While UEFA EURO 2012 is a celebration of football, it is also an opportunity for fans to explore the host nations, and the Warsaw Rising Museum is doing its best to welcome supporters, and give them a guide to one of the Polish capital's most celebrated battles.
Between 1 August and 3 October 1944, Polish resistance fighters strove unsuccessfully to reclaim the capital, resulting in the destruction of much of the old city. On selected days at UEFA EURO 2012, fans have been admitted to the museum commemorating this struggle for free, with tourist guides providing a commentary on the exhibits in the native language of the visitors.
"We can see that our initiative has appealed to fans," said the museum's media officer, Anna Kotonowicz. "On the day of the opening game of the tournament, Poland v Greece, more than 500 fans came to the exhibition dressed in their national colours, with scarves and flags.
"Since the start of the tournament, about a third of our visitors have been fans who have come to Warsaw to experience the excitement of the tournament," she added. "Not just Poles, but Russians, Greeks and fans from Germany, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain and Ukraine. We have even had supporters from the United States, Mexico and Asia coming to see a piece of Polish history."
The guided tours have proved popular, but while some have elected to explore the exhibits alone, plenty of foreign fans have been taken around by local supporters whom they have met in the Polish capital. "We were very moved by the heroic stance and bravery of the Polish people during these dark times," said one Greece fan, Dimitris. "I am Greek, and we also suffered under occupation, because we love freedom."
"I've been to a lot of museums in all over the world, and there are two times that I felt like I couldn't breathe," wrote another fan in the museum's guest book. "The first was at the Japanese Atomic Bomb Museum in Nagasaki, and the other time was here. It was an unforgettable experience." A Spanish supporter added: "Really amazing. I hadn't realised that it was possible to present those sad times in such way."
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