Poland Resumes Gas Deliveries to Ukraine

(WARSAW, Poland) — Poland has resumed deliveries of gas to Ukraine that had been halted after its own supplies from Russia dropped this week, the state pipeline operator said Friday.

The statement by Gaz-System S.A. suggests gas flows from Russian supplier Gazprom are once again meeting Poland’s daily demand, but there was no immediate confirmation of that from state gas company, PGNiG.

Head of PGNiG, Mariusz Zawisza, told Polish PAP agency that the company raised its demand for Russia gas in recent days, due to market needs.

“We place gas orders according to our needs. We stick to the provisions of the contract, and we do not exceed the maximum daily volumes,” Zawisza said, without offering any figures.

The contract is based on a volume range, but the details are not made public.

The spat between Poland and Russia came amid concerns that Moscow is ready to use its energy exports as a political weapon over the crisis in Ukraine.

“We do not treat the situation as a crisis,” Zawisza said. “It is just one incident.”

Zawisza said that after Germany and Italy, Poland’s is Gazprom’s third largest European client.

Germany and Austria had also reported a drop in Russian gas flows this week.

TIME conflict

Here’s How World War II Began

This week marks the 75th anniversary of the conflict's beginning


On a desktop, hover over the map to zoom; on mobile, click to zoom.

Seventy-five years this week, World War II began. “The telephone in Franklin Roosevelt’s bedroom at the White House rang at 2:50 a. m. on the first day of September,” the Sept. 11, 1939, issue of TIME explained. “In more ways than one it was a ghastly hour, but the operators knew they must ring. Ambassador Bill Bullitt was calling from Paris. He had just been called by Ambassador Tony Biddle in Warsaw. Mr. Bullitt told Mr. Roosevelt that World War II had begun. Adolf Hitler’s bombing planes were dropping death all over Poland.” On Sept. 3, the United Kingdom and France declared war.

Roosevelt wasn’t the only one expecting the dramatic news. In that same TIME issue, the first to hit stands after Germany began its march into Poland, the magazine provided readers with a timeline explaining the war’s start, despite a worldwide mood described as “thoroughly sick of and appalled by the idea of war.” The retelling starts in March of 1939, after Hitler moved on Czechoslovakia, and continues throughout the spring as England and Germany deliberate over the future of Poland — but as late as August 23, even after Germany surprised the world by announcing a non-aggression pact with the Soviet Union, war was not a foregone conclusion.

The description of the events of that late August might read like a farce if it weren’t so deadly serious: as Hitler uses impossible ultimatums to negotiate with Poland, a nation Britain has already sworn to aid if necessary, the timeline fills up with sudden deadlines, haggling over the difference between an ambassador and an emissary, offers that can’t be sent because phone lines have been cut and orders to attack given simultaneously with offers of peace.

And then the time for negotiating was over.

Grey Friday, Sept. 11 1939
From , Sept. 11, 1939 TIME

The original TIME story about those events can be read in full, for free, here — Grey Friday — and the map of Poland that accompanied the story appears above.


TIME Poland

Report: Poland’s Foreign Minister Blasts ‘Worthless’ U.S. Relationship

Radoslaw Sikorski
Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski speaks to the media at a conference in St. Petersburg on June 10, 2014 Dmitry Lovetsky—AP

In tapes obtained by a Polish magazine, Radoslaw Sikorski used an expletive to describe his country's alliance with the U.S.

Polish magazine Wprost claims to have obtained recordings of a conversation in which Poland’s Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski says that “the Polish-American alliance is worthless, even harmful, as it gives Poland a false sense of security. It’s bulls—t.”

The quote is an excerpt of a longer conversation purportedly between Sikorski and former Finance Minister Jacek Rostowski that Wprost is expected to publish Monday or Tuesday, the Associated Press reports. The leaked recording comes just two weeks after President Barack Obama visited Poland.

The conversation is said to have occurred in the spring of 2014, though it’s not yet known who leaked the tape, and the identity of the speakers have not been confirmed.

In the tapes, Sikorski allegedly says Polish people have the mentality of “murzynskosc,” which Radio Polskie says is a racially charged, derogatory term that is roughly similar to “like a Negro.”

“The problem in Poland is that we have very shallow pride and low self-esteem,” Sikorski allegedly says.

Last month, Poland put forth Sikorski as a candidate to succeed European Union foreign policy head Catherine Ashton. Sikorski has been a supporter of the U.S. in the past, but in recent years has become more critical of the U.S. government.

