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In the spring of 1938, Chinese troops bravely fought against Japanese invaders in Tai’erzhuang, Zaozhuang City of eastern China’s Shandong Province, thwarting Japan’s arrogant ambition to “conquer China in three months.” After becoming a battlefield, Tai’erzhuang transformed from a beautiful ancient town on the renowned Grand Canal into shambles.
In 1944, 300,000 Polish citizens united to collect money and materials to reconstruct Warsaw’s downtown area that was destroyed during World War II. In 1980, the restored Historic Center of Warsaw was listed as a World Cultural Heritage site by UNESCO.
In the spring of 2012, Polish Ambassador to China, Tadeusz Chomicki, arrived in Tai’erzhuang. After visiting the Tai’erzhuang Battle Memorial Hall, he wrote, “In every corner of the world, those who fight for freedom, children, and peace are all heroes. In wartime, buildings in Tai’erzhuang were ruined just as in Warsaw in 1939... Such similarities forever secure the friendship between Polish and Chinese people.”
In today’s Tai’erzhuang, historic sites of the Tai’erzhuang Battle stand amidst restored buildings of Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644-1911) architectural styles, while wartime photos collected from media correspondents remind people of the events the ancient town endured.
In Warsaw, which shared a similar fate to Tai’erzhuang, red pointed-roofed medieval buildings once again line the Vistula River. Seeing them now, few can imagine that the city was once reduced to rubble during the war, as was depicted in the film The Pianist, based on Polish pianist Wladyslaw Szpilman’s autobiography. In a poster for the movie, the main character, Szpilman, walks alone through ruins along a street leveled by German bombs. Some asserted that it would be impossible for historic Warsaw to reappear within a century, but they were decidedly proven wrong.
In 1944, Warsaw began to restore its old medieval-style town while building a new district. The protection and restoration of historic relics were given special attention during the rebuilding process. Almost all of more than 900 historic buildings, including palaces, churches, and castles, were restored.
As a matter of fact, arguments arose over whether Warsaw should be reconstructed on a new site or restored on its original site. Experts from the former Soviet Union pushed to build a totally new, socialist Warsaw. Many citizens gathered at City Hall to discuss the future of their city. A consensus wasn’t reached until students and teachers from Warsaw University showed a blueprint of Warsaw drawn before World War II. As news that Poland decided to restore Warsaw spread, 300,000 Polish people who had been in exile during the war returned to join the reconstruction efforts of their homeland, thus creating the post-war “Warsaw miracle.”