The internet can be a vast wasteland of information and schlock. We all know this by now, right? Just about anyone can attest that any given search (even for canned spinach) can land a user in a cesspool of bad sports columns, LOLcats, and bears of questionable intent. Thanks to this, it’s almost impossible to come across something that shocks you anymore; and even rarer to find something that actually inspires.
This past week, I was traversing the ‘nets when I came across a story that kept me searching with reckless info-lust for the next couple of hours. Early last Monday in Warsaw, Poland, they dedicated a memorial to the fallen heroes of the 1943 Warsaw Uprising. Not usually up-to-date on happenings in the former Eastern Bloc nation, I delved into the history a little deeper, and was pleased with what I found. I found a beautiful history of indomitable strength… a story that helps give breadth to Walter Sobchek.
Am I wrong? Yes, we know that Walter abandoned his Polish Catholic roots when he married Cynthia, and kept his Jewish faith when she left, instead of turning it in like a library card. Any Pole worth his salt would be proud of the fight residents of the Warsaw Ghetto brought to their Nazi captors in the face of assured death camp deportation. In April of 1943, several residents of the Polish ghetto began fighting back in an organized attack against the German guards. Their standoff lasted for nearly a month, ending with several survivors making the miles-long journey through the sewers of Warsaw to freedom on the “aryan” side of town. This was a precursor to the Uprising of 1944 when many of these survivors, and thousands others, defended the city under siege.
Walter is often misunderstood by his fellow Rollers, local nihilists, and disabled millionaires. Due to his time in ‘Nam, Walter is sensitive to the daily freedoms that are enjoyed by every day folks like you and me. Walter watched his fellow soldiers die with those freedoms on their minds. Like him, many of the Warsaw survivors have taken to the streets to remember their fallen comrades, some of whom literally died face-down in the muck underneath the city. I doubt many have pulled firearms on pacifist friends, but who can tell? Most of the survivors are now citizens of Israel, but have continued to be major influences in their home land of Poland - even more so since the fall of Communism. Simha Rotem has become a particularly celebrated author and speaker, but often shocks audiences with stories of the inhumanity he was forced into during the occupation. On occasion, he has spoken of lives that he refused to save.
It took the world a while to realize the struggle the Polish people had to withstand. While Walter doesn’t have the noble backing of the global community, he does have the support of those who joined him after his hardest years, and that seems to make all the difference. For all of his unchecked aggression, Dude and Donny stand by their venerable friend, knowing that he has endured a hell that they could not imagine, and giving him support that he needs. The Poles are just now able to recognize the heroes of that era in a way they deserve, and even though Walter would probably not receive a monument or parade, he has a strong heritage of resiliency to fall back on.
Then again, if you will it, it is no dream.