The Kotwica, or “Fighting Poland” emblem first appeared in Nazi German-occupied Warsaw on March 20, 1942.
The Kotwica was created in 1942 by members of the Home Army (AK) “Wawer” minor sabotage unit. It served as an easily usable emblem for the Polish struggle to regain independence from the Nazi occupation.
It was chosen in a contest organised by the AK to design an emblem to represent the resistance movement. The winning design by Anna Smoleńska, who herself participated in minor sabotage operations, combined the letters P and W into the anchor. She is usually considered the author of the Kotwica although historians are not unanimous on the issue.
The initial meaning of the initials PW was Pomścimy Wawer ("We shall avenge Wawer"). This was a reference to the Wawer massacre, one of the first large-scale massacres of Polish civilians by German troops in the suburbs of Warsaw in December 1939.
From March 20, 1942, the Kotwica emblem started to appear on the streets of Warsaw. It was usually painted by the Grey Ranks, the Polish scouts, both at night and in daylight.
In early 1943, the Home Army ordered that all sabotage, partisan and terrorist actions should be signed with the Kotwica, which came to symbolise the phrase Polska Walcząca ("Fighting Poland").
The emblem soon gained nationwide popularity. It was painted on the walls of Polish cities, stamped on German banknotes and post stamps, printed on underground newspapers and books. During the later stages of the war, most of the political and military organisations in Poland (even those not related to the Home Army) used this symbol. The Kotwica also became a symbol of the Warsaw Uprising.
After World War II, Poland's communist regime banned the Kotwica, although it continued to be used abroad by associations of former Armia Krajowa members living in exile. The law was eventually relaxed and the Kotwica was adopted by various anti-