Most Distinguished Madam Marshal of the Sejm,
Distinguished Senior Marshal,
Distinguished Marshal of the Senate,
Distinguished Madam Senior Marshal of the Senate,
Most Distinguished Prime Minister,
Honourable Members of Parliament,
Distinguished Generals, Officers, Soldiers,
Members of the Diplomatic Corps,
Reverend Bishops, Chaplains of the Polish Army,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
All the distinguished Guests, and especially our wonderful Veterans, the Defenders of the Home Country,
Ladies and Gentlemen!
As we stand on November 11 here, in Marshal Józef Piłsudski Square in Warsaw - a square that was a witness to so many extraordinary historical events, to the great, sometimes difficult, but incredible and cheerful history of our country; as we look at the fine figures of the Polish soldiers standing here; as we look at the shining Polish weapons - like golden grain tips in a field in November sun; as we see white and red banners flapping above our heads, brought here by our happy smiling compatriots; as we see Marshal Józef Piłsudski looking at it from his pedestal with his face looking at the square bearing his name today, at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, at the symbolic grave of his boys, the legionaries and volunteers who gave their lives for an independent, free and sovereign Poland; as we look on the 101 years since independence, and on the earlier 123 years of partitions and the struggle of subsequent generations to regain Poland, an independent Home Country, and to regain freedom; as we look at the Second Republic; as we look at its collapse; as we finally look at our contemporary Poland from that perspective, spanning more than two centuries since 1772, we want to say the following words, because the lyrics of the song readily comes to our mind : "I am lucky to live in the country on the Vistula River right now.”
Historians say that today's Poland is the most free, prosperous and safest Poland ever since the 17th century. It is hard to believe. I do not know if they are right or wrong, but looking at our history, at least roughly, it seems highly probable. Whole generations have not been as fortunate as we are, and especially as those young people who were born after 1989 - who do not remember the times when Poland was not fully independent, free and sovereign, when it was not possible in Poland to speak your mind freely, to meet whom you wanted and where you wanted to meet, when the rights which are today fundamental, completely natural and basic were denied.
Thirty years and 101 years in that broader perspective of regaining independence. Last year, and I would once again like to thank everyone wholeheartedly for that, we celebrated so beautifully the centenary of regaining independence. That great day of November 11, when all of Europe celebrated the end of the First World War, and we celebrated the fact that our country had reappeared on the map of Europe.
But it was not the end of our great celebration, it was only the beginning. After all, we know that Poland took a long time to take its shape, not everything was so easy to attain: it was not so easy to obtain stable borders, a lot of blood still had to be shed after that day of November 11, so that Poland could consolidate and firmly rest within its borders.
The first thing was the Wielkopolska Uprising: a fine, wonderful, victorious, well planned uprising, which won back the region of Wielkopolska for us and shaped this part of the western border. Thereafter followed the first Silesian Uprising that we commemorated this year - the first of the succession of three uprisings that allowed to shape the border in the west, but more down to the south. The uprising which regained for us that important part of the later Second Polish Republic - the industrial hub with a great tradition of work, but also the part which contained such extraordinary and important natural resources, thanks to which the Second Polish Republic could be reconstructed faster, thanks to which it was possible to think about the construction of the Central Industrial District.
But we must also remember about the subsequent fight in defence of the Republic of Poland against the Soviet attack. It was a great victory near Warsaw, the one we call the Miracle on the Vistula River - above all, it was a miracle of the genius of Polish commanders, but we firmly believe that the protection of the Blessed Mother of God over our Home Country was also important. And the heroism of the Polish soldiers from all strata of the Polish society at that time. They all stood together to defend Poland - to make it present on the map, a sovereign, independent country, and not a communist country. They were ready to give their lives for it, and so they did. We will celebrate this great anniversary next year: 2020.
And then, we will continue commemorating our heroes in the years 2021 and 2022, until we gained the whole of Poland for us - when Polish troops could finally enter Upper Silesia, so that it could become part of the Republic of Poland thanks to the heroism of the Poles living in that Silesian land, who did not imagine that they could not live in Poland after so many years resisting Germanization. This is a great time for our country and our nation. We also look at it from the perspective of the last thirty years.
I am delighted to see that we mature as a state and as a society. That we understand our history, together with all its meanders, including the very difficult ones, better and better. An expression of the vicissitudes of the past, including the very difficult ones - of the Second Republic of Poland, which we are not very willing to talk about today, sometimes bending our heads with shame, were those huge political conflicts in the wake of which the heroes of independent Poland went to prison, were locked up, interned, and compelled to leave the country for forced emigration. That is what happened.
They whom we today call the Fathers of Independence did not know how to come to agreement among themselves, they had different visions of the future of the Polish state and, having regained independence, it was difficult for them to reach any consensus, even on these most important issues. Somehow they could not restore the memory of that time when they knew to how shield Poland with their own breast against communist invasion, oblivious of conflicts and different visions.
Today, mindful of those developments, we lined them up along one avenue, which we can boldly call the avenue of the Fathers of Independence - although it spans various locations in Warsaw: the Square of Three Crosses - Plac Trzech Krzyży, the Ujazdowskie Avenue, the Square at the Crossroads - Plac na Rozdrożu, and finally the Belweder Palace. This is precisely the avenue of the Fathers of Independence. For President of the Republic of Poland travelling from the Presidential Palace , it now begins at the Square of the Three Crosses - Plac Trzech Krzyży, at the Monument to Wincenty Witos - the Prime Minister who abandoned his plough to stand up for Poland, calling on Polish boys from countryside cottages to defend the Republic of Poland in 1920. They were the ones who stopped the Soviet invasion.
