… the Second World War would have never taken place. What would have happened? What would Poland be like now? I came across an interesting article by Piotr Gursztyn in Dziennik who probably fancies himself as a writer of alternate history. In it, he paints an interesting picture of a Poland untouched by war but ravaged by a host of other problems. The post below is based loosely on this article. The year is 2009. To the left of Poland we find the German Third Reich, to the right of Poland we find the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. Europe is not a happy place, constant bickering, skirmishes and trans-border terrorism is the norm.
Chamberlain’s words “peace in our time” could not be further from the truth. Thankfully, the 1930s and 40s passed without incident, although Germany managed to take most of Czechia as well as Danzig. The USSR put pressure on Poland to relinquish its eastern territories to the Ukrainian SSR but their territorial demands were not met, although Poland was forced into a more conciliatory stance regarding the Kresy turning itself into a federative republic and the Lwów, Stanisławów and Tarnopol Provinces into Autonomous Provinces (together with the already Autonomous Province of Silesia).
Poland’s third largest city is Lwów, its sixth largest city is Wilno. The Jan Kazimierz University of Lwów is Poland’s most prestigious university pushing the University of Warsaw and the Jagiellonian University of Kraków into second and third place respectively. Poland’s holiday-makers keep away from the Baltic Coast and the gigantic port in sprawling Gdynia. Poles prefer to travel to the Wilno Lakes (the Mazurian Lakelands are in Germany) or to the wildlands of Czarnohora near the Romanian border.
International scholars flock to Warsaw, Lwów and Wilno for conferences in mathematics, logic and philosophy which Poland excels in, as well as to make use of the wonderful libraries, archives and academic know-how housed in these three centres of excellence. Poland is one of Europe’s largest countries with a population of 61 million, however, it is a country divided, with little love lost between Poles, Jews, Ukrainians, Belarusians and Germans. Poland is a state where only 60% of the population is Polish.
Foreign politicians and commentators speak of a ‘powerful Poland’ and ‘Polish pride’, ‘Polish strength’ and ‘Polish power’ yet they also talk of ‘Polish arrogance’, ‘Polish regional hegemony’ and the ‘Polish patchwork’. Patchwork? Poland is a country marked by huge differences. East and west are economically worlds apart. Poland’s successive nationalist governments have done little to help incorporate the minorities. Jews, Ukrainians and Belarusians belong to very different social groups. Poland forever seems to be on the verge of social collapse. The Ukrainian terrorism of the 1950s has subsided, the anti-Jewish violence of the 1960s has stopped but without a long-term vision, the future for Poland does not look bright.