Sikorski has also been a vocal critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin and his role in the Ukraine crisis. During his visit to Warsaw in early June, Obama proposed spending as much as $1 billion to increase U.S. military presence in Poland and surrounding countries in case Putin escalates the conflict in the region, the Washington Post reports.

On Twitter, Sikorski said he had never been to the restaurant where he believed the conversation was said to have been recorded. Wprost’s Michal Majewski replied that the conversation did not take place at that restaurant — where other recordings obtained by the magazine had — but in a completely different location.

The Polish government said it would comment after the rest of the recordings are published.

[Radio Polskie]

TIME Poland

Polish City Erects Statue of Peeing Lenin

Nowa Huta’s new sculpture of the famed Communist icon is a little different from the famous one it once hosted

The Polish town of Nowa Huta, near Krakow, has erected a statue of the Vladimir Lenin to take the place of the iconic monument to the Communist revolutionary that once stood in the town, but the new version is a bit different from the old.

Unlike the old Lenin statue, which was removed from the town’s main street in 1989, Nowa Huta’s new Lenin is bright green and features Lenin relieving himself, complete with a strategically placed fountain to round out the effect. The figure is even called Fountain of the Future.

One of the statue’s creators said the sculpture will show visitors that Nowa Huta is not merely a “grey and gloomy” town, The Telegraph reports.

[The Telegraph]


Hagel Pushes NATO Partners to Put More Skin in the Game

U.S. Defense Secretary Hagel speaks during a news conference at the end of a meeting of the North Atlantic Council in Brussels
U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel speaks during a news conference in Brussels on June 4, 2014. Reuters

During a trip to Brussels on Wednesday, Chuck Hagel leaned on fellow NATO member states to up their financial stake in the alliance in order to counter an increasingly aggressive Russia

U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel leaned on fellow NATO member states to up their financial stake in the alliance in order to counter an increasingly aggressive Russia during a trip to Brussels on Wednesday.

The secretary of defense’s urging for greater financial contributions from NATO members comes as several of the bloc’s governments continue to slash their military budgets, which has forced the U.S. to shoulder more of the costs of keeping the alliance afloat.

“Over the long term, current spending trends threaten NATO’s integrity and capabilities,” Hagel told reporters.

During a press conference on Wednesday, Hagel spoke forcefully about the need to counter Moscow and said Russia’s recent actions in neighboring Ukraine “constitute the most significant and direct challenge to European security since the end of the Cold War.”

The sectary of defense called on NATO’s members to “issue a definitive declaration to reverse current trends and rebalance the alliance’s burden-sharing,” according to a statement published by the Pentagon.

Hagel’s trip to the NATO headquarters in Belgium coincided with President Barack Obama’s state visit to Poland. During a speech in Warsaw, Obama pledged to tap Congress for an additional $1 billion to fund new European security measures.

TIME Foreign Policy

Twitter Unimpressed With Obama’s Leaked Workout Video

Do you even lift, bro?

When Internet got wind of a leaked video of President Barack Obama lifting weights during a recent visit to Poland, the people of Twitter were plainly unimpressed. The Secret Service assured reporters that there was no threat to the president as anyone entering the hotel, including its gym, would have been checked for weapons, but some tweeters saw a different kind of threat to national security in the leaked footage.

Here’s a collection of people on Twitter hating on the president’s workout routine.

TIME Poland

Obama Turns to Poland for Fans of American Leadership

Obama Visits Poland
U.S. President Barack Obama and Polish President Bronislaw Komorowski during a speech to mark 25 years of Polish democracy in Warsaw on June 4, 2014. Wojciech Grzedzinski—Zuma Press

Beset by scandals at home and a confrontation with Russia over Eastern Europe, Obama finds a crowd of admirers in Poland still eager for American leadership.

It must have been a welcome change of pace for U.S. President Barack Obama. His speech to a crowd of thousands on Wednesday in the Polish capital of Warsaw was very much a sermon to the converted. He did not need to convince anyone of U.S. strength or moral authority. He did not need to argue the importance of isolating Russia in response to its attack against Ukraine. No hecklers or protesters came out to jeer him, and Poland still felt like a sentimental devotee of the global order that emerged when the Cold War ended.

“History was made here,” Obama said in his speech on Castle Square, the scene of numerous protests against Russian rule that ended in civilian blood being spilled over its pavestones. “The victory of 1989 was not inevitable. It was the culmination of centuries of Polish struggle, at times in this very square.”

