The coat of arms has been used for centuries and is based upon a white and crowned eagle. One of the legendary founders of Poland, Lech, saw an eagle’s nest and decided to build a town there. “Nest” (“gniazdo” in Polish) is the origin behind the name of the oldest of Poland’s capital’s, Gniezno, while the eagle became a symbol of the state. The Polish eagle has changed design several times, and during the Communist period it was even deprived of its crown.
After the partitions of Poland in the late 18th century, the patriots and insurgents needed an easily-recognizable symbol and so started to use the red and white flag with the colours of the coat of arms. Officially the flag was introduced in 1831, but even earlier, in 1792, the participants of the first anniversary of Polish Constitutions wore white and red clothes as a symbol of their patriotic attitude. Forbidden by Russian tsars, it was used once more from 1918 after Poland regained its independence.
During the Communist period there were many restrictions on the use of the Polish flag and other symbols, where the unofficial flying of the flag was considered an act of resistance against the regime. As a consequence, the flag was usually displayed during strikes, and the Solidarity movement used the flag in its famous emblem. Nowadays there are four regular flag flying days: May 1st (May Day), May 2nd (Polish Flag Day), May 3rd (Constitution Day) and November 11th (Independence Day).
Interestingly, the Bohemian flag had the same colours, while the current flags of Monaco and Indonesia use the same colours, but in a different order.
The Polish anthem is known as the Mazurek Dabrowskiego, and was officially accepted in 1927. The song was written in the late 18th century and was used by Dabrowski’s Legion, established in Italy to fight under Napoleon for Polish independence.