Taiwan and Poland are natural allies | Taiwan News
In 2016, I had the opportunity to work in China and ended up in Chengdu. It was there that I learned of Chiang Kai-shek’s retreat to Taiwan, and the story sparked my interest in Formosa.
As a Pole, I am fully aware of Taiwan’s precarious geopolitical position. The ever-present threat of foreign invasion shaped the Polish mentality. Communist China denies Taiwan’s statehood, just as Russia sometimes denies Polish statehood.
Taiwan is a shining example of a free society, while China is a blatant example of a surveillance state. Ironically, but not surprisingly, communist fanatics often live in the West. They have no idea what people in communist countries are going through and they wouldn’t last a day in North Korea.
Russia and China have a similar mentality. Both countries want to impose their will on other nations, only their methods differ. They don’t care about human rights, are collectivist and hierarchical.
Russia is resolutely aggressive, while the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) wants to project an image of restraint and neutrality. Fortunately, the world sees through the facade.
Ukrainian refugees, mostly women and children, easily integrated into Polish society. This is not surprising, because Ukrainians are culturally close to us and many Ukrainians speak Polish without a foreign accent.
We sometimes call Ukrainians our cousins. Of course, we weren’t always on good terms. In fact, there have been brutal chapters in Polish-Ukrainian history. We remember the past and look to the future, hoping not to repeat the mistakes of the past.
Poland has been accused of Russophobia countless times by the West. Now the world is finally listening. Russia has dropped the mask of civility. There’s a reason Poland helps Ukrainian refugees so much, because we understand what it means to be the target of ruthless regimes bent on committing genocide.
Deportations to Siberia, forced Russification, rape and torture. This was the image of the Soviet “liberation” in September 1939. Sound familiar? It should. The same is happening in Ukraine today. Totalitarianism always brings death and destruction, and communism is the worst form of totalitarianism, as Taiwanese know all too well.
Russia, even more than Germany, has always been a problem for Poland. Poland was wiped off the map for 123 years by the Habsburg Monarchy, the Kingdom of Prussia and the Russian Empire. As you can see, Russia is still there, plotting to destroy Poland.
Poland’s demise reverberated around the world, serving as a warning to others. By a twist of fate, Poland and Japan joined forces against Russia. Polish orphans were rescued from Siberia by Japan in 1920. Poland’s tragic fate had an impact on Japan.
Take ”Porando Kaiko” as an example. It was a popular Japanese soldier song until 1945. The song warned Japan against complacency and ending up being divided and humiliated like Poland. The Polish nation briefly regained its independence in 1918, only to be destroyed by the Nazi-Soviet invasion in September 1939.
It’s no surprise that genocide and slavery feature prominently in Polish art. One of the most famous Polish paintings is called ”Polonia” by Jan Matejko. “Polonia” shows Russian soldiers watching a blacksmith chain a woman. The worried woman in the painting is Poland.
The painting captures the calamitous moment of Poland’s enslavement by Russia. Some of you might say slavery is a harsh word, but that’s exactly what it was.
Given our tragically complex history, the Poles are a nation of refugees. We understand what Ukrainians are going through. During World War II, Polish refugees were taken in by Iran and India. Polish Jews thrived in Shanghai.
On a positive note, there are chapters of Polish-Russian history to be proud of. The Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth occupied Moscow between 1610 and 1612. Emilia Plater, a Polish countess, fought on horseback against the Russian Empire in 1831. Poland prevented the Bolsheviks in 1920 from conquering Europe.
And who could forget Lech Walesa? May these chapters of Polish history remind us that perseverance and patriotism can defeat even the most powerful enemy.
On May 3, we celebrated the 231st Constitution Day of the Republic of Poland. It is the second modern constitution in the world, after that of the United States. As the director of the Polish office in Taipei, Cyryl Kozaczewski, said:
“Poles and Taiwanese appreciate solidarity and mutual support in difficult times, as evidenced by our joint efforts to fight the pandemic outbreak and provide humanitarian assistance to Ukraine and Ukrainian refugees in Poland.”
Destined to be allies
Obviously, our two nations are meant to be allies. Taiwan and Poland can be beacons of freedom for the world, showing how nations can prosper economically and culturally, even when neighboring countries are regimes with imperial ambitions.
While international relations need to be watched carefully, it is also vital to watch domestic politics. It is no secret that the scourge of totalitarianism can attack insidiously from within.
In a sense, Taiwan and Poland have had the chance to realize the precious value of freedom. Many nations around the world lack this awareness and take their independence for granted. Yet, as the war in Ukraine shows, any nation can be targeted by a genocidal regime for so-called liberation.
I hope the day the CCP invades Taiwan never comes, but as the war in Ukraine shows, wishful thinking rarely reflects reality.
I look forward to visiting Taiwan and trying its world famous cuisine, as well as learning more about Taiwanese folklore, tales and traditions.
Adam Borowski is a technical translator living in Warsaw, Poland. He honed his translation skills at the Polish Foreign Ministry and has written 62 articles for the Korea Times, as well as an as-yet-unpublished novel set in an alternate reality, “Euthanizers.” : [email protected]