The Warsaw Uprising Teaches Us Many Things, but This May Be the Most Important

Powstanie warszawskie

Look at that photograph. If you are Polish or of Polish descent, you have probably seen it before because it is one of the most iconic photographs from the Warsaw Uprising, which began on August 1st, 1944—exactly 73 years ago.

This photograph has become symbolic not only of the Warsaw Uprising in Poland, during which the Polish resistance bravely fought the Nazis for 63 days until their city was in complete ruin, but also of war’s devastation in any age.

Depicted are young boys, probably no older than 14, forced to fight and die for their homeland because most of the grown men have already been killed. In this photograph, they are probably starved, sleep deprived, psychologically drained, and physically pained. Yet, they still strive to smile and stay confident as Warsaw burns. Their resolve is so strong that even the surrounding bombs, bullets and mass butchery does not break them.

Looking at this photograph and reflecting on the Warsaw Uprising really puts things into perspective for me. Today, few problems that we have even come close to what these children and their compatriots had to face seven decades ago.  Maybe traffic increased your commute to work today by an hour. Maybe you are agonizing over how and when to ask someone out on a date. Heck, maybe you even got robbed. At least the city you were born in is not a pile of dust and half your family wasn’t just executed by the Gestapo.

Anniversaries like this are meant to make us think about what we have and how we got here. As an American, my connection to the Warsaw Uprising may not be as direct as a Pole, but if it wasn’t for  people like my grandma who survived through hell in Poland during their youth, I wouldn’t be here. This photograph is especially a message to younger people. There’s no law that says your childhood, teenage years and twenties has to be full of lollipops, rainbows and ponies. Things could have been different, and for young people growing up in Poland during the war, they were.

So take a moment to reflect on your blessings and remember that the kids in this photograph would probably have given anything to have your problems instead of theirs.

8 thoughts on “The Warsaw Uprising Teaches Us Many Things, but This May Be the Most Important”

  1. They fought bravely Germans, most of whom were committed Nazis, but all were GERMANS Germany started the WWII and resulted in death of millions. The whole Germany participated in the war effort and for few years most greatly benefited from the war, so lets remember that and not pretend that only ‘nazis’ were guilty.


    1. I’m not disputing what you’re saying. However, it’s important to understand why German people supported the war efforts, since the loser never gets to write the history books. The war should never have been called WW2, as it was in reality a continuation war of WW1. The German people had been harassed by all their neighbors as well as the allies for almost two decades. This affected Germans, who found themselves living in Poland and Czechoslovakia when the borders where relocated, as well as the areas annexed by France in the west. Their economy was on the brinks of total collapse around the time when Hitler seized power. Back a dog up in the corner and it’s gonna bite…

      Here is another thing you won’t find in the history books; Berlin, in the 1920s and 1930s, was the biggest sin-city in Europe (prostitution, drugs etc. flourished there). Guess who ran most of the finances there? Answer, the Jews. The Jews also had a tendency to hang out with the communists at the time. This coupled with the fact that Stalin also was a Jew, were contributing factors, which led to the Nazi movement..


  2. I agree with Grace – all were Germans…people water-down the language. Also – often the GERMAN concentration camps are often called “Polish” concentration camps – which is a lie! I never hear people call the GERMAN concentration camp in the CR – the “Czech” concentration camp.


  3. The young people depicted in the photo appear to me to be a young woman in the foreground, behind her, a young man and next to him a young woman. Further, they seem to be older than 14 years. I would place their ages any where from 17 to young 20’s.


  4. And what do your 3 remarks have to do with the message of this story?! Nothing. Don’t be so critical. The author was making a point, that all three of you missed.


  5. The 14 year olds were not used as frontline troops. The AK did not have enough ammunition to be giving rifles to unschooled youth. Young children were used in non-combatant roles as couriers. Ms. Osenkowski, all remarks are used to explain aspects of the author’s point.


    1. The younger children still saw their friends disappear and get harmed even though they were unarmed. They still threw bread and supplies into the Ghetto. They harrased Germans putting them on edge . . .


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