Last week I hosted a Data Governance Executive Breakfast for 20 CIOs in Warsaw Poland. It was my first trip to the Iron Curtain Capital and I expected a concrete grid of grim apartment complexes and monumental communist office architecture. Instead, I found a lovely city still working hard and succeeding to erase 50 years of Nazi occupation, annihilation, and communist oppression. Warsaw today is a gem of a city, with warm and friendly people, beautiful architecture, an eager business atmosphere, and a deep historically rich intellectual tradition.
My one day in Warsaw was graced with gorgeous weather and a terrific morning event that combined both Data Governance content and XBRL. My partner in the Breakfast presentation was Michal Pienchofsky from Business Reporting AG, a Data Governance Council Member specializing in XBRL consulting who is based in Warsaw. Michal gave a terrific presentation linking Data Governance goals and structures to XBRL taxonomies, regulatory compliance, and business optimization.
After the event, I met an old family friend who lives in Warsaw. Stacy is the father of my brother-in-law, and in the summer of 1944, at the age of 16, Stacy joined the Warsaw Uprising and fought against the Nazis. It was a valient and tragic effort that for three months engaged German units in a bloody campaign to win back the Polish Capital. The effort was largely unassisted by both the Americans and the Soviets - who were actually sitting outside the city some 11 miles away and waited for the Germans to mop up the resistance before liberating what was left - rubble - of Warsaw themselves.
It happened that this summer marks the 65th Anniversary of the Warsaw Uprising, and Stacy took me on an uprising tour of Warsaw, showing me the manhole cover where he entered the sewer to cross the city underground to evade Nazi patrols, the intersection where his Gozdawa Battalion setup a barricade, the churches where Nazi tanks hid in waiting, and many walls where bullet holes and plaques still mark the spots where thousands of Polish Civilians were executed by the Nazis in reprisal for the uprising.
We visited the Uprising Museum, which is a fascinating and well done museum documenting the events of the uprising. They have the B-25 that the Polish Government in exile used to send supplies to the resistance fighters, replicas of the sewer pipes that you can walk and crawl through to get an idea of what it was like - without the sewage - and many photos detailing the grim battle and the utter destruction of Warsaw afterwards. The Nazis leveled the city after the uprising was crushed as an example to any other nation that wanted to rise up against their tyrannical rule. Not one building, not one facade even, was left standing in the city.
The lovely inner city that one sees in Warsaw today was complety rebuilt by the Communists after the war. I've been to Prague many times, where it is often remarked that the old city was preserved after the war because the Communists didn't have the money to put up new buildings. I think Warsaw demonstrates the lie of that assumption. Communists obviously love good architecture and cultural heritage as much as Capitalists do, because they did a marvelous job restoring Warsaw to its some of it's pre-war splendor. There are still many sites outside the inner city where scars from WWII are visible. I haven't seen that in other WWII sticken cities, like Hamburg which was 80% destroyed by allied bombs in WWWII. Just across the street from the Hilton Hotel where I stayed there were empty lots and war ruins of buildings, which is quite amazing in the 21st Century.
But in the 20 years since the Iron Curtain has come down, already there are many modern changes to Warsaw and I can well imagine that this city, with its great people, and hunger for innovation, and rich traditions, will regain its former glory as a great city in the 21st Century.
I posted some photos I took while in Warsaw on Picasaweb. Have a look if you are interested:
It was a great trip business-wise and it certainly demonstrated the resilience of the human spirit even under the most barbaric forms of oppression.