Europe’s freedom born in Poland

Konsul KapuscinskaSeptember 1st 75 years ago saw the outbreak of WWII, the deadliest global conflict in human history. The first nation to fight the German invasion was Poland. On September 17, 1939 she was invaded again, this time from the east by Joseph Stalin’s Red Army, Hitler’s ally at that time.
Long and dark years of occupation brought Europe on the verge of a moral collapse. Liberation of Western Europe began on June 6, 1944 with the D-Day landings, manned also by Polish airmen and seamen. General Stanisław Maczek’s armoured division liberated Holland. Polish Sosabowski paratroopers–denied landings in the August ’44 Warsaw–manned the guns of the largest airborne operation Market garden. Liberating the West, they hoped for freedom in the East. Winning back the continent of Europe took the lives of hundreds of thousands of soldiers. But millions were saved when the war was over. Freed nations of Western Europe paraded with joy, celebrating the end of a totalitarianism. However, not all the heroes of the allied war effort had reason enough to celebrate. In Poland and in other countries of the region one totalitarianism was replaced by another. The dream of a free Europe had been shattered in Yalta where the victorious allied powers agreed to the division of Europe into spheres of influence. For the next 44 years Central and Eastern Europe found itself oppressed by the Soviet communism, Europe’s other totalitarianism.
Yet, the dreams of freedom our grandfathers had were passed on to our fathers and lived on behind the Iron Curtain. This year in Normandy we marked 70 years since the D-Day landings, the beginning of the end of Nazism. This year in Warsaw on June 4 delegations from over 50 countries celebrated the beginning of the end of Communism, a breakthrough that started in Poland on June 4, 1989 when the first partially-free elections brought about a bloodless revolution and set in motion the domino effect of change reuniting the divided Europe and changing the lives of hundreds of millions of European
“Reflect on the gift of freedom that was given and at the same time entrusted to us” said our great countryman Saint John Paul II. He kept reminding us that “freedom requires continuous efforts to reinforce it and experience it responsibly.” Poland won her freedom the hard way, not liberated in ’44, fighting till the end of WWII in ’45 and then struggling on with communist oppression till ’89. She not only became the architect of her own freedom and success. She led the way to freedom for others. Today Poland is a successful 25-year old reborn democracy, with a nearly 1050-year old heritage, a member of NATO with 15 years’ standing and a decade-old member of the European Union.
Let us appreciate that hard-earned freedom every day. Today’s Poland is more peaceful, prosperous and strong than it has been in the past 500 years, which reminds us how fortunate our generations are. A quarter of a century of freedom and prosperity offers us and our children perspectives in a land where they had been denied for centuries.
The rise of Poland from the ashes of WWII and the divisions of Communism was symbolically fulfilled last week with the election of Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk as the President of the European Council, the de facto ‘president of Europe’. It is proof that half-a-century old division into old and new Europe is a thing of the past.
Let us cherish that freedom. Let us remember generations of heroes who had fought for it. Let us show integrity, dedication to peace and to the values of democracy. Finally, let us show solidarity with those who have yet to win their peace, freedom and security.

Consul General of the Republic of Poland in Chicago Paulina Kapuścińska

From the editor: The letter from Consul General of the Republic of Poland in Chicago, Paulina Kapuścińska was presenting by Vice Consul of Poland Konrad Zieliński during the Polish Mission Commemorates September 1 1939.

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