Further on, there is Ignacy Jan Paderewski, peacefully seated in the Ujazdowski Park, looking on the Republic of Poland, that he was championing with such determination. He spoke about it with the then President of the United States, Woodrow Wilson, who, thanks to the diplomatic efforts of the former, included such independent Poland in Europe among his proposed points.
Further down the road there is the Square at the Crossroads: Plac Na Rozdrożu, with Ignacy Daszyński, Roman Dmowski, and finally Wojciech Korfanty, whose monument has recently arrived to mark his presence at this important place of the capital and to do it so symbolically - next to the pedestal, in a pose suggesting discussion on important Polish issues, a calm discussion among politicians, an important, serious discussion.
And finally, the Belweder Palace, and in front of it Marshal Józef Piłsudski. Today they are all together along one avenue. It is so important for us. It so crucial that we and all future generations to come take this page from their book: that Poland develops at its best and Poland is the strongest only when we realize that these most important matters for Poland must be dealt with in unity, together and without looking at the divisions and different detailed visions.
May they, all of them taken together, and each of them individually, convey the following message for Poland. Since for all of them and in all of them, there was also such a strong and clear desire, best expressed, very succinctly, in these words uttered by Roman Dmowski: "I am a Pole and I have my Polish responsibilities”. Yes, we are Poles and we have Polish responsibilities. From right to left.
May this be the most important message for decades and centuries to come in our history: that we are Poles, because we have grown from these over a thousand and fifty-year-old roots, from this great tradition. We are Poles, because we have grown out of this land, regardless of our detailed nationality. We are Poles when Poland lives in us. And when the Polishness of this tradition lives in us. Sometimes of different religions, but all grown on this one joint trunk, growing out of this one historical root: tradition, culture shaped by various trends, but so precious and so fiercely defended by successive generations never allowing anyone to take it away from them.
Without going into the details, suffice it to say how strongly it was defended, and what they were prepared to sacrifice for it, for decades and centuries. Even at the price of their lives. All those people commemorated today at the roll call of the Fallen: the heroes of the independent, free, sovereign Republic of Poland.
Yes, today Poland is developing. Yes, I believe that today the country grows wiser and more enlightened, and that it is precisely us, its fellow countrymen and its citizens, who are getting wiser and more enlightened.
Why am I saying this? Because you all bear witness to this: that you respect her, as she is today. More and more white and red, more and more aware of her place, her strength and her role. The role about which our Holy Father John Paul II was speaking to us for so many years, also when we were on our way to the European Union. It is an important role for us, a European nation that has been rooted here for over a thousand years. A role that cannot be underestimated, and which must be understood, and which is understood better and better. The role of a state in which democracy developed at a time when others had not even thought, had not even dreamt of it, not realizing, even vaguely, what it was. Here, on this earth, it developed - in its prime, in its early meaning. Of course, not like democracy today. But still modern for that time. Democracy stemming also from the Constitution of 3 May 1791, the day that we celebrate every year.
Ladies and Gentlemen!
Today we understand this democracy better and better, contemporary democracy, and we make it tangible with more efficacy. I would like to thank all those who took part in elections this year: first those to the European Parliament, and then to our Polish Parliament. The turnouts of almost 62%, and almost 46% earlier in the European elections, are a clear testimony to the fact that we understand better and better the significance of our decision and our responsibility for Polish matters. And I will go as far as to say: this is what the Fathers of Independence certainly expect of us. So that we understand our responsibility for Poland in such a way that we go to the polls and elect. That we go to the polls and we speak our mind. That we go to the polls because we are ready to take this responsibility into our own hands.
May it please continue this way. I thank you for this, but I also demand that things should stay this way, that there should be more and more of us at the polls, and that the number of our compatriots who elect authorities in Poland, who elect authorities in the European Union, should increase from one elections to others. So that we can speak with our heads up: yes, we have made a conscious choice; yes, our authorities, be they delegated to the European Union or working here in the Republic of Poland, they do have a strong legitimacy. They are elected by the nation; they are elected by a vast majority.
Poland needs it. And Poland evolves this way. I am overjoyed to see so many of our successes over the last thirty years. The economic situation we are in today is a success, despite all the problems that have arisen, despite all the failures, despite the many tears that have been shed over the last thirty years, especially at the beginning, when incomprehensible and often inconceivable processes have been unfolding, and when, unfortunately, many mistakes have also been made. We know that today we are capable of recovering from this and of building Poland that is stronger and stronger, that we are today a member of the North Atlantic Alliance, which safeguards our security, and that we have been members of the European Union for fifteen years. That we are celebrating all these anniversaries this year, including the 80th anniversary of the outbreak of World War II, which was attended by so many Heads of State or Government, with dozens of delegations from all over the world. That we are a country and a nation that matters, not only here in Poland, but also abroad, the point that is emphasised in many places.
That when we our candidacy is subject to international vote, as it was the case when we were elected to the United Nations Security Council, 190 countries vote in favour of Poland. This speaks volumes about who we are and what kind of state we are today.
For all this, I would like to thank my dear compatriots in the country and abroad. It is a great credit to you. Today's Poland would not be like this if it were not for your hard work and your effort. However, I would also like to express thanks to all those who have been working for Poland for the last thirty years, and I would like to thank all of them who have been running Polish affairs for the last thirty years.
I want to make this point clear: I have no doubts and I firmly believe that they all were running affairs in order to make Poland develop as well as possible, urged by profound patriotic reasons. And I believe that this will continue to be the case.
There is one Poland, there will be one, and we all serve her. And I firmly believe that we and future generations will serve her.
Hail and glory to the heroes! Eternal glory to the fallen! Long live an independent, sovereign, free Republic of Poland! Long live the Polish nation!