted red shield (the eagle was on the first and the fourth parts and the knight on the white horse on the second and the third ones). The pennants of the Hussars [Polish winged cavalry], the banners and flags of Stefan Batory, of the kings of the Waza dynasty, of King Jan Sobieski, of the kings of the Sas dynasty and of King Stanislaw August Poniatowski had similar colours.
On 3 may 1792, white and red were acknowledged as the national colours. During the celebrations of the first anniversary of the Constitution women wore white dresses with red ribbons and men wore white-red cockades. The sign of white and red was kept until the November Uprising when the Parliament passed the bill concerning white and red as the national colours on 7 February 1831. The flags, which the Polish nation loved, were raised during all national uprisings and anniversaries. The white-red cockades were often worn. After Poland had regained independence white and red were officially acknowledged as the colours of Poland (1919), which was upheld after World War II by a decree of 7 December 1955.
The Polish flag has always been a symbol of independence and national identity, an expression of revolt against the partitioners, occupants and all violence. It strengthened the Polish defenders of Lvov, the soldiers of the Battle of Warsaw, then the defenders of the Polish Post office in Gdansk, of Westerplatte, of the Parachute Tower, of the partisans’ units, of the underground movement and the insurgents of Warsaw. It was placed next to the Jewish flag during the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. The battles of Narwik, Tobruk, Arnhem and Monte Cassino witnessed the flag flying. Towards the end of the war, on 2 May 1945, the Polish soldiers planted a white-red banner on the Berlin Victory Column (Siegessäule) when they captured the city. Polish flags flourished in the hands of the participants of the illegal gatherings and students’ manifestations in the times of Polish People’s Republic. The striking workers of the shipyards and miners placed lovingly a ‘forest’ of white-red flags bearing the crowned eagle in their factories next to the portraits of John Paul II. The 13-year-old boy Romek Strzalkowski, raising a Polish flag, which someone had dropped during an anti-government manifestation, was shot dead in Poznan in 1956, Now when we are facing no threats the Polish flag should be always with us to emphasize the dates of our national holidays and to remind us of our Polish traditions. It should be loved and close to us and it should be much respected. Let the holidays of 2 May, 3 May and 11 November as well as other important anniversaries be occasions to fly the national flag. It is sad and embarrassing to see the sheets or laundry in the balconies instead of flags flown on our holidays, which are worth remembering. Besides Poland a holiday of the national flag is celebrated in the United States, Mexico, Finland, Ukraine and China.
May our streets, gates, offices, apartments, houses, works, schools and shop-window displays get white and red with the beauty of our national symbols! Let us do everything to have our flags available in shops, parishes and all Polish households. Keep them ready to be exposed! Let us not wait for others to do it first. Let us see to it ourselves. Let us teach our children, youth and ... adults; our close and distant friends, our neighbours and passers-by to follow this custom!

"Niedziela" 17/2008

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