Saturday, September 5 is the annual National Reading Day in Poland, which has been organized by Polish Presidents since 2012. This year's choice is the play "Balladyna" by nineteenth-century writer Juliusz Słowacki. The big read was inaugurated by President Andrzej Duda with First Lady Agata Kornhauser-Duda at noon in Warsaw's Saxon Garden.
The first edition of the event, conceived as a way of promoting readership, launched with Adam Mickiewicz's great epic poem "Pan Tadeusz", and over the years has included such Polish classics as “The Trilogy” by Henryk Sienkiewicz, “The Doll” by Bolesław Prus, “Quo Vadis” by Henryk Sienkiewicz and “The Wedding” by Stanisław Wyspiański. A record number of people took part in the National Reading organised in 2018, the centennial of Poland's recovery of independence. At last year's event, 8 short stories by Polish authors were read at some 3 thousand events organized in Poland and abroad.
Reading events on National Reading Day are organized by schools, libraries and theatres, as well as small communities and even neighbourhood groups. It has been held on trains and public transport, in hospitals, at army training grounds and prisons.
This year, Polish National Reading events have also been organized in Ukraine, Belarus and in China, where the play is to be read by Polish language teachers at ten Chinese universities, including Chengdu, Beijing and Shanghai.
One of the leading figures of Polish romanticism, Juliusz Słowacki completed "Balladyna" in December 1834. The play was published five years later in Paris. In a fairytale setting, it tells the story of two sisters, Balladyna and Alina, one of whom will be wed by the knight Kirkor if she is the first to bring him a jug full of raspberries. The play has been compared to "Macbeth" as it describes Balladyna's willingness to commit atrocities for the sake of power. To this day the play has been an inspiration not only in theatre but also literature, art and music.