Just finished the masterpiece of Henryk Sienkiewicz, the Trylogia (composed of three books, ‘With Fire and Sword’, ‘The Deluge’, and ‘Fire in the Steppe, or Pan Wolodyjowski’), a grand total of 1781 pages in the Estonian translation (since the original was written in Polish, it made sense to read the Estonian translation which would likely be more truthful than an English one).
I do believe that Sienkiewicz, by writing this book, has managed to capture the spirit of patriotism as well as anyone ever could. I can’t really very well describe what it is about the book (or rather, the series of books) that’s so captivating, but there is something in it. Some commentator described the book as capturing the Polish spirit — perhaps this would be true (when we are speaking of the historical Poland, which would encompass modern Poland, Lithuania, Ukraine, Belorussia, Kaliningrad, the majority of Latvia, and other territories), especially when we consider what the great nation actually had to go through — a century of war unlike any other European power, and yet it managed to retain it’s greatness and momentum.
Would it perhaps be that the liberties so valued by the szlachta (election of a king, and liberum veto to name a few) are the very essence of a democratic nation, making Poland (after United Provinces of the Netherlands, or whatever it’s official name was) the first democratic nation (especially considering the large number of szlachtices in the realm)? It might indeed be so, especially since no modern democracy manages to (at least from what I have read and experienced) — possibly with the exception of the autocratic democracy present in Singapore — portray to their own citizens what these szlachtices see as their God-given rights that can not be taken away by anyone wishing to rule without the power of law.
It can only be imagined where Poland would be now, if the spirit of patriotism had continued, and Austria, Prussia and Russia had not intervened constantly in its affairs…