ITALY & POLAND
Sport and much more. Poland and Italy are bound by very strong cultural and historical ties. Our relationship has seen the events of the Risorgimento (with Turin serving as the capital of Polish exiles in Italy during the repression that took place after the 1861 act of the Central Empires) and then the Second World War with the histories and destinies of Italy and Poland interweaving several times.
"The Austrian eagle has lost its feathers, the blood of Italy, Polish blood, the Cossak drank them, but his heart was burned," these were the words of Goffredo Mameli in a stanza of the 1847 "Canto degli italiani", the future Italian national anthem, (referring to Krakow's annexation to Austria in 1846). Without knowing it, Mameli conveyed a vision of what would happen next, when the "blood of Italy" and "Polish blood" were drunk by Nazi fascists; but "that blood", said Mameli's lyrics, was destined to "become poisonous to the occupier, and would ultimately kill him." This is how things turned out.
In fact, the exiled Polish army, under orders of General Anders, conquered Montecassino (May 11-19, 1944) from Anglo-French troops after three failed attempts. The epic battle, which broke up the Gustav front and led to the swift liberation of Rome, culminated with the destruction of the abbey. The Polish flag was raised over the top of the hill. The Polish army gauged a tenacious fight: "for our freedom and for yours" is the inscription that appears at the Polish cemetery in Montecassino. The hope was to redeem their own country by fighting for the freedom of others. The Poles then moved up the Adriatic coast, contributing to the liberation of the port of Ancona and then Senigallia, Pesaro, all the way to Cattolica where the Gothic Front was broken. Then the Polish troops took on battles at Forlì, freed Predappio (the Duce's birthplace) and Faenza, suffering significant losses; then in a widespread allied attack in April 1945, the Polacks were charged with freeing Bologna.
The referenced lyrics were a reciprocation to the Polish national anthem: "Pieśń Legionów Polskich we Włoszech" (hymn of the Polish legions in Italy), penned in July 1797, in Reggio Emilia by Józef Wybicki, a lieutenant in the Polish regiment under General Jan Henryk Dąbrowski, who was united with Napoleon in the Italian campaign.
In fact, the line from the hymn "Jeszcze Polska nie zginela" (Poland has not yet disappeared) refers to the nation being divided among the three surrounding powers in 1795, while in the chorus, "Marsz, marsz, Dąbrowski, z ziemi włoskiej do Polski" (marching, Dąbrowski, from the land of Italy to Poland) was chanted by soldiers to spur their General to lead them back to their nation as soon as possible. The case of twin references between the respective Italian and Polish hymns is unique in the world, further proof of the storyline that joins the histories and destinies of these two proud and glorious people who no one was able to vanquish, neither through war nor invasions.
A TRIBUTE TO KAROL WOJTYLA
Our countries' ties also pass through the extraordinary life of Karol Wojtyla, the Polish Pope who rose to the role of Pontiff with the name Pope John Paul II and who was beatified on May 1st, 2011, just six years after his death, testimony to the greatness of his works and contribution to mankind.
He was an exceptional man and Pope and his papacy left an indelible mark on the history of the world. With his words of peace, love, brotherhood and solidarity, he tried to break down prejudice and the differences defined by borders, different languages and religions; with his determination and his message of universal peace he was able to contribute significantly to Poland's reawakening and to the entire eastern European communist block opening up towards the west.
Wojtyla also left signs of his passage in Trentino; in fact, images of him skiing on the immaculate snows of the Adamello glacier have become world famous, as have the Holy Mass he celebrated in the Chapel of the Madonna on the Marmolada, Queen of the Dolomites, and his 1986 visit to the people devastated by the catastrophe in Val di Stava (where the Tour de Pologne will be passing in 2013).
Born in Wadowice, several kilometres northeast of Krakow, Wojtyla lived in this city, which shared status with Rome as one of his favourite places, for many years. There are many corners in Krakow commemorating the period in which a young Wojtyla wrote his first verses as a poet or when he studied at University and participated in sports, or even when he worked as a simple factory employee, until he became the man who everyone will remember as one of the most beloved Popes in the world. It was in Krakow that he was nominated as Archbishop in 1963, and it was here that he lived until he was elected Pope in 1978. And it will be Krakow that will pay homage to its Pope in the 70th edition of the Tour de Pologne. In fact, after the first two Italian stages, the Polish stage race will come "back home" and pick up once again from the heart of this city.
Krakow, November 7, 2012