Over the past three centuries, Poland’s history has been largely that of struggle for freedom and national independence. It was carried on with the pen, by the likes of Konarski, Lesczyński and many others, and with the sword, by the patriots of the Confederation of Bar, Kościuszko and generations of insurgents after him. Nowadays, these armed risings tend to be judged harshly, since they had no hope of success and the physical cost far outweighed any potential gain, even on the moral plane.
But this kind of assessment is out of place, as human beings are not guided by such calculations. People and communities are driven by emotional and ideological influences, and by a variety of instincts. One such instinct, the desire for liberty, is in many respects irrational. But without it the world would look very different, and we would not have a homeland of our own.
Freedom is not a physical thing that one can possess, it is something one fights for, continuously. Having liberated ourselves from the yoke of the partitions, fought off Bolshevik invasion, survived Nazi and Soviet occupation, and, finally, having thrown off the communist system imposed by the Soviet Union, we cannot sit back and say that we are free. Our individual and collective rights are still, and perhaps more than ever, under attack from various factors, from influences and institutions, both home-grown and international, ideological, cultural, political, financial and administrative, not to mention organised crime and corruption in the public sphere. But the greatest threat to our liberty comes from the passivity and indifference of the public. Each time he looks at the Polish flag, every citizen should reflect on the fact that the freedom which so many generations struggled for can be very easily lost.
Count Adam Stefan Zamoyski is a historian and a member of the ancient Zamoyski family of Polish nobility. Zamoyski was born in New York City, raised in England and was educated at Downside School and The Queen’s College, Oxford. He is a freelance historian and an author of over a dozen books, including a history of Poland and an account of Napoleon’s invasion of Russia in 1812. He was Chairman of the Management Board of the Princes Czartoryski Foundation. Adam Zamoyski is a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries, of the Royal Society of Arts, and of the Royal Society of Literature.