That’s actually a great idea! Since descriptions of other countries are welcomed, I will give my 2 cents.
And construct a list for
— Baptism of Poland.
It was a personal baptism of Mieszko I
, ruler of the Polans, which began the long process of christianisation. This date marks the beginnings of the Polish state.1410
— Battle of Grunwald.
Probably the most known Polish battle. Commonwealth of Poland-Lithuania was victorious against the Teutonic Order. I put it here because it’s the most known one, mostly, and is thought to be one of the most important dates. However, the biggest Polish military successes (in both the Winged Hussars played the main role) were 1605 Battle of Kircholm, against Sweden, 1610 Battle of Kłuszyn, against Russia. Especially the latter one had very important consequences.3 May 1791
— signing of the Constitution of May 3
(Konstytucja 3. maja
), the second-oldest national constitution after the U.S. one of 1789.
Here I had a little problem, because there are two dates that cannot be separated:11 November 1918
— regarded as the restoration of Poland’s independence after 123 years. In fact, the announcement of the independence was made by Polish Regency Council on 7 October 1918
, that is, a month before. On 11th the Council merely gave the power to Piłsudski who returned to Poland a day before. Nonetheless, the National Independence Day
is commemorated on the 11th, and is extremely significant. But announcing independence or taking power isn’t all, Poland had to fight for her borders and the most important battle during the Polish ‘war of independence’ was:12-25 August 1920
— Battle of Warsaw
against the Red Army. One of the most important victories in Poland’s history, and one of the most important in the European history, too. It was a decisive battle in the war, turning the tide, and pushing back the Soviet wave from the Vistula river, stopping communists from entering Central and Western Europe.16 October 1978
— Karol Wojtyła is chosen the new pope in Vatican as John Paul II. One of the most important dates in not only Polish but European history. Why? See below, he’s there.
And now to names:Casimir III the Great
(Kazimierz III Wielki; 30 April 1310 – 5 November 1370) — the only Polish king who gained title ‘the Great.’ And rightly so. He was a genius of diplomacy, trade, and internal affairs. There’s a saying about him in Polish: “When he ascended Poland was wooden, when he left us, it was from stone.” It’s because when he ascended the throne, the country’s economy was ruined and it was bleeding after many exhaustive wars. But he left it prosperous and wealthy, having also built the first Polish university, in Kraków. He wasn’t known for winning great battles, because his rule was time of peace and prosperity, creating a base for the future. He also managed to keep the three main classes (nobility, clergy, and bourgouise) in check and balance, and was known as the “king of the peasantry” for his actions towards helping them and limiting nobles’ powers. Truly great.Adam Mickiewicz
(24 December 1798 – 26 November 1855) — the greatest Polish poet, one of the three National Bards
. Writing in the 19th century in the Russian partition, he became a symbol of Polish restoration and struggle for independence. Nowadays many of his works are compulsory to read in Poland, including the most important and famous Polish epic poem Pan Tadeusz
, parts of which must be learnt by heart.Marie Skłodowska-Curie
(7 November 1867 – 4 July 1934) — probably the greatest Polish scientist, born and raised in Poland, a great patriot. Female scientist in times when it wasn’t so easy for women. She greatly contributed to the research on radioactivity, and discovered polonium and radium. For that she was awarded two Nobel prizes: in physics and chemistry, the first woman to do so. She also died
for science, having received too high doses of radioactivity.Józef Piłsudski
(5 December 1867 ‒ 12 May 1935) — Marshal of Poland during the interwar period, leader and the creator of the Second Polish Republic. The date of his return to Poland and receiving the power from Regency Council marks the traditional Polish Independence Day, and his military skills made it possible for Poles to win the Battle of Warsaw in 1920, as well as the entire Polish-Soviet war. He was a big proponent of a multi-cultural state and Intermarium
, a plan to establish a federation of Central and Eastern European countries, spanning from the Baltic sea in the north, to the Black sea to the south. After the conflicts ended he withdrew from politics, because of the government dominated by his opponents. Seeing how politicians fight against eachother instead of working together helping in the restoration of the Polish state, he did a coup d’état
, effectively becoming a dictator of Poland. He became known for “holding the politicians on their muzzles” for his hatred of politics and politicians’ quarrels, and also for ruling Poland by strong hand. He was respected by Hitler who attended Piłsudski’s funeral, and maybe if not his death in 1935 the history would be very different. Also, it’s not possible to talk about Piłsudski without mentioning his arch-rival, Roman Dmowski
, a great right-wing ideologue, thinker, and politician. A prominent figure and father of Polish nationalism, he was the one who talked to the Western Allies during the WW1 and created foundations for the independent Polish state to exist, and favoured peaceful ways of regaining independence. It’s a shame these two didn’t work together.Pope Saint John Paul II
, born Karol Wojtyła (18 May 1920 ‒ 2 April 2005) — undoubtedly the greatest Pole in history, also called ‘the Great.’ He was the first Polish pope, and the first non-Italian pope in over 400 years. Elected in 1978, when Poland was still under communist regime, he contributed greatly to the fall of communism in Poland and subsequently in the rest of Europe. It was his first visit to Poland in 1979 that sparked the creation of the Solidarity movement. One of the greatest moral authorities of all times, not only for Christians, and a spiritual leader of millions of people. Most importantly, a good person, open to discussion, and opting for good relations with other religious. Open to people, hearing their problems.. during his priesthood, very close to his parishioners and students. Big opponent of the communist regime and meeting repressions from their side, but a also a proponent of solving problems with love and understanding instead of violence. He forgave a person who tried to assassinate him, and was the most travelled pope, attracting huge crowds of people. He was loved. And was a symbol.
That’s my list. It was extremely hard to choose just 5 dates, and just 5 people, there are so many of them. And in the case of dates I had to even break the rule... But