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A Visit to Powazki Cemetery

Polish Independence Day, celebrated on Nov. 11, is a time of reflection for many Poles — a day to recall Poland’s resurrection after centuries of perennial partitions, but also a time to remember the blood shed and pay respect to the dead.

No place tells the story of Poland’s journey from a subjugated nation teetering on the edge, to a stable, confident European power better than Powazki Military Cemetery in Warsaw — Poland’s Valley of the Kings.

It celebrates the country’s war heroes, but also surrounds them with the higgledy piggledy graves of the great and the good: poets and doctors, dissidents and Communist dictators, Jews and anti-Semites, as well as Stalin’s henchmen and Solidarity stars.

Where a country buries its dead is a bellwether of political life and social fabric. The Powazki cemetery, in particular, has succeeded in keeping the collective national memory intact — pinpointing the paradoxes of Polish society and illustrating the interplay of elites, in life and in death.

Read more: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/11/17/opinion/a-visit-to-powazki-cemetery.html