Sparkling new Polish Army museums opens to the public
Ahead of Tuesday’s National Armed Forces Day, modernity met history as a new state-of-the-art headquarters of the Polish Army Museum opened its doors to the public.
Amid salvos of cannon fire echoing battles of the past, the inaugural exhibition titled “1,000 Years of Glory of the Polish Armed Forces,” opened to the public showcasing nearly 3,000 of the most valuable items from the museum's 300,000-plus collection of artefacts.
Among the prized possessions to go on show is the Polish Army's earliest tank, which was discovered in Afghanistan in 2012, and a fragment of Hitler’s table taken from the Reich Chancellery in 1945.
The move to the new headquarters at Warsaw’s Citadel is a watershed moment for the museum as it is the first time since its founding in 1920 by Józef Piłsudski that it has had its own permanent home.
The new facility has been designed to fit into the character of the Citadel, a 19th-century Tsarist fortress built by order of Tsar Nicholas I after the suppression of the 1830 November Uprising in order to bolster imperial Russian dominion over the city.
The modernistic architecture and the size of the new museum building are a mirror to the pace and scale of the modernisation and expansion of Poland’s armed forces taking place at the moment.
Much of the new equipment that the Polish army has recently purchased will be on display during tomorrow’s military parade through the city to mark Polish Army Day.
First established in 1923 to mark Poland’s victory over Bolshevik forces in the 1920 Battle of Warsaw, although banned under Communism, the holiday was subsequently revived in 1992.
Among the over 3,000 exhibits on permanent display, the Renault FT, the first-ever tank in the Polish army, stands out for special attention.
It arrived back in Poland from Afghanistan in 2012 after having been found by Polish soldiers standing on a pedestal in front of barracks in Kabul and subsequently donated to Poland by the local authorities.
“The tank was not in the best condition. It was missing numerous armour plates, had a very corroded rear, and was also devoid of armaments and an engine,” said museum custodian Jakub Wojewoda.
It was manufactured in 1917 in France and came to Poland with the 1st Tank Regiment of General Jozef Haller's army to take part in the Polish-Bolshevik war of 1920.
According to information obtained by Polish diplomats in 2012, the tank was captured by the Russians and ended up in Afghanistan in 1923 as a gift from the Soviets to the emir.
Other impressive exhibits include banners from the January Uprising, an airplane of the Kosciuszko Squadron from the Polish-Bolshevik War and Enigma cypher machines.
The exhibition ends with a fragment of a table attributed to Hitler, at which he held deliberations, and a fragment of a map table captured Berlin in 1945 from the Reich Chancellery.
In the future, the new museum will be housed in two pavilions, with the second housing exhibitions about the Polish army from after 1945 until Poland's entry into NATO.