Tuesday, July 22, 2008

on being Polish

To me, July 22nd will always recall a different segment of my life. It used to be the Polish equivalent to the 4th of July: the national holiday, the day to do picnics with your family and wave little paper flags showing your pride in being Polish. Which is different than the other national holiday – the once celebrated May 1st, because that was more about your solidarity with the workforce, so to speak. It’s ironic that a different Polish Solidarity brought down this kind of ill-construed communist solidarity.

Of course, July 22nd has been discredited. It celebrated the acceptance of a communist government in Poland (1944) and I use the term “acceptance” loosely. But, I grew up with this Poland. I didn’t know any other country, just the communist one and so it was my country’s holiday. Flags are up. Beaches and riverbanks are crowded with families taking a day off. Here I am, a preschooler in the Polish countryside, in July.

Baby Nina copy

Now, that’s all over and done with and we’ve moved on, or back in time rather, since May 3rd is the national holiday and that celebrates the Polish constitution of 1791. I don’t live in Poland, so the change has passed me by and as I’ve said here, on Ocean, national holidays generally pass me by so I can’t say I feel more Polish on May 3rd than on any other day of the year.

And what of May 1st, you ask? Obviously these days, no one is in the mood to keep in place a holiday that celebrates communist solidarity. So aren’t you surprised to learn that May 1st remains a national holiday in Poland? A bit of a name change: it’s the National Day, or Labor Day. That’s fitting. Labor stays even as communism moves on. And what’s even more fitting is the fact that we now have a national holiday on May 1st and May 3rd, making May 2nd a de facto holiday because who would be foolish enough to come in to work on a day where the rest of the country is populating the beaches and riverbanks.

Anyway, I wake up on this day and think – oh, this used to be Poland’s holiday.