The occasion for the speech was the 25th anniversary of the elections that broke the communist monopoly on power in Poland in 1989. The anti-Soviet Solidarity movement, led by the independent union organizer Lech Walesa, won every freely contested seat in that ballot, including the entire Polish senate. The following year, as Soviet rule receded from Eastern Europe, Walesa was elected President and pursued integration with the West on every front, leading in 1999 to Poland’s ascension to the NATO military alliance and in 2004 to its membership in the E.U.

“We could not have achieved these things without continued American support,” says Adam Rotfeld, who served as Poland’s Foreign Minister in 2005. “So Obama’s visit is not just a reminder of American engagement in Eastern Europe – which is very important in itself – but an opportunity for us to express our gratitude to the United States,” Rotfeld tells TIME.

And many in the crowd had come out to do just that. Even before Obama began his speech, the somewhat monotonous lecture of his Polish counterpart, Bronislaw Komorowski, was interrupted as often by the persistent chiming of the castle’s clock tower above his head as it was by intermittent chants of “Obama!”

Jana Rasym, a beautician in Warsaw, expressed a common sentiment: “In Poland we like to be like small America.” She had not heard of the latest scandal hounding Obama at home – the release of five Taliban fighters in exchange for Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, an American prisoner of war in Afghanistan – and she didn’t seem to care. “How it is possible not to love Obama?” she asked, clapping together the paws of her lapdog as the American President began to speak. And in this setting, no good answer came to mind.

But in the lead up to Obama’s visit, there were some expressions of nostalgia for the age of unrivaled American leadership that followed the collapse of the Soviet Union. The most notable voice was that of Walesa, whose truculent style has won him a reputation as something of a crank in recent years. “The States should organize us, encourage us and offer programs, while we, the world, should do the rest,” Walesa told the Associated Press a week before Obama’s arrival. “This kind of leadership is needed.”

The U.S. has tried to play that role amid the ongoing standoff with Russia over Ukraine. It has led the push to impose economic sanctions against Russia and isolate it from the West. But if Poland has been an unflinching ally in this effort, Western European nations have been calling for cooler heads. The divide is in some ways typical of the power dynamics within the E.U., where the newer members in the east (the ones closer to Russia’s borders) are often more gung-ho about forming a united front against Russia than their Western European allies.

A recent survey by the Pew Research center bears this out. Two weeks before the elections to the European Parliament handed a resounding victory last month to the Eurosceptic parties, which tend to favor closer ties with Moscow, the survey found Poland the strongest holdout in support of European unity. While barely half of the Europeans surveyed had a favorable view of their alliance, in Poland that number was 72%. Another Pew survey conducted last year found that 67% of Poles had a favorable view of the U.S., compared to 58% across the continent, higher than any other European nation except Italy.

As Obama noted in his speech on Wednesday, “As Americans, we are proud to call Poland one of our strongest and closest allies.” Now if only he could get more of his allies around the world, or indeed more of his own countrymen, to believe in American leadership as Poland does.

TIME europe

U.S. Plans Military Exercises Near Russia

Joe Biden
U.S. Vice President Joe Biden walks past the barricades on Mykhailivska Square in Kiev, Ukraine, on April 22, 2014 Sergei Chuzavkov—AP

The U.S. will deploy about 600 troops for training exercises in Poland, Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia to reassure NATO and regional allies adjacent to Russia

The U.S. will send hundreds of troops to East Europe for training exercises, the Pentagon said on Tuesday, as the Americans look to reassure nervous allies near Russia.

The U.S. will deploy roughly 600 troops already stationed in Europe to Poland, Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia, Rear Admiral John Kirby, the Pentagon press secretary, said on Tuesday. The troops will be replaced with new units within about a month, and the U.S. expects to maintain a presence for at least the remainder of the year, he said.

“The message is to the people of Poland and Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia that the United States takes seriously our obligations,” Kirby said.

The U.S. is aiming to reassure allies in the region amid tensions on Ukraine’s eastern border, where Russia has amassed thousands of troops since it annexed the southern Ukrainian region of Crimea.

Vice President Joe Biden met with the Ukrainian leadership in Kiev on Tuesday, where he threatened new sanctions against Russia if it does not pull back its troops. He also said Russia should “stop talking and start acting,” days after international parties agreed on a joint roadmap to diffuse the crisis in eastern Ukraine, where pro-Russian separatists have occupied towns and cities. The separatists have so far defied the agreement’s stipulation that they disarm, and on Tuesday acting Ukrainian President Oleksandr Turchinov called for police to resume “counterterrorism” operations in the region after the body of a recently abducted local politician with suspected torture marks was found.

TIME Germany

Germany Returns Stolen Polish Art from 1939

Berlin hopes that the return of ‘Palace Stairs,’ an 18th Century picture by Venetian artist Francesco Guardi, will encourage Warsaw to return German books and manuscripts held in Poland

The German government has returned a painting stolen by the Nazis during the Second World War.

‘Palace Stairs,’ an 18th Century picture by Venetian artist Francesco Guardi, was taken from Poland’s National Museum just after Germany invaded in 1939. The German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier gave the work to his Polish equivalent Radoslaw Sikorski on Monday, reports the BBC.

The picture, which shows noblemen talking on the stairs of the Doge Palace in Venice, ended up at the University of Heidelberg after the war before going to the State Gallery of Baden-Wuerttemberg. It wasn’t recognized as belonging to Poland until the 1990s.

The German government hopes eventually that the Berlinka collection – a set of 300,000 manuscripts, books and drawings – will be returned to them from Poland. The items were stored in Poland during the war by the Nazis to protect them from damage, and now currently reside in Krakow. Differences of opinion between Berlin and Warsaw had prevented any deals from being reached sooner, and German officials hope the return of ‘Palace Stairs’ will reignite dialogue with Poland.

“The painting has been on a long odyssey,” said Mr. Steinmeier. “[It represents] the difficult history between our two countries.”


TIME conflict

World War: Grey Friday

Sept. 11, 1939 cover
The Sept. 11, 1939, cover of TIME Ernest Hamlin Baker / TIME

TIME's Sept. 11, 1939, report on the beginning of World War II

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World War II began last week at 5:20 a. m. (Polish time) Friday, September 1, when a German bombing plane dropped a projectile on Puck, fishing village and air base in the armpit of the Hel Peninsula. At 5:45 a. m. the German training ship Schleswig-Holstein lying off Danzig fired what was believed to be the first shell: a direct hit on the Polish underground ammunition dump at Westerplatte. It was a grey day, with gentle rain.

In the War’s first five days, hundreds of Nazi bombing planes dumped ton after ton of explosive on every city of any importance the length & breadth of Poland. They aimed at air bases, fortifications, bridges, railroad lines and stations, but in the process they killed upward of 1,500 noncombatants. The Nazi ships were mostly big Heinkels, unaccompanied by pursuit escorts. Germany admitted losing 21 planes to Polish counterattack by pursuits and antiaircraft. They claimed to have massacred more than half of a 47-plane Polish squadron which tried to bomb Berlin.

Out of a welter of sketchy bulletins, counter-claims and unpronounceable names (see col. j) flowing from Poland, the broad outlines of Germany’s assault began to take shape. Recapture of what was Germany in 1914 was the first objective: Danzig, the Corridor, and a hump of Upper Silesia (see map, p. 19). It is believed that Adolf Hitler, if allowed to take and keep this much, might have checked his juggernaut at these lines for the time being. When Britain & France insisted that he withdraw entirely from Polish soil or consider himself at war with them, he determined on the complete shattering and subjugation of Poland. Ordering his other generals to hold the Western Front (see p. 28), he made the gesture of joining General von Brauchitsch “somewhere” on the Polish Front. There, by this week, the German offensive was focused in six main lines.

From East Prussia, one force moved on Grudziadz. After four days, it made contact with another force driving across the Corridor from the west to cut the Warsaw-Gdynia rail line. Also from East Prussia went a column aimed at Mlawa and Pultusk. Based on Breslau, a many-headed fourth Nazi onslaught was launched toward Lodz, Kielce and Cracow. Based on Bratislava in Slovakia, a fifth and sixth spearhead were driven up through the Jablonka Pass and over the steep Tatras to the East. Radomska, Czestochowa, Katowice, Teschen and Nowy Targ were the first targets of these southwestern assaults. German commanders claimed to be taking all objectives “on schedule,” while the Polish defenders reported repeated counterattacks and recaptures.

Grand strategy of the Polish Armies was to retire slowly, conserve manpower, shorten their lines. Their Western stand was to be on a line running south from Torun to Czestochowa. From there South to behind Teschen they had a fortified front which the German divisions must crack or outflank.

As the mechanized German units advanced, the Smigly (nimble) cavalry of Generalissimo Smigly-Rydz swept around them to get at the German infantry. Poles claimed that successful counterattacks of this nature had carried the fighting to German soil on the west, in the neighborhood of Breslau and, in the north, over the East Prussian border below Allenstein. For this week, a major battle loomed as the Poles fell back upon prepared positions along the Narew River.

Weather, next to stomachs, is war’s most basic consideration.* Six predictably fair weeks of Polish autumn lay ahead for action on the fat Polish plains. Then will come rains which the Poles hope will bog down the German juggernaut on the purposely unpaved roads leading in from the borders. In the mountain passes on the South soon will come General Snow to aid the defenders.

Triangle. Ultimate core of Polish defense is the triangular Central Region of Industry (C. O. P.) between Cracow on the west, Lwów on the east, Lublin on the north. Into this area, guarded by highlands, served by two rivers, Poland two years ago moved her vital steel and munitions works, built power plants, at a cost of $200,000,000.

Postern. If forced back into her Triangle, Poland can expect direct aid only through her southeast postern, the valley of the Dniester down to Rumania and the Black Sea. Clearly seen last week was the reason why Poland, when Hitler carved Czecho-Slovakia, stood watchful guard over those Carpathian peaks which frown down on the Dniester Valley. When Hungarians rushed in and seized the Carpatho-Ukraine (eastern tip of Czecho-Slovakia), Poles embraced them at their new common border, for Hungary is traditionally Poland’s friend. Much depends for Poland on Hungary’s continued neutrality, for only by marching around through Hungary, unless he fights through from Cracow to Lwów, can Hitler sever the artery (river, railroad, broad highway) by which France and Britain may give Poland blood transfusions via the Mediterranean (see p. 22).

On the East. Poland’s defenses are not concentrated. Only five fortified cities piece out the distances not protected by the morasses of the many-branched Pripet River, to stave out the Red Army which last week growled ominously (see p. 35). Should the Red Army move west, Poland would desperately need Rumanians, Turks and Greeks to help man its eastern marches.

>Heroes this week were a handful of Polish soldiers left in charge of the Westerplatte munitions dump. Under steady bombing and shell fire, they held out as a suicide squad in the thick-walled fortress, replying from its depths with machine gun fire, resolved to blow up the dump and themselves with it before surrendering.

>Another small band of Poles took and held the Danzig post office until artillery was drawn up to blow away the building’s face, gasoline poured on from above and set afire.

>German planes dropped soldiers (with parachutes) behind Polish lines, where they reconnoitred, reported back to their army via small, portable radios. Poles captured them right & left, gave ‘them short shrift. Over bombed Warsaw, the Poles erected a poor imitation of London’s “balloon barrage,” claimed that a German pilot got caught in the net.

>Gas was first reported on the war’s fourth day, dropped in bombs by German planes.

>The Germans complained that Polish civilians were taking up arms, waging treacherous guerrilla warfare in their rear.

>The German Navy claimed full control of the Baltic, said it had sunk a Polish destroyer and submarine off Gdynia.

Puck & Luck

Foreigners have several times conquered Poland, but few foreigners have ever mastered the pronunciation of Polish. It has a peculiar letter similar to L which is pronounced like W; W is pronounced like V or F; CZ like SH; SZ as in the word “azure.” Poles also frequently half tick off an extra consonant or two that is hitched in front of many words, and pronounce OW at the end of words as in “woof-woof.”

The names of various places and people connected with the War in Poland, together with rough approximations of their pronunciation (suitable for U. S. tongues):

  • Warszawa (Warsaw): var-sha-va
  • Bydgoszcz: bid-goch
  • Wisla (Vistula) : vees-wa.
  • Tczew: cheff
  • Poznań: posh-nine
  • Grudziadz: groo-jaj
  • Lódź: wooj
  • Mlawa: Wa-va.
  • Czestochowa: ches-to-Ao-va
  • Kraków: kra-koof
  • Lwów: voof
  • Rzeszów: shay-shooi
  • Chojnice: hoy-weet-sa
  • Katowice: kat-o-veet-sa.
  • Brześć: shetch
  • Pszczyna: sh-chee-na
  • Przasnysz: shas-nitch
  • Przemyśl: shem-ishl
  • Puck: pootsk
  • Luck: wootsk
  • Smigly-Rydz: shmig-wy-rij
  • Slawoj-Skladkowski: swa-voy-skwad-kof-ski
  • Swistoslawski: svis-to-swav-ski
  • Kasprzycki: kasp-sheet-ski
  • Moscicki: mo-cheet-ski
  • Stachiewicz: stahi-evish
  • Raczynski: rash-een-ski
  • Lukasiewicz: woo-feasz-evish
  • Potocki: pot-otski

*In 1927 at the Geneva disarmament talks U.S. Delegate Hugh Gibson said : “This conference has become a matter of hogs, fogs, and bogs.”

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