For several years Polish reenactment groups became the new educational attraction for both younger and older generations. The reenactments aim to recreate battles scenes, promote history by showcasing live equipment replicas, replica clothing, tactics, commands and even language that was used in the past. The number of events and reconstruction groups have been on the rise in recent years.
In Poland, the beginning of the reenactment movement began in 1977, when the first historical event, a chivalric tournament took place at the Gołubie – Dobrzyń castle. The first registered association was the “Brotherhood of Sword and Crossbow”. In 1992, at the invitation of local authorities the association organized a tournament commemorating the Battle of Grunwald, one of the greatest battles of medieval Europe. It has since become an annual historical event, garnouring audiences of up to 70,000 people. Approximately 3,500 people will take part in the two day event. Among them are not only knights but the whole society – wives, children, boys, girls, peasants, squires. There are also merchants and craftsmen who present their products true to medieval traditions and style. Around 1,400 participants will participate in the battle.
The Battle of Grunwald was fought on July 15th, 1410 during the Polish–Lithuanian–Teutonic War. The alliance of the Kingdom of Poland and the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, led by King Władysław II Jagiełło and Grand Duke Vytautas, defeated the German–Prussian Teutonic Knights, led by Grand Master Ulrich von Jungingen. Most of the Teutonic Knights’ leadership were killed or taken prisoner. Although defeated, the Teutonic Knights withstood the siege of their fortress in Marienburg and suffered minimal territorial losses.
It is estimated that there are around 400 of them in the country, however the total figure could be higher.
Another group that is watched and eagerly anticipated is the ‘Zgrupowanie Radosław’ Historic Group. They specialize in reenactments of fights during the Warsaw Uprising started by the Polish resistance movement in 1944 as a protest against the German occupation of Warsaw. The fights are fought in the streets of Warsaw. In recent years, they have been attended by several hundred reenactors with original uniforms, weapons and equipment. They also included a German armored personnel carrier, a replica of the ‘Panther’ tank and a replica of the ‘Goliath’ tracked mine, reconstructed from original parts.
Contrary to appearances the reenactors not only appear at the historical events but before any event they meticulously gather and source materials about the chosen period, acquire originals or the best replicas they can find. The historical reenactment movement in Poland is created by a very resilient and constantly developing community. The educational approach is equally important for the reenactors. The majority of the performers aim to bring history closer to the public, but not simply with plain facts but through the presentation of “living history”. The role of historical reenactments attempts to overcome stereotypes concerning various historical eras fixed in public consciousness by literature and films.
The historical reenactments evoke pride and respect amongst Poles. However, referring to historic values tends to cause outrage in extreme leftist circles. During the Independence March in 2011 a group of Germans associated with extremely left-wing organizations attacked the reconstruction group and forced them to change the route of their parade.