This is an essay of mine that I wrote for my college application. I wrote about my impressions of the Uprising anniversary in Warsaw.
"Strolling down the sidewalks of Warsaw at the end of July, I watch the lazy breeze set the many flags into folds of motion. Trees sway ever so slightly, and the flames of early-placed votive candles fade in Apollo’s glow. Despite the somber reason for the ribbons and flags, the city seems to be decorated cheerfully for the approaching anniversary. Commemorative plaques that usually fade into the facades of buildings come alive with water-lily white and poinsettia red. With this unusual attention, the miniature memorials seem countless; every street corner, every building seems to bear the mark of deeds of valor or desperation. The mild summer days become crowded with the ghosts of the past.
The streets of Warsaw are especially bustling July thirty-first, with many aged soldiers slowly rushing to attend their respective ceremonies. Their faces belie the crisp uniforms and bright patches and medals they wear. So many years ago, there were no uniforms, no medals; there was only duty to one’s country. Now they are tired of the world that would have them live their memories once more. Yet they come again to ensure that if they must live the Uprising again, we must take that journey with them. Young soldiers parade the streets and pomp pervades the myriad of ceremonies. These young men have never seen an enemy up close. Yet those whom they honor met their enemies at the end of a machine gun, with no weapons of their own.
Slowly the day weaves towards its end. As the sun sets, flickering lights ignite in Powazki Cemetery. The military section begins to gleam orange in the rising shadows. Up and down the seemingly endless rows we go. Sad birch branches stand in rows of crosses; upon each a marker for the grave beneath. Many display humbly low digits; the numbers indicating that those who fought for their freedom were almost too young to have ever known what it truly is. Sixteen, eighteen, twenty... Candles flicker but do not go out; on this night, their duty is too great. Further on, memorials appear between the towering trees. Memorials for soldiers, scouts, and civilians, for all felt it their duty to try when hope of liberation seemed the greatest.
I clench my teeth and strain to see the last dying rays of light in the sky. The lofty ideals these people were said to have fought for seem more unreal in the face of the consequences most of these child-soldiers faced in the end. As modern historians and philosophers argue afresh the justification for the Uprising during the war, I can only wonder, Could I have done that also? Young, untrained, perhaps without any weapon for defense; could I have risked my life and risen up against an enemy as brutal and merciless as the Nazis? Could I have kept fighting for sixty-some days when the Uprising
was originally planned for five or less? Seeing those men and women who lived through the Warsaw Uprising of 1944, I can only hope that the answer is yes. August 1st, five o’ clock p.m., a siren cuts the summer air, marking the official anniversary of the beginning of the Uprising. Unable to attend any official ceremonies, I take the moment to listen to the sound, straining to imagine and understand the courage of those teenagers, who so long ago fought and proved their strength of spirit, if not necessarily their strength of arms."
This is a photo of one of the many monuments/statues in honor of the Warsaw Insurgents. This particular one is dedicated to the very youngest insurgents, many of whom were children.