Poland, an EU member since 2004, is the birthplace of the Solidarity movement, which helped bring down Soviet-style communism in the late 1980s. It was also the site of some of the 20th century's greatest tragedies.
Home to 38.5 million people, Poland sits in the near heart of Europe, bordered by Germany, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Ukraine, Belarus, Lithuania and the Russian enclave Kaliningrad. The prime location and large amount of land (more than 300,000 square kilometers) Poland enjoys have enticed more than one of the country's neighbors to attempt to take it over. Poland survived the 1939-45 Nazi occupation, however, and endured over four decades of Soviet dominance to emerge as one of the EU's shining stars in Central Europe.
Polish leaders and citizens have greeted an armored brigade of US troops as they arrived in the Polish town of Zagan. The arrivals are part of an unprecedented deployment to NATO's eastern flank that has angered Moscow.
Clare Hollingworth was a rookie reporter for the "Daily Telegraph" when she broke the news that Germany had invaded Poland, heralding the beginning of World War II. She died on Tuesday at her home in Hong Kong.
At least 19 people have frozen to death in Poland since last week, with temperatures going down to minus 25 Celsius (-13 F). Another 24 people have died since then as a result of carbon monoxide poisoning. Exhaust fumes, extreme cold and a lack of wind have caused smog in many places. For this reason, public transport has been made free in several cities, such as Warsaw.