winter: (portraits - desire)
A white Christmas, it seems. The snow melted a little today and a freeze is coming, so yesterday was probably the last we've seen of the true fluffy stuff. The decorations in the city centre are stunning.

darkness and snow and lights )
winter: (Rising Stars - Fear of Power)
A little over six centuries ago, there was still a great pagan power in Europe. A grand duchy who, when the Palestinians proved too hard to handle, became the other focus for crusades in the defense of Christianity. The might of all the chivalry in Europe against a sprawling, barely-united country with a half-dozen strong ethnic groups - easy pickings, right?

Except for the fact that they were smart. In particular their Grand Duke, a fox of a man with equally smart brothers. The most peaceful of their neighbouring Christian countries (chiefly because of just having pulled itself together from pieces, and having its ruling dynasty die out) was currently ruled by a lovely young girl who also happened to be pretty smart.

It wasn't a love-match, but it was a political masterstroke.

You can bet the would-be crusaders, especially the militant monastic order in charge, weren't amused that the fearsome pagans they wanted to convert with the sword were now Christian and allied with a pretty powerful country. Especially since the Pope(s) were applauding, heavily. There was a hell of a propaganda campaign, and once the young queen died in childbirth, there was the excuse that "well, they only have that old pagan duke on their throne".

July 15, 1410. The militant monks leading 21 thousand of the Western world's best knights, and many others, with God (of course) on their side. On the other side, the old Lithuanian, his brother, and about 29 thousand men, with way less armour and jousting trophies.

At the end of the day, the old Lithuanian guy rode home to his second wife, married two more times, lived to be over seventy and died of a cold. He was king of Poland and Lithuania for 48 years and started a dynasty that ruled until the end of the sixteenth century.

8 thousand of the Western world's best knights were dead, 14 thousand of the Teutonic Knights' army captured.

Let's hear it for Wladyslaw Jagiello.

Illustration )
winter: (rebel - devil wept)

They kept you, little son, from dreams like trembling butterflies,
they wove you, little son, in dark red blood two mournful eyes,
they painted landscapes with the yellow stitch of conflagrations,
they decorated all with hangmen’s trees the flowing oceans.

They taught you, little son, to know by heart your land of birth
as you were carving out with tears of iron its many paths.
They reared you in the darkness and fed you on terror’s bread;
you traveled gropingly that shamefulest of human roads.

And then you left, my lovely son, with your black gun at midnight,
and felt the evil prickling in the sound of each new minute.
Before you fell, over the land you raised your hand in blessing.
Was it a bullet killed you, son, or was it your heart bursting?

March 20, 1944

Elegy on a Polish boy, from: Baczynski, Krzysztof Kamil. White Magic and Other Poems.
Bill Johnston translator. Green Integer, 2004.

Warsaw Uprising 1944

Never Forget
winter: (light side)
I wanted to post appropriate icons for today, but yesterday's madness left a mark, so I'll be over there ----> curled up with Tonio and a Georgette Heyer book I haven't read before. In their stead, in celebration of a certain anniversary, a video I hear is having trouble getting playtime on air...

Oomph! - Gott ist ein Popstar

And, you know, props to Charlie and all, hope he's got a good seat upstairs, and good luck with the beatification thing. Lots of people wearing mourning and little white ribbons on the streets today.

I need a good Charlie W. icon. Possibly with Bono's sunglasses.
winter: (emote - funeral of hearts)
Stanislaw Lem passed on today.

If you don't know who he is, get to a library already. The Star Diaries are genius, and then it gets better.

*lights candle*

winter: (give me coffee)
Poland's in full swing of election fever - both the presidential and parliamentary elections are coming up, with the usual package of dirt and lies. But one party, liberal-intellecuals, has slogans that I can get behind:

"Each time you don't vote for, the leppers and giertychs [populist leaders] kill a kitten. Choose wisely."

"Politics is a sewer. But if you don't give a piss about the elections, you'll end up down the drain. By staying home, you choose Lepper and Giertych."

I ♥ these slogans. Almost as good as my "Why choose a lesser evil?" during high school student council elections :D :D :D

EDIT: We now have a dedicated version of AIM at work, with optional connection to general AIM servers. Mwahahaha.
winter: (laws of magic)
You know how Western medical authorities place the lethal dose of alcohol at 0.4%? That really needs an annotation of "does not apply to Poles and Russians".

We have a new drunk-driving record in Warsaw. 0.95% blood alcohol level. The guy was A) driving, B) slept it off without medical problems. Oh, and C) managed not to crash into anything.

winter: (Lucasfilm)
Today's Mary-of-the-Herbs, but also the Polish Army Day, so there was a grand parade and ceremony, with the President and all that jazz. And a drill demonstration among other things. While the soldiers drilled, which always reminds me of Broadway-style dancing, the marching band played a medley of soldierly songs. First Brigade to Poppies of Monte Cassino to Warsaw Song to- Wait a minute.

The Imperial March. By the Polish Army marching band. During a national fete, on national television.


In other news, yes, I'm back. My mail program's on the fritz, so mail-answering might be short. And tomorrow I need to go back to work :/
winter: (Rising Stars - Fearless)
In a few days it'll be the 85th anniversary of the Miracle at the Vistula, the battle that turned the Red Army tide in 1920 and saved Europe from another ravaging war. On the Polish side, that war was rather rich in miracles - attacks just as watches were changing, hitting the one weak point in a chain of iron, knowing that a unit would be that one hour late.

Now someone has dug up copies of the encrypted Soviet army dispatches. Decrypted. In Polish archives.

Turns out the Polish mathematicians, the previous generation of the lot that solved the Enigma, broke all Soviet codes. Which meant that Jozef Pilsudski knew what every officer was having for breakfast and how much vodka to go with it.

It kind of gives me that patriotic twinge for some reason. We might be a drunken rabble with delusions of grandeur, but when we kick arse, we do it in style :D
winter: (Yoda - Bad Jedi)
A small town in Poland now has an Obi-Wan Kenobi Street

Quick summary of the article: Leszek Budkiewicz is a SW fan and on the town council of Grabowiec. His house is the only one on this dirt road, so he arranged for the road to be named Obi-Wan Kenobi Street.

The best line's at the end: "Budkiewicz saw Star Wars when he was eight. Then he decided that like Obi-Wan he would serve the Light Side. He became a lawyer."

In other news, my current looks are not the Darth Vader impression I had in mind, because immediate post-Mustafar is not a good look. Seems I'm back to being a sun-avoidant vampire this year, skulking around shadows, putting on SPF100 sunblock and possibly ordering a sun parasole from [ profile] astarise. Damn.
winter: (Default)
I don't think I could do justice by commenting, so there are just photos. The one event I did not attend was the lighting of the candles in the John Paul II Alley, but Arbiter documented it much better than I could have. ETA: so did B@di and Slawek.

24 pictures of Warsaw over the past week )
winter: (broken chain)
An hour to midnight, and the church was more full than it is on any Sunday except Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday. Lots of halleluyahs and concentrating on how to follow his example, which I think is what he would have wanted.

I was six years old, and Mom took me to the flat of her friend from work. We crowded on the tiny balcony and someone held me up. I waved and cheered. Everyone did. I saw the old man in his little white car, slowly driving by just below, and he waved back and smiled at us all. It was kind of like meeting the real Santa, or a third grandfather who lives a long way away but loves you very much.

I read about his other pilgrimages in the papers and saw them on television. I remember the mass he said in his home town of Wadowice, and how he told the people about the cakes he and his friends ate after their high school graduation. I wasn't yet born when he visited Poland the first time as pope and said "May God change the face of the land - this land!", but I profited from that change of the face of the land - from our real freedom and the end of communism.

He was a good man, a kind man. He was the first Pope to enter a synagogue and a mosque. He was the first one to say "we're sorry" to the Jews, too. He proved to us that it can be done, that a human being can be this good and this real and do so much.

I've been a lapsed Catholic since a year after my First Communion, but I took part in Mass tonight, a spontaneous Mass that no-one knew about until fifteen minutes before it started. The church was full.

Goodbye, Karol Wojtyla. You will be sadly missed.

Give Christ my best.
winter: (Default)
City of menace, like a coffin lid
thrown down an abyss as if
by a tempest's blow –
yet proud
as a black lion who takes long to die

- Krzysztof Kamil Baczynski, Warsaw (translation by Irene P. Coulter)

If there is one thing that gets me by the heart, in fiction and otherwise, it's the dying warrior who still finds the strength for one last attack and lashes out just to HURT, to MATTER. And almost succeeds.

Sixty years ago, a city did this.

August 1st, 1944. The Warsaw Uprising.

Was it a real bullet, son,
or your heart that broke?

- Elegy for a Polish Boy


winter: (Default)
Beth Winter

October 2014



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