August 15 has been proclaimed as the “Day of a strategic partnership with Illinois, US”, commemorating the deep and lasting history between the two countries.
The day also marks Poland’s Armed Forces Day, an annual national holiday marking the anniversary of the Battle of Warsaw, the 1920 triumph over Bolshevik Russia during the Polish-Bolshevik War.
In a gubernatorial proclamation issued to mark the occasion, Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner announced that August 15, Polish Armed Forces Day – celebrated on the anniversary of the victory of Polish forces in the Battle of Warsaw in 1920 – will be earmarked to commemorate the strategic partnership program with Poland in Illinois.
At the ceremony on Monday, Polish Defense Minister Mariusz Błaszczak stressed that the cooperation mentioned in the gubernatorial proclamation “dates back to the times when the United States reached for independence, as well as more than a century ago when Poland was fighting for independence.”
The minister recalled the importance of the 1918 support of the US President Woodrow Wilson for Polish independence, as well as the participation of American airmen in the 1920 Battle of Warsaw.
“Today Poland is in NATO, and perhaps primarily thanks to the support of the United States,” Minister Błaszczak said. “Joining the alliance was possible also due to the cooperation with the National Guard of Illinois.”
US Ambassador Paul Jones said that among all state partnerships, the partnership between the Polish armed forces and the Illinois National Guard is “exceptional” because it is not just an addition but “a central element of our cooperation”.
“There is no stronger partnership, there is no stronger friendship than the one that connects Illinois citizens and Poles,” Illinois governor Rauner said.
He also recalled that the Illinois state and Chicago are the largest hubs for the Polish minority living in the US.
“Together, we fought for freedom and democracy for centuries. We fought against the Nazis, we fought against the communists,” Governor Rauner said. “We fight together with dictators all over the world to strengthen freedom and democracy.” The proclamation of the governor emphasized that “every year, thousands of Illinois residents celebrate August 15, the Polish Army Day – the anniversary of the Battle of Warsaw, the victory of Poland in the 1920 war”.
The State partnership
The National Guard State Partnership Program was established in 1993, covering both the land and air components, and is the largest such program implemented by the United States National Guard.
The program has been developed for 25 years and became the main state partnership program implemented by the US National Guard with another country.
Over the last 25 years, thousands of soldiers from both countries have cooperated with each other. Since 2003 Polish and American troops fought together in Iraq and in Afghanistan and continue to serve together in Afghanistan.