At one point, my husband was looking around while I got water and suddenly called something that could only make me, and people who know, stop and turn around.
My jaw dropped. Here I was surrounded by 15th century England in the middle of America, wondering how in a place with such a high concentration of Polish immigrants and their descendants and I had not seen anyone have the brilliant idea to dress as someone coming to visit from the Polish courts to England. Am I the only one to think that would have been awesome?
And yet, there he was.
Talking to my husband. This man was as equally intrigued in how my obviously not Polish husband knew about Hussari as my husband was about how this man had his armor made. My husband explained that he had seen the armor in Warsaw on our honeymoon and had really developed an interest in the Hussars.
I was introduced and the Hussar and I began to talk. This man, who I wish I had gotten his name, had his armor made as authentically as possible and so had his son. In fact, they had just come back from Poland where they had participated in the reenactment in celebration of the 600th anniversary of the Battle of Grunwald (which I highly suggest checking out this YouTube video about Grunwald 2010). I believe he also said they participated in the reenactment of the Battle of Klushino of 1610 as well.
I feel I need to explain something about reenactments. They are not about people running around "pretending" to be someone just for the sake of "pretending". They are attempting to capture a moment in history and make it more real and tangible for others to understand. For some people, history is just a bunch of words on paper. But what they fail to grasp is that history is people like you and I who were going about their lives and have now passed away just as we will one day. Teaching children to appreciate and understand history is a step to them remembering us when we pass away, when we become a piece of history.
So, a reenactment helps people to remember a time in terms of living people doing something. The Battle of Grunwald was an important battle in European history and the Polish Hussari (or Hussars to English speakers) are worth remembering.
When this man was walking around quietly on a scorching summer day in a head to toe suit of armor at this particular festival, he reminded people like myself to teach my children about a piece of my history. He captured the interest of my older daughter, who asked about the wings and who was proud to learn about a piece of her history. It was a wonderful opportunity to teach my children to be proud to be Polish.
And it was a great example to my husband about why we Poles are so proud to be Polish and so proud of our history. History which is not taught in the USA.
I have a feeling that is why this nameless man had this expensive piece of armor painstakingly researched and recreated. One suit for himself and one for his son. So that they could also celebrate their heritage. Even though they both lived in the USA and had American accents, just like I do.
I wish I could thank that man. I hope to see him again this year.