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The history of Polish anthem

National anthem is a song (tune) that should express all the positive feelings that one has towards the homeland – it can be love to landscape, will to defend it or longing for national freedom. The anthem (in Polish ‘hymn’) should make citizens of a given country proud to belong to a certain nation.

Polish anthem was created as a song of Polish Legions, during the Napoleonic Period, when several Polish units served in French Army. The Poles believed that revolutionary France will help them to regain independence after the third partition of 1795. The words of the hymn were written in Italy by Jozef Wybicki, who was co-creator of Polish Legions, in July 1797. The melody was created by unknown artist, who based it on motifs of folk mazurka tune. Couple days later it was performed publically and gained popularity within all three occupied parts of Poland.

Dabrowski’s Mazurka, as the anthem is also called, was translated into 17 foreign languages by Poles living abroad and foreign poets who expressed their support towards Poland. It was sung during November and January Uprising, as well as during I and II World War. It was also sung in the streets of Vienna, Berlin and Prague, where it was especially popular, during revolution of 1848.
This Polish patriotic song became official national anthem in February 1927. Its popularity inspired other countries to create their anthem based on the motifs of Dabrowski’s Mazurka. As the words of the Polish hymn start with ‘Poland is not yet lost’ (Poland has not yet died), it became also the leading motive of Slovak (afterwards turned into Slavic), Lusatia, Croatia and Ukraine anthems.

The current version of the anthem was agreed on in 1980. The first verse is connected with the last partition of the country. It expresses hope and belief that Poland is alive as long the Poles are alive and remember about their homeland. It is most probably the most popular verse of the whole anthem (like it usually is with any song) that has 4 verses (the song of Polish Legions had, however, more). The chorus mentions Henryk Dabrowski (Polish general, participant of Kosciuszko Insurrection and creator of Polish Legions in Italy). Jozef Wybkicki, when writing the words to Dabrowski’s Mazurka, expressed his hope that Polish Legions would come back to free country under the leadership of the general. ‘March, march Dabrowski, from Italian land to Poland…’ are the words that every single Poles known and learns from childhood.

Polish anthem is a traditional patriotic song that encouraged the Poles to fight for their freedom. During hardships it gave hope that the nation will once again rejoin and be independent. It also inspired other nations during their fight for freedom.

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