Gray Sundays in Warsaw: Museum of Polish Independence

Welp, so much for spring. Warsaw is back to cold, gray and rainy.

This morning, I was pacing like a tiger in the zoo in our apartment. When I started to seriously contemplate 1.) the consequences of my life choices and 2.) which flight I could get on TODAY to ANY destination with SUN, I knew it was time to bundle up and get the heck out of there. (Yes, it was Saturday, but everything would be closed the next day for Easter. Catholic country, you know.)

I referred to my list of Warsaw museums. Even the smaller ones are warm and dry, right? So, I hopped on a tram to the Museum of Polish Independence.

Muzeum Niepodległości
Muzeum Niepodległości

I don’t know why, but it seems about half the time when I go to museums in Warsaw, I get waved in for free, even though prices are listed on the website and the door. This never happened in Vienna. It’s a mystery.

Anyway, this is a pretty basic little museum located in a small palace. About half the exhibits are translated into English. The rest I could get the gist of from the Polish or the German. (You go to enough museums, you develop a sort of museum vocabulary in several languages, it seems.)

Polish 20th century history goes kind of like this: war > war >resistance movement > war > resistance movement > war > communism > resistance movement > independence. This museum goes into this sequence of events in detail. I do not have a great personal interest in military history, but I thought the posters were really cool. These are all from the Polish-Soviet War, which is an extra war that they managed to squeeze in right after World War One. It’s pretty clear that the Poles had already developed an active dislike for Russians, caricatured on these posters.

independence (6 of 12)
I think this says “Who is Bayoneting Poles.”
independence (5 of 12)
“Bolsheviks Murder Defenseless Women!”
independence (4 of 12)
“Smash the Bolshevik!”
"Upper Silesians, Your Dear O-S Will Take Your Home" (not sure who the O-S is?)
“Upper Silesians, Your Dear O-S Will Rob You of Your Home” (not sure who the O-S is?)

The next room is all about World War Two. Unlike earlier propaganda, the posters, paintings, and photos of this period feature both women and children as active fighters.

A rather nice painting of resistance fighters from the period.
A rather nice painting of guerrilla resistance fighters in the Ukraine.
Heartbreakingly young members of the Warsaw Uprising forces.
Heartbreakingly young members of the Warsaw Uprising resistance forces.
I really did not know what to make of this...zeppelin?
I really did not know what to make of this…zeppelin?

There is another whole room of Polish iconography: the meaning of symbols found on flags, medals, etc. I didn’t get any good photos in there, but it was a nice little exhibit, and I expect it would be very interesting for anyone who geeks out on military symbolism or heraldry.

On the way back, I thought I’d stop in at a museum I read about online, the John Paul II Collection. This was a strange experience. The building appeared to be abandoned, at first.

A former bank building.
A former bank building.

Then I saw a small sign directing me around the corner.

independence (10 of 12)

I tried the door, and apparently surprised the guard who wasn’t expecting anyone, it seemed, even though the museum is open on Saturdays per the website. We attempted to communicate in Polish for a minute, then he motioned me in and took my ten zlotys before turning on the lights. I am still not sure if the museum was actually open or not! But the nice thing about Warsaw is that these things are somewhat more flexible than they would be in Vienna. You have ten zlotys, we’re open, no problem.

Anyway, the museum consists of three somewhat shabby rooms with a collection of portraits and small works by well-known artists such as Van Gogh, Degas, and Turner. I walked through the whole thing in about 15 minutes, said goodbye to the friendly guard, and headed back into the drizzle with pad thai on my mind.

Yes, we’ve found two decent Thai restaurants in Warsaw. One is just three blocks from our apartment. Weekends are looking up.

Soul food.
Soul food.

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