Genie Grants Polish Man Chinese Invasion Wish
War jokes #1
This is the first installment in our new series about war jokes … and their historical context.
A Polish man finds a genie in a bottle, one decades-old joke goes. The genie offers him three wishes.
The Pole says, “I want the Chinese to invade Poland and then go back to China.”
So it happens.
For his next wish, the Pole also asks for the Chinese to invade Poland and then go home.
So it happens.
For his third wish, the Pole again asks for the Chinese to invade Poland and go home.
“I gave you three wishes,” the genie cries. “Why did you ask for the Chinese to invade Poland and then go home three times?”
“Because they had to march across Russia six times.”
This classic joke—variations of which are told across Eastern Europe—plays on three themes. One is the centuries of antagonism between Poland and Russia, which ruled much of Poland in the 19th century and again after World War II.
It also cleverly touches upon the Sino-Soviet conflict. Although China and the Soviet Union were allies after Mao Tse-Tung won the Chinese civil war in 1949, the alliance unraveled within a decade after it became apparent that there wasn’t room for two Communist superpowers.
Amid political bickering and disputes over Soviet control of Outer Manchuria, tensions boiled into pitched battles between Soviet and Chinese forces in 1969.
Just as the Poles had strong memories of Russian domination, so the Russians had strong memories of domination by the Chinese—actually, the Mongols.
To the Pole in this joke, turnabout is fair play.
Finally, the joke alludes to the vast distances and dire conditions any army faces in a march across Russia. The long, deadly trek ruined Napoleon in 1812 and the Nazis in 1942.
Wishing the Chinese to march across Russia punishes China, too.