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Kotwica on a monument to heroes of the Warsaw Uprising.

The Kotwica ([kɔtˈvit͡sa]; Polish for "Anchor") was a World War II emblem of the Polish Secret State and Armia Krajowa (Home Army, or AK). It was created in 1942 by members of the AK Wawer "Small Sabotage" unit, as an easily usable emblem for the Polish struggle to regain independence. The initial meaning of the initials PW was Pomścimy Wawer ("We shall avenge Wawer"). The Wawer massacre (26–27 December 1939) was considered to be one of the first large scale massacres of Polish civilians by German troops in occupied Poland. At first, Polish scouts from sabotage groups painted the whole phrase upon walls. However, this was soon shortened to the letters PW (signifying also the phrase Polska walcząca, "Fighting Poland"), after a quick internal contest organized by the AK with the winning design (pictured) by Anna Smoleńska from Gray Ranks.[1] She died at Auschwitz in 1943,[2] at the age of twenty-three.[3]

History of the emblem[edit]

The P and W initials evolved into the Kotwica (Anchor) - a combination of the letters which was easy and fast to paint. The Kotwica began to signify more than just its intended abbreviation, taking on more meanings such as Polska Walcząca ("Fighting Poland"), Wojsko Polskie ("Polish Army") and Powstanie Warszawskie ("Warsaw Uprising"). Eventually, the Kotwica became a patriotic symbol of defiance against occupiers and was painted in a graffiti style on building walls.

The Kotwica was first painted on walls in Warsaw, as a psychological-warfare tactic against the occupying Germans, by Polish boy scouts on March 20, 1942. On June 27, 1942, a new tradition was born: to commemorate the patron saint's day of the Polish President Władysław Raczkiewicz and the Commander-in-Chief Władysław Sikorski, members of the Armia Krajowa stamped several hundred copies of the German-backed propaganda newspaper, Nowy Kurier Warszawski (The New Warsaw Courier), with the Kotwica. In its first year only 500 copies were stamped with emblem but this number grew to 7,000 the following year.

On February 18, 1943, the Armia Krajowa's commander, General Stefan Rowecki, issued an order specifying that all sabotage, partisan and terrorist actions be signed with the Kotwica. On February 25, the official organ of the Armia Krajowa, Biuletyn Informacyjny, called the Kotwica "the sign of the underground Polish Army". Soon the symbol gained enormous popularity and became recognized by most Poles. During the later stages of the war, most of the political and military organizations in Poland (even those not related to the Armia Krajowa) adopted it as their symbol. It was painted on the walls of Polish cities, stamped on German banknotes and post stamps, printed in the headers of underground newspapers and books, and it became one of the symbols of the Warsaw Uprising.

After World War II, Poland's communist authorities banned the Kotwica. Used by most associations of former Armia Krajowa members in exile, it was strictly prohibited in Poland. As the communist grip weakened, the symbol was no longer censored, and in 1976 it became one of the symbols of Ruch Obrony Praw Człowieka i Obywatela (ROPCiO), an anti-communist organization defending human rights in Poland. Later it was also adopted by various other anti-communist political organizations, ranging from the rightist Confederation of Independent Poland (KPN) of Leszek Moczulski to the Solidarność Walcząca (Fighting Solidarity).


See also[edit]


  1. ^ Andrzej Gładkowski (2008). "Znak Polski Walczącej". Andrzej Gładkowski, Wydawnictwo fundacji „Warszawa walczy 1939 – 1945”. Związek Powstańców Warszawskich. Retrieved 7 July 2013. 
  2. ^ Tomasz Szarota (2013). "Historia Kotwicy Polski Walczącej". with historical photographs. Retrieved 7 July 2013. 
  3. ^ Adam Cyra (2012). "Anna Smoleńska, twórczyni znaku Polski Walczącej". Auschwitz Memento. Retrieved 7 July 2013. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Lesław J. Welker "Symbolika znaków Polski Walczącej", publisher Adam Marszałek ISBN 83-7174-498-6, ISBN 83-7322-090-9, EAN: 9788373220904
  • Jan Bijata, Wawer, Książka i Wiedza, Warszawa 1973