Commentary Opinion

Opinion: Poles need more than just acknowledgment of their heroism

Although President Andrzej Duda went above and beyond what was expected of him during his speech at the 80th anniversary of WWII, US Vice-President Mike Pence’s speech unfortunately leaves much to wish for, writes Artur Bartkiewicz.

Artur Bartkiewicz comments on the speeches held during the 80th anniversary of the outbreak of the Second World War.

During commemorations such as those held on September 1st, it’s easy to repeat schematic formulas about the victory of good over evil, the suffering of millions, the heroism of soldiers and promises, that we will never allow for such a tragedy to happen again. Anyone can put their name to such phrases.

Andrzej Duda, however, broke out from the mold and pointed out that history is far from over. That in Europe, which today repeats “never again”, things which should never happen again are still taking place - Duda referred to the events in Georgia in 2008 and Ukraine in 2014, victims of Russian aggression which resulted in changing borders.

It is important that the president of Poland, a country so horribly affect by border changes in Europe by Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin, warns of “what had happened, may yet come.” He called for a determined opposition to aggression, which Western Europe lacked in 1939.

It’s a shame that Duda was alone in that fragment of his speech, as neither Frank-Walter Steinmeier nor Mike Pence touched on the subject. Steinmeier’s plea for forgiveness spoken in Polish in Wieluń, the first town ravaged by the war, was not ignored by world media.

Mike Pence’s speech disappointed in this context: there were many beautiful words about Poles, freedom, God, faith and indomitability, but they lacked specifics. He didn’t mention Ukraine, or the strengthening of the US military presence in Central-Eastern Europe due to Eastern threats.

The only time he referred to the present day was a jab in the context of Germany’s lacking military spending (though Pence did not actually directly refer to Germany). That is an issue, but is the Eastern threat not the real issue, due to which military spending is so important?

That one sentence was truly missing. A shame, because Poles should remember that merely acknowledging their heroism by the West is not enough.

In 1939 our heroism had also been acknowledged.

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