Poland and Russia- Victory Parade a Symbol of Warming Realtions?

Yet another sign of the thawing of relations between Poland and Russia?  This one coming from Moscow.  In May, Russia will hold a multi-national military parade to commemorate the 65th Anniversary of Victory over Nazi Germany.  Polish soldiers will march behind those of Russia and the soldiers of former Soviet Republics.  What is significant is that they will march in front of American, British and French forces.  Just a few years ago Poles were not even mentioned in the pantheon of fighters against Nazism in Russia.  Vladimir Putin even mentioned anti-fascist movements from Italy and Germany, but failed to mention Polish sacrifices during WWII.  Now though Poles will be properly honoured and remembered in Russia.

Poland and Russia had testy relations in the past 20 years since Poland finally gained full independence.  Problems arose very quickly.  Poland’s attempts to integrate with the West were seen as anti-Russian policies in Moscow.  At the same time Poles saw Russian opposition as meddling by a former master.  Distrust was followed by accusations.  Several times both sides openly traded words that painted the other side as villains.  This state of affairs has not improved much over the last years.  Though Russian president Dmitry Medvedev has made efforts to heal the rifts somewhat.  As has Polish prime-minister Donald Tusk.  But Russian premier Vladimir Putin and the recently dead Polish president Lech Kaczynski were seen as antagonists to their opposing capitals.  Both highly patriotic men were seen by the other side as nationalists who turn their patriotism against their neighbours.

However, since the tragic death of the Polish president Lech Kaczynski and 95 other prominent Poles, the former antagonisms were put aside.  Lech Kaczynski’s efforts to remember the Katyn massacres are finally seen in a new light in Moscow.  Instead of anti Russian baiting, the efforts are seen as a search for truth to honour the victims of a heinous crime committed by Stalin and Soviet NKVD.  The efforts of the Russian government in the wake of the tragic air crash are seen in Poland as very positive.  Poles also appreciate the words and actions of ordinary Russians in the wake of the tragedy.

This latest move, may be only a part of that effort, after all, the Polish plane crashed only 11 days ago.  And things may go back to usual bickering and war of words.  But for now the move to place the Polish soldiers in front of the Western Allies should be seen as a positive.  It may seem insignificant to some.  But just a few months ago the participation of Poles was in question.

Historically Poles deserve a high place in the parade, so its not an unwarranted gesture of pity.  Poland fought Nazi Germany from the beginning to the end, on all fronts.  The Poles fought alongside the Western Allies as well as alongside the Red Army.  On the Eastern Front, by the end of the war, the Poles had two Armies and fought in the Battle of Berlin.  Numbers wise, Poland had the fourth largest force opposing the Nazis, bigger than France.  Yet after the war, the efforts of the Poles to defeat Hitler and his henchmen were marginalized for political expediency.  The Western Allies did not want to antagonize the Soviets over the touchy Polish subject, the Soviets in turn, marginalized the Polish Armia Krajowa (AK-Home Army) and those forces that fought alongside the American and British forces.  When communism fell it did not get much better.  Its hard to change almost 50 years of perceptions in just a few.

And as I mentioned above, 5 years ago, during the 60th Anniversary of the victory, Poles were not even invited, nor mentioned by the Russians.  So those 70 Polish representatives marching behind their former Soviet Allies are not insignificant.  It may be a step to something bigger and better.  The very complicated history of Polish-Russian relations wont be resolved by one parade, or a showing of a film.  But this may be a vital step to improve those relations.  Poland and Russia may never become friends and allies again, but they can be peaceful neighbours who have correct relations.

The Russians have behaved impeccably over the last 11 days.  Both Medvedev, who attended Lech Kaczynski’s funeral, and Putin, did and said the right things.  And Poles for their part, showed appreciation and spoke of reconciliation between the two nations.  Even the often quoted speech by the late president of Poland, which he never got to give himself, had words of reconciliation.  So this step, may be one of many.  Let us hope that both Russia and Poland will take further steps to reconcile their relations.


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3 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. […] more here: Poland and Russia- Victory Parade a Symbol of Warming Realtions … Post a […]

  2. Finally Polish soldiers getting recognition for the huge effort they made in WWII defending everyone. British pigs would not let them march in Victory parade in 1946. Shame. I would have crashed their stupid parade and marched in it anyway !!

  3. Better late than never I guess. But its hard to overcome decades of injustice done to the Polish troops with the lack of recognition of their efforts all over the world.

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