On the 84th anniversary of the creation of the Polish Underground State, the Virtual Museum of the Polish Underground State began its activities. It tells the story of courage, sacrifice, and human determination. The main objective of the museum was to collect and present in an attractive way unique photographs, films, documents, and orders showing the organisational phenomenon of the Polish state during the German occupation. The museum, which operates under the address tajnepanstwo.pl, is also a huge database of easily accessible historical sources for all those interested in the subject. The Virtual Museum of the Polish Underground State was created by the Foundation for Great Histories thanks to the support of the PGE Foundation and the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage.
The Virtual Museum, which does not have its own seat, tells the story of a state that also did not exist physically, but whose structures functioned thanks to the courage of thousands of our compatriots. Today, thanks to the Virtual Museum of the Underground State, we can familiarise ourselves with this inspiring story of heroism, patriotism, and civil courage of Poles under German occupation. PGE supported this project because it is an extraordinary phenomenon in our history, showing the strength of the Polish nation. We support initiatives nurturing historical memory, especially those that are accessible and attractive to young people, said Przemysław Kołodziejak, Vice-President of the Management Board of PGE Polska Grupa Energetyczna for Operations, a patron of the Virtual Museum of the Polish Underground State.
The virtual exhibition is arranged in an interesting story that leads the audience between the exhibits. The look of the virtual museum is innovative and modern, modelled on the most popular social media platforms. Short content varied with historical photos and interesting infographics will bring visitors into the past. The intuitiveness of navigating the virtual space, as well as the abundance of digitised historical sources, i.e., scanned documents and the real voices of the protagonists, takes the viewer back to the Second World War.
“The museum is conceived as a youth-friendly space that uses social media to take in information divided into short blocks. We modelled ourselves on the operation of the most popular platforms among young people in order to make the subject as interesting as possible for them,” said Maciej Piwowarczuk, President of the Foundation for Great Histories.
The Foundation for Great Histories specialises in rereading events and historical figures to create an attractive, timeless story out of them. It helps the viewer to embed the main value of the Virtual Museum of the Polish Underground State (WMPPP) in history – the source materials. A user curious about a particular issue can easily move to the digitised artefacts – photographs, scans, or recordings.
By browsing through them, one can, among other things:
- read intelligence reports describing the Third Reich’s preparations for war with the USSR,
- read the original order on the dissolution of the Home Army, where Leopold Okulicki “Niedźwiadek” made the last handwritten corrections – so you can see how he chose his words,
- listen to Kazimierz Piechotek talk about his work in the cell forging documents at the Warsaw University of Technology,
- find out why the sign on the door of the flat one floor below, where secret classes of the Faculty of Law were held, reads “Coal is not sold”.
By the end of 2023, the Virtual Museum of the Polish Underground State is to include more than 1,500 such artefacts, which come, among others, from the collections of the University Library in Warsaw, Radio Free Europe, the Warsaw Rising Memorial Museum and many other partner institutions of the project. Among the materials available is also a series of animations about Home Army commanders – “Voices of the Home Army.”
In the most important areas of the museum, there are tasks that teachers can use during history lessons. They have been developed in line with the core curriculum.
The museum is developing all the time. In the coming weeks, further chapters will be added to those already in existence on, for example, clandestine teaching, print shops, Home Army commanders, women in the underground or everyday life. At the moment, the extensive WMPPP is being realised by the forces of the Foundation for Great Histories with the support of the PGE Foundation, the main patron, and the PZU Foundation, and the involvement of a dozen or so museums and archival resources.
Some of the new chapters will be enriched with material prepared by participants in the announced competition ‘In the footsteps of underground heroes’. The organisers invite young people from primary and secondary schools to travel in the footsteps of people who were involved in the resistance movement during World War II and to prepare a film in the InstaStories formula showing the effects of their work. Details of the competition on the website konkurs.tajnepanstwo.pl.
Patrons of the Virtual Museum of the Polish Underground State are PGE Polska Grupa Energetyczna and the PGE Foundation.
Foundation for Great Histories has been active in the field of historical education since 2008. It meets the challenges of the present by drawing on the experience of past generations. In its activities, it rediscovers heritage and the past, using modern technologies in the processes of digitisation and making collections, archives, and collections available to the general public. The Foundation produces exhibitions (e.g., "Kościuszko. Inżynier Wolności" or "Letnie Ostatki"), organises nationwide competitions for young people ("Baczyński bez filtra," "Śladami bohaterów Armii Krajowej"). It creates didactic tools such as the game Free Election.
PGE Polska Grupa Energetyczna is the largest electricity company in Poland, a supplier of electricity and heat to more than 5.5 million customers and a leader of change in the Polish energy sector. PGE carries out activities to cultivate the memory of Polish history and its heroes. The PGE Foundation is the main custodian of projects to commemorate the Polish resistance movement. In 2021, it became a patron of the Virtual Museum of the Polish Underground State and was involved in the organisation of the "Baczyński without a filter" photo competition. In addition, on the 80th anniversary of the establishment of the Home Army, it organised, with the Foundation for Great Histories, a nationwide competition "In the footsteps of Home Army heroes" and created the animation series "Voices of the Home Army" for historical recordings of the voices of Home Army commanders. Since 2018, she has been carrying out the "Memorial Plaques" project. As part of it, she carried out a historical search of all 165 Tchorek plaques located in Warsaw, published a folder about the Memorial Plaques and supported the publication of the bilingual album "Memory of Warsaw". In addition, it installed more than 120 information plaques at the Tchorek plaques, cleaned and conserved 104 plaques and compiled and placed in the application Tablice Pamięci and on the website tablicepamieci.pl, the first electronic database in Poland of more than 3,100 names of victims commemorated with Tchorek plaques in Warsaw. In addition, every year on the anniversary of the Warsaw Uprising, the PGE Foundation pays tribute to the power engineers who fought to defend Warsaw's Powiśle Power Station by organising a ceremony under the banner of "Energeticians in the Uprising." This year's event included the premiere screening of the animation: "Command: Capture the Power Station!", created using artificial intelligence.