Friday, November 14, 2014

History lessons at Polish cemeteries

I know it might sound weird, but I love visiting cemeteries. 
All over the world cemeteries look different - the American ones are like well mowed lawns with small tombstones sticking out of the perfectly cut grass, the ones in Taiwan are usually located on a hill and from afar they look like little houses, when you get closer you can see that there are many colorful small sculptures on the tomb. Unfortunately the Taiwanese graveyards are usually overgrown with tall grasses and weeds. The only time the tombs are in full unobstructed view is during the Tomb Sweeping holiday 清明節, which falls on 4th or 5th of April. Taiwanese people usually don't go to the cemeteries and very often don't even want to pass close to one.
I, on the other hand, like cemeteries very much. For me they are full of history and ... spirit. I especially like the Polish ones, most of them are like parks with old trees and small alleys. The most beautiful is the Powązki Cemetery in Warsaw, which is one of the oldest cemeteries in the city and where many famous people are buried. Among others you can find the tombs of Chopin's parents and sisters, many writers and poets, singers and composers, diplomats and politicians. Walking through the cemetery is a true history lesson.

Every time we are in Poland we visit Powązki. Sometimes there is no special occasion and other times it's because we want to prepare the graves of my relatives for the holidays. This time we went to Powązki twice - first to tidy up the family tombs and second to pray over the graves on the All Saints Day, Nov.1. 










Tomb of film director, Krzysztof Kieślowski.


For more history lessons I took the kids to the Powązki Military Cemetery. There you can find graves of many people who have died while fighting for independent Poland since the early 19th century. Among others are those who fought in the 1920 Battle of Warsaw, in January Uprising of 1864 and throughout the World War II. There are also graves of famous Polish politicians, members of Solidarity Union and Parliamentarians, as well as professors, scientists, actors and movie directors.


Wall with the names of those who fought in the 1944 Warsaw Uprising.



Graves of Polish politicians.
 

Tomb of my sinology professor.


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