Last summer, the timing of my trip to Poland happened to coincide with the 72nd Anniversary of the Warsaw Uprising. On August 1st, I was sipping coffee at a local cafe, when I suddenly found myself in the middle of a massive march with tens of thousands of Polish people. Unexpectedly, I got to take part in a fascinating annual tradition, which marks the start of a major struggle against Nazi Germany and pays respects for the fallen Poles.
This infamous uprising began on August 1st, 1944 and lasted for 63 days, with the Polish Home Army attempting to liberate Warsaw from German occupation. Notably, it was the largest act of resistance by any nation under German occupation during World War II. Over 200,000 Poles died - many of them civilians - and the city of Warsaw was nearly destroyed by the Nazis. War veterans, students, and regular citizens come together on August 1st to commemorate the insurgents' heroism.
At exactly 5pm - the hour in which the uprising began - the city came to a complete standstill for a minute of silence. Then, out of nowhere, the city streets were suddenly filled with the sound of alarm sirens, traffic came to a halt, and nearly everyone paused along the streets. Many were holding flags and burning flares. The red smoke quickly filled the air, cars honked, and people began to chant. Then, just as quickly as it began, the ceremony was over and business returned to normal.