Marchers throng the streets of Warsaw for Independence Day celebrations on 11 November. Photo by Slawomir Kaminski/Agencja Wyborcza.pl via Global Media/Reuters.

Please be patient with the antics of Polish nationalists.

Polish nationalism is a strange animal. From the outside it resembles a fantastic creature prone to extreme outbursts. The view from within is much more colorful, like the rainbow LGBTQ flag that’s a favorite target of Polish nationalists.

No Polish political party can avoid nationalism. In various ways, they embrace, modify, exploit, or – very rarely – reject nationalism. This is very different from the Czech Republic, for example, where nationalism is seen as something that doesn’t belong in normal, daily life. This was brought home to me earlier this year in an Italian resort, where a rented mobile home displayed a Polish flag with the slogan “This is Poland.” In Polish, of course.

Polish nationalists celebrate their most important holiday on 11 November, the date in 1918 when the Polish state re-emerged more than a century after three surrounding great powers had swallowed it. Every year, groups that from an outside perspective might be described as extreme, sometimes even fascist, hold an Independence Day march in Warsaw.

This year’s march had to be held under the conservative government’s umbrella after two courts upheld the refusal of the opposition-controlled Warsaw city hall to register it. There were few incidents. This year, Polish nationalism didn’t need to burn German flags or shout extreme slogans. It was enough to point a finger at Belarusian leader Alyaksandr Lukashenka’s ploy to humiliate Poland by pushing hundreds, perhaps thousands of asylum seekers over the border.

Polish politicians of all stripes have shown overwhelming support for the soldiers, border guards, and police trying to handle the situation. Polish pride ruled out asking for help from NATO and EU allies – even if a united front would exert much more pressure on Lukashenka to stop sending refugees. Lukashenka and his Russian backers know well that Polish nationalism won’t allow the government to internationalize the crisis and in so doing render it less dangerous.

The way Polish citizens perceive themselves stands in sharp contrast to how Poland is seen abroad. This doesn’t stem simply from the isolationist politics of the current government; it also reflects a deeper Polish conception of the nation and its history. Poles will blame anybody but themselves for their troubles.

This mental framework partly explains why there is no successful “Made in Poland” label and why Polish business generally prefers to hide behind the “Made in EU” brand. Polish business doesn’t have a reputation for quality, and while Poles can flaunt their “Polishness” at home, abroad this posture is met with misunderstanding at best or considered too aggressive or exaggerated.

Polish nationalism, fixated on history, can look outdated, a holdover from the 19th century, when this exalted belief helped Poles survive as a cultural and historical nation without a country.

So when you see Polish nationalists marching through Warsaw streets or hear Polish politicians blaming foreigners for many faults, please be patient. They play these bits of theater primarily for themselves, to reaffirm their sense of identity and their loyalty to a state they have yet to fully consider their own; and to project their hopes into a future that – in view of the historical experience of their fathers – looks uncertain.

They will mature someday. Maybe. Hopefully.

Martin Ehl is chief analyst at Hospodarske noviny, a Czech business daily.