Celebrating and Protecting the Sovereignty of a Nation
Every year on November 11th, over 100,000 Poles convene in Warsaw to celebrate their Independence Day. Known in Polish as Dzień Niepodległości, this day commemorates the anniversary of Poland regaining its statehood in 1918 after 123 years of being partitioned by Russia, Prussia, and Austria.
While the celebrations during this day have caused controversy in previous years, for Poles around the country November 11th represents one of the most important days of the Polish calendar. Around the capital, Varsovians organize a large number of different parades, ceremonies, and concerts.
The Independence Run, known in Polish as Bieg Niepodległości, is held in various cities across the country. In Warsaw, the Run boasts approximately 15,000 participants annually. Already in its 28th year, participants run the ten-kilometer course along Aleja Jana Pawla II. The starting gun fires at exactly 11:11am, a nod to November 11th.
Notably, participants are encouraged to sport either a white or red shirt, whereupon they will be split into two lines. As the race progresses, the densely-packed sea of runners transforms into an endless Polish flag.
This official Independence Day ceremony is held at Marshal Józef Piłsudksi Square. Here the current President, Prime Minister, and other heads of state join hundreds of members of the Polish military in a highly-choreographed and densely-attended ceremony.
This year, President Andrzej Duda and Prime Minister Beata Szydło led the processions, delivering a speech discussing Polish Independence as well as singing the Polish national anthem, titled “Poland Is Not Yet Lost” (in Polish: Jeszcze Polska Nie Zginęła).
The ceremony ended with the firing of a line of cannons as well as the laying of wreaths at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Afterward, the procession of soldiers marched down Nowy Świat Street, dressed in military uniforms from different divisions and periods of Polish history.
Setting off from approximately 2pm, this infamous march is regularly Poland’s largest Independence Day demonstration. This year, about 75,000 participants marched down Aleja Jerozolimskie toward the National Stadium.
Orchestrated by nationalist organizations from around Poland, the march attracts many far-right participants carrying Polish flags and loudly chanting inciting slogans. This march is judged to be the largest gathering of its kind in Europe.
The heavy use of road flares as well as firecrackers that explode as loudly as grenades is a yearly occurrence, bordering on tradition despite being technically forbidden.
This year marked the 98th anniversary of Poland’s independence.