Here we are, at the end of all things.
No, sorry, I’ve been reading too much Lord of the Rings. Here we are at the end of my Warsaw posts. All I have left are my pictures of the Uprising Museum, and my pictures of the airport. (Yes, I took pictures of the airport… just wait.)
The Museum… it’s big. It would’ve taken me a long time to walk through and read all the displays (which were usually offered in English as well as Polish, but not all of them), but luckily I had my steadfast guide Anka to tell me all about it. Still, we were probably in there for an hour and a half (I think?) and there was more we could’ve looked at. (I should point out that it cost, I think, 14 or 16 zlotys, which converts to, like, 3.5 Euro, or 5 US dollars. Well worth it.)
Near the entry are remains of the original Royal Castle. Here it is in 1945:
Toys and a blouse.
Drawings on the wall about the Uprising.
The way the Uprising is presented to kids, in this context at least, is not exactly subtle. You can buy dolls of children dressed in oversized uniforms, and so on, right there in the room. There is even a board game (ages eight and up).
Some photographs… there were so many of them, and if you’re interested you could probably find hundreds of them online. I was really struck by how documented the whole thing was. They had videos, too, some of which had been staged to make newsreel films to let the Allies and the rest of the country know about their attempt. I kept thinking about the photographers, and what it must have been like to try and document something like this while obviously being closely involved in it.
Coming out of the sewers.
A recreation of their backyard burials and shrines.
Pictures of insurgents after their arrest by the Germans. View full-size and have a look at their smiles.
Their home-made scapulars and rosaries – made out of insulation and wire.
Portable vestments. You may not be able to tell from the picture, but they’re smaller than would be typical.
From top right to bottom left: a priest censes the altar (!) during Mass; the chalice, cruets, and other liturgical vessels on an altar; people kneeling at the moment of consecration during Mass; a casket sits before the altar; and two young people are married.
There’s a room with letters and postcards on the walls that were sent between family members and other loved ones during the uprising. Not translated. Anka told me it would be particularly hard to translate the affectionate diminutives and other terms that are used in Polish. There were recordings reading some parts of the letters aloud, and a slideshow with video that played while the voices read:
These are both from funerals, obviously. Look at the age of these kids.
And speaking of that…
This boy was 13 when he was killed.
There are lots of displays of their weapons, some of which were built or acquired specifically for the underground.
There was a 3D movie, a (computer generated) flyover of Warsaw after the end of the uprising and the terrible bombings. There is one part of the city (where the museum is located now) that was the site of a real massacre. The Nazis wiped out the whole area, going through the houses and killing every person they found there — in the flyover it’s just a completely flat space, with even less surviving rubble than in the rest of the city.
Then there was a small Stalin Hallway (as I named it) on the way to a cute old-fashioned cafe, where we had this special cake that’s sold all over the city in different variations (it’s in honor of building a road… don’t ask me…), and also a nice, cold, Diet Coke.
Then we walked up to the viewing platform:
Where it was already almost dark…
Before I move on from the Uprising, I wanted to mention that it’s still solemnly commemorated every year on August 1, the anniversary of the beginning of the Uprising. At 5:00pm the sirens go off and there is a moment of silence that is actually observed (!) throughout the whole city. At this point the fighters are pretty unambiguously regarded as martyrs; there’s also the very strong feeling that they were abandoned by the Allies to their fate — the museum even played a video of Pope John Paul II referring to it in a speech he gave here in Warsaw. It will be interesting to see how this will change (or not) as the last veterans (or more like, child witnesses) pass away and WWII is no longer a living memory. It seems like the history of the representation of the Uprising through decades of Soviet and communist silence also plays a part.
After we left the museum, we found a church and I heard Mass in Polish (only my fourth language so far…) — it was the Church of the Holy Spirit, and we also happened to be there on the feast of the church’s consecration, which was cool.
Then we went in desperate search of a public bathroom. And found one in a KFC.
Along with some nuns. (Well, sisters, but let’s not get pedantic…)
Then we went on a protracted quest to find our way to the biggest cemetery and see if we could see people preparing for All Souls. In Poland, All Saints/All Souls is a BIG DEAL, with pre-Christian roots, and a thriving modern observance. Absolutely everybody visits their family graves, even if they’re buried across the country, and in the cemeteries there are usually flowers and lantern-candles on every grave. It fell on a Monday and Tuesday this year, but we hoped people would have started putting up their stuff the weekend before. And they sort of did — the people selling flowers and candles were certainly ready. But by the time we took the wrong bus (because, as previously mentioned, the special cemetery bus routes had mixed up the regular ones) and gone in a complete circle riding all kinds of different buses, we got to where we wanted to go and discovered that… the gates were already shut for the night. But anyway. It was a nice way to spend the evening. 🙂
But we were happy to go home by then, and we went back and had even MORE fun than the night before, and an even MORE engrossing conversation (this time less X-Files, more the meaning of the universe) and I was given a brief education in another Polish gastronomic tradition. It was also the beginning of Daylight Savings Time, which made it seem slightly more reasonable to stay up until past 3 (regular time) even though we knew we had to get up at 7.
But we did, successfully, if blearily, and went back to the airport —
HERE IS THE AIRPORT — Chopin is a big deal in Warsaw —
and made plans to go to Krakow and/or Berlin together (yesss) and then I was off!
But first… I apologize to everyone who finds this boring… (everyone except Courtney…) I went to see what the airport chapel was like because I figured it was probably just as awesomely Catholic as the rest of the city. I was right.
A tabernacle with the sacrament reserved. Liturgical vessels just sitting on the altar unattended. And there is no, like, interfaith chapel or anything (though there might be another room or two alongside, I didn’t explore that much), just this actual chapel! I was just tickled, especially when I noticed:
On the kneeler, with a bunch of Bibles, a liturgy of the hours, and let’s see, what language is that in?
Do you know how much these cost? Maybe not. They cost a lot. Plus, it’s in Latin. Just hanging out in this airport chapel. I love Poland.
Obligatory Częstochowa icon.
Then I boarded my plane, which was THIS SMALL. We had to drive out onto the tarmac, which was super exciting and presidential (though sadly there was no stair car), and then I said goodbye to Warsaw!
(And hello to Vienna… that’s next…)