The reason why Polish people hate rules is because they want to take matters in their own hands – especially rebuilding their shattered dreams and dire post-war lives. If they don’t like something, they’re going to resist.
During the war, Warsaw was extremely heavily bombed. To help visitors better imagine scale of the near-annihilation the city went through, Hanna Dzielińska, another Warsaw guide, takes them to the Old Town and asks them to find 10 old houses. Then, she asks them to close their eyes. She tells them, “We’re at war”. And then, when they open their eyes, she explains that out of the 10 houses they picked, only one and a half are still standing.
After World War II, the destruction of Warsaw was so complete that post-war authorities considered moving the capital to another city. In other words, rebuilding the town in a large scale was nearly impossible. But because the residents hated to follow that rule, they literally rebuilt their city with their own hands, clearing debris and using bricks and stones from destroyed houses in Warsaw – and occasionally from other cities. Their hope is to restore the city’s Old Town to its former glory.
It’s a shocking statistic, and one that truly tested Warsaw’s resilience. Many Varsovians were forced out of their city. Those who decided to return were also the most determined; they were willing to work hard to start their lives anew in a city that had been totally destroyed. “We can call them a hustler, someone sly and clever like a fox, or we can call them attached to their birthplace. It’s all about the mindset,” Dzielińska said.
The city has a lot to be proud of, and not just because it rose from the ashes after near-total destruction, followed by years of communist regime. “As a guide, you need to find a modus operandi that will make someone say about a city that’s not objectively pretty, ‘this city has been through a lot’,” Dzielińska said.
It’s not a surprise that Warsaw’s Old Town is now a Unesco World Heritage Site!
Image Credit: The Telegraph / AP