On more than one occasion Czeslaw Milosz has spoken in a perplexing way of the duty of Polish poetry to purge the burden of guilt from our native soil which is-in his words-‘sullied, bloodstained, desecrated’.1 His words are perplexing, because one can only be held accountable for the shedding of blood which is not one’s own. The blood of one’s own kind, when shed by victims of violence, stirs memories, arouses regret and sorrow, demands respect. It also calls for remembrance, prayer, justice. It can also allow for forgiveness, however difficult this may be. The blood of the other, however, even if spilt in a legitimate conflict, is quite another matter but it also does not involve desecration. Killing when in self-defence is legally condoned, though it is already a departure from Christian moral law: Christ ordered Peter to put away his sword. Whenever blood is spilt it calls for reflection and penance. Not always, however, can it be said to desecrate the soil.