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UNKNOWN SOLDIER
Wtorek, 21 listopada 2017 r.
UNKNOWN SOLDIER

 
 
The idea of building the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Warsaw was launched in 1923. On January 24, 1925, the Minister of Military Affairs Maj. Gen. Władysław Sikorski presented proposal on this issue to the Council of Ministers. He proposed location fot the Tomb at the centre of the colonnade of the Saxon Palace. Colonnade was built between 1838-1841, the author of the project was Adam Idźkowski. The decor of the Tomb was designed by Stanisław Ostrowski. The wrought-iron fences between the three middle arcades bore national and military insignia signifying the military tradition of the nation which had fought for independence. The fence behind the head of the Tomb showed the national emblem, the eagle with the crown. On both sides, on steel constructions there were copper models of battle distinctions - the War Order of Virtuti Military and the Cross of Valour, the highest Polish military award for bravery, both of which honoured the Unknown Soldier. On April 4, 1925 the Polish - Bolshevik (1918-1919) battlefield was ed by lot, as a place from which the ashes of an unknown soldier who fell during the defence of Lviv would be brought to Warsaw.

 

 
 
Then the remains were transported by special train to the Capital of Poland. Early in the morning on November 2, 1925, the coffin with the unknown soldier was transported from Lviv to the East Railway Station in Warsaw. On an artillery caisson drawn by six horses, the funeral procession went to the St. John’s Cathedral for a solemn Holy Mass celebrated by Cardinal Alexander Kakowski. Later procession went to the Saxon Square. The coffin was buried along with fourteen urns containing soil from as many battlegrounds. Then the twenty four cannon salutes were fired. At 13.00 a nationwide moment of silence was held to show respect and to pay tribute to the Unknown Soldier. The memorial slab was inscribed: “Here lies a Polish Soldier who fell for the Fatherland”.
 

 
 
Polish President Stanisław Wojciechowski who participated in the ceremony, laid silver wreath on the memorial slab and lit the eternal flame. Honour guard was provided by soldiers from 36th Infantry Regiment of the Academic Legion. Since that time, the monument became a place of national remembrance. It is a place where wreaths are laying during state and military ceremonies and official visits of foreign delegations. Between 27-29 December, 1944, the Saxon Palace was blown up by Germans as a part of the planned destruction of Warsaw after the collapse of the Warsaw Uprising. Only parts of the central arcade remained, housing the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, which somehow managed to survive. The arcades covering the Tomb were restored after the war by the project of Zygmunt Stępiński. A metal model of the Order of Grunwald Cross was added. The supervision of reconstruction of the Tomb was held by the Ministry of Defence in cooperation with the Department of Urban Planning of the Office for the Reconstruction of the Capital, as well as the Municipal Council. On May 8, 1946 during official ceremony in front of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, four urns were filled with soil from twenty four battlegrounds where Polish soldiers had fallen during the Second World War and added to the memorial. In 1964, a new floor area of 2432 square meters was made around the Tomb. The tombstone was changed and spotlights illuminating the object were installed. A new vault was made and interior arcades were plastered.
 
 
On June 2, 1979, Pope John Paul II during his first pilgrimage to Poland, prayed at the Tomb and put his signature in the Commemorative Book. In 1988, the content of the twelve new plaques commemorating the whole Polish military history was prepared in the Military Historical Institute. The names of 142 battlefields - from Cedynia to Berlin - were put there. On November 11, 1990 copies of four granite plates were mounted on the pillars near the grave. They bore the names of the villages and towns near which Polish combat units had fought on the Eastern and Western fronts (1914-1918) and during the wars in the borderlands (1918-1921). Next year, during the 200th anniversary of the Constitution of May 3, the President of Poland, Lech Wałęsa unveiled fourteen new plates on which places of martyrdom of the Polish nation were written, including the murder of Polish officers and government officials in Katyń, Kharkov and Mednoye. Two separate plaques are devoted to the Navy and Air Force. The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is a place of honour and respect. At present, just like in the past, the monument is a place of national remembrance. It is a place where delegations pay tribute to fallen soldiers and where wreaths are laying during state and military ceremonies and official visits of foreign delegations.

 
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