Thursday, August 03, 2006

What the phoenix of Warsaw does best

We strode at full speed through the streets of Warsaw's Old Town. Passing by the long feeding pens of Tyskie [Polish beer] sozzled tourists, my comrade and I poured over the hottest developments in the field of digital video cameras.

(Its been about eight years since something significant happened in that field - now suddenly there's a lot to talk about. More on that later.)

"So you're telling me that for $4000 you can now get a camera that'll do image quality comparable to Star Wars: Episode I?", I exclaimed as we turned a corner. A pack of about nine battle-worn Nazis looked up from their bottles of mineral water. For about 0.5 milliseconds our brains experienced something I think is called 'gun lock' - or was it the FOF response? A moment later we chuckled as we passed a Polish Home Army officer talking to his mother via mobile phone.

Its not often I have purely positive things to say about an experience in Poland - not least a government-funded one - but the dramatic reconstruction of the Warsaw Uprising (Powstanie Warszawskie) by teams of loyal history enthusiasts - was sensational and caught me by complete surprise. [See my video clip of it]

I was expecting to see a few old men running up and down a street with the kind of pop guns you can buy at the Central Railway Station.

Nothing like that here. Machine guns blazed, the sky turned black with smoke, an SS division repeatedly exchanged attack and counter-attack with the AK (the Home Army). In the midst of the mayhem a kind of Polish David Attenborough of history marched with a radio mic condensing 63 days of conflict into about 30 minutes.

Having spent enough time in England to have the phrase 'Health and Safety' etched forever into my perception of the world I winced as explosive charges detonated only feet away from small children, the bangs loud enough to cause me temporary hearing loss. But a lot of care had clearly been taken to make it close but not damagingly close. Even as earth bombs rained debris down on the fringes of the audience I mused:

"That'll do them some good. In many places around the world today its for real."
In England they'd probably have us wearing luminous jackets and ear defenders and about 100m back from the action. This is one of the reasons I love Eastern Europe - they haven't yet wrapped themselves in cotton wool - and this makes for a great show.

The passion and attention to detail that the actors and pyro-technicians put into the battle reenactment was phenomenal. The exploding grenades thrown by the German side were replicas of the type they really used. Soldiers sported realistic wounds and dirtied uniforms had the level of detail big budget Hollywood productions usually use. Perhaps it was because they were playing the enemy or just because they were older - but the Polish actors did a better job as Nazis - especially the German commander who was clearly relishing his role as he used the bodies of his fallen comrades for cover.

I had the feeling that this is the kind of unique event tourists and visitors to Warsaw would rush to see. Humans love fighting and its a great answer to that frequent question 'Why does Warsaw look such a mess?' But obviously very strong emotions are still linked with WWII...

So what about a massive annual event in Warsaw’s Pilsudski square showing Polish military courage throughout the ages? "They charged tanks with horses?!" – all that kind of thing. So its about the Poles and not one particular war. Sell tickets to the tourists with a fair premium for the pro photographers - who’d love it.

We might have found a way to show what only Warsaw can do best.


Blogger Becca said...

Oh it sounds like it was fab! I really wanted to go, but ended up in Lodz that day...

Next year.

3/8/06 2:31 pm  
Blogger Warsaw Crow said...

Ah well, on most days I'd prefer to be in Lodz myself. ;-)

3/8/06 6:26 pm  

Post a Comment

<< Home