As much as Warsaw has become a modern, fast and exciting cultural hotspot, it is this time of year when Varsovians remember and reflect upon their shared history. No more so is this evident than on 01 August at 17.00 when the city comes to a standstill for one minute as sirens wail and cars blow their horns to remember the sacrifices made during the Warsaw Uprising (Powstanie Warszawskie), which began at the same time in 1944, known as ‘Godzina W’ (W-Hour, the W standing for ‘wybuch, or ‘explosion’ in English). The wartime Home Army resistance fought the Nazis for 63 days with 200,000 people perishing and the city becoming a ruin.
Like a phoenix from the ashes Warsaw arose once more and is now the vibrant city you see today. But remember, this is a city littered with the shadows of the past, and in August especially, there will be various commemorations taking place around Warsaw to remember wartime sacrifices. Don’t be surpised if you’re relaxing in an outdoor cafe and see reenactors dressed as Home Army resistance soldiers run past holding mock WWII era weaponry.
Aside from the usual acts of memorial, you may see a curious symbol on walls – that of the ‘kotwica’ (anchor) symbol linking the letters P and W, an abbreviation of ‘Polska Walcząca’ (Fighting Poland). The symbol originated with Polish scouts in 1942 who would paint the symbol on walls as a form of defiance and psychological warfare against the occupying Germans.
Today, street art is as popular in Warsaw as any other city in the world and there are modern equivalents of the Kotwica and even a new mural in Wola to commemorate those who suffered during the Uprising:
If you look carefully, there are also various examples of original wartime graffiti dotted around the city: