“On the way to Independence”
11th November 2018 will mark the 100th anniversary, celebrated exuberantly and cheerfully, of Poland’s regaining of independence. The momentous event from 1918 found an immediate reflection in Wieliczka and Bochnia mines, in which a spontaneous change of names of many chambers, shafts and drifts occurred, aiming at commemoration of Polish national heroes. Both mines became the important state enterprises in Poland which they had been in previous centuries. The International Conference of Underground Museums and Underground Open-Air Museums – taking place in the Wieliczka and Bochnia mines, owing to the importance of these sites for Polish legacy, which is a part of the national cultural heritage, and to the conjunction of “mining” jubilees of the year 2018 – was included in the official national celebration of the 100 years of Polish independence. The coordinator of the special Multi-Annual Programme Independent [“Niepodległa”] is the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage.
For this reason, the conference is going to be accompanied by opening of an underground board exhibition “On the way to Independence”. The exhibition is an element of the cycle of exhibitions familiarising the visitors of the Wieliczka and Bochnia mines with a selection of issues from Poland’s history. Many of the events from the past shaped the identity of Poles and our perception of such values as patriotism, freedom, independence. These past events had an influence on all relations of Poland with other states and nations, and not only the neighbouring ones. Most likely, getting to know at least some parts of the complicated history of Poland will help the visitors in understanding Polish culture, the total of over 200 years of striving for independence or its retaining, and also Polish mentality - “Why we are who we are”.
The presented exhibition titled “On the way to Independence” illustrates, in short, the most important events related to the Polish people and their subjugation, lasting over 120 years: the fight to defend freedom begun at the end of the 18th c., wiping Poland off the map of Europe by three invaders: Austria, Prussia and Russia, and the striving for regaining sovereignty afterwards, ending with a dream of many generations coming true in November 1918. The price for struggle for this dream was often death, exile, prison, confiscation of property. Generations of Poles tried to seize every opportunity, oftentimes illusory, to achieve independence by participating in fights, which took place all over Europe, under various banners – whether, for example, by fighting by Napoleon’s side, during the Spring of Nations or else by prompting of uprisings – constantly reminding the world about their dream of freedom and autonomy. A conflict between the invaders, and the resulting World War I, created an opportunity, which was not missed. Once again, after 123 of subjugation, Poland could assert its Independence. This is the reason why Polish perception of World War I is atypical – paradoxically, it made it possible for us to restore our freedom. But you will learn more about this and other aspects of the history of Poland during your visit to our exhibition.
“Melancholy” - a painting by Jacek Malczewski, 1890-1894.
“Farewell to Europe” - a painting by Jacek Sochaczewski from 1894, depicting participants of the January Uprising (1863-64) exiled to Syberia and saying goodbye to Europe in Ural.
“Józef Piłsudski with his staff in Kielce” - the picture shows Polish Legions under Józef Piłsudski’s leadership, fighting side by side with Austrian army at the beginning of World War I (August 1914).