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 Nov 10 2022

Enjoying Gołąbki on Polish Independence Day

On its Independence Day on 11 November, Poland commemorates the anniversary of the restoration of the country’s sovereignty as Polish Republic in 1918 from the German, Austro-Hungarian and Russian Empires.

It wasn’t until the close of the First World War that Poland was finally a united country once again. After the defeat of the occupying forces, the Polish people seized military and civil power and began to build a revitalized nation.

The holiday was constituted in 1937 and was celebrated only twice before World War II. After the war, the communist authorities of the People's Republic removed Independence Day from the calendar, though reclamation of independence continued to be celebrated informally on 11 November.

As Poland emerged from communism in 1989, the original holiday—on its original 11 November date—was restored.

In other countries, holidays were established in the spirit of grief and horror at the enormous human cost of the war, and they mark the sacrifices of those who fought. For Poland, however, the tragedy of the war was tempered by what had been accomplished at its end: the restoration of a sovereign Polish state that had been lost entirely in the partitions of Poland, after 123 years of struggle. The Polish holiday is therefore simultaneously a celebration of the reemergence of a Polish state and a commemoration of those who fought for it.

Presided by the President of Poland in his capacity as Commander in Chief of the Polish Armed Forces, the televised celebrations at Warsaw's Piłsudski Square serve as the national celebratory event in honor of the anniversary of the restoration of Polish independence in 1918.  Guard mounting and wreath laying at the Tomb of the Unknow Soldier conclude the ceremony.

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The occasion is celebrated by people gathering on the streets for larger and smaller celebrations and also in private homes together with family. A popular Polish dish that most likely will then be found on the dinner table is Gołąbki, white cabbage leaves filled with stuffing made of rice and minced meat. Served with a rich homemade tomato sauce and bread, the rolls are considered a staple food in Poland and many Central and South Eastern European cuisines.

Unlike the translation suggests, one won’t find “little pigeons” in Gołąbki but rather also vegetarian fillings like soybeans or mushrooms. The word origin is quite unclear, one story suggests that in the early days there were indeed stuffed pigeons or other birds wrapped in cabbage as they were considered a fancy dish.


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