It’s the Independence Day, which Poles all over the country celebrate by sticking flags on buildings and vehicles, as well as – on occasion – beating each other up.
At least that was the achievement of last year’s celebration, decorated with few burnt cars.
The independence day is a highly political matter – much more so than in Britain, or the US. Quite like in religious conflicts, each side claims they have the “truth” about something, which they didn’t create nor have any particular rights to.
This year, we have 5 different marches commemorating regaining of independence in 1918. There is one hosted by the “president” (a.k.a. the party currently in government). There is one for the slightly fascist-like youths from one of the opposition parties, there is one for the socialists (also in opposition), and an anti-fascist one. And finally there is a run/nordic walking competition for those who prefer to express themselves through sport.
In any case your best bet is to stay out of the city center (road closures, etc). You can find a map with routes of all marches at Gazeta.pl (in Polish)
Independence day is important for Poles, because out of all the historical holidays this is the one modern society set its heart on, as a symbol of our national grievances and overcomings. It has been tough out there, through history, for Polishness was for a long time forbidden and rooted out.
Poland’s recent history is marked with introduction to democracy and free market , which (particularly the latter) haven’t proved as glorious as it was expected. All these sentiments somehow find their way into the Independence day.
If you have 8 minutes spare, here is a short version of Polish history prepared for the 2010 Shanghai Expo. I am not sure if it makes any sense for any one without the background knowledge of Polish history, but it seems to give the generall impression: it started of well, then went horribly wrong, there was a lot of fighting, and now we’re in the european union, hoping for a better tomorrow. On the plus side, there is a nice little pun at the very end, and it was directed by Oscar-nominee Tomasz Bagiński.
The part with map tearing (starting 4:16) represents partitions, which – not without local help – were the end of Polish independence. At 5:20, sticking a spearhead into the earth surface represents regaining of independence in 1918 (Poles managed to maneuver it out of their participation in World War I). The next bit illustrates Polish-Soviet war, and the gentleman with bushy moustache is Piłsudski, one of the architects of said independence, who’s coming to power on November 11th, 1918 we are now celebrating. Wikipedia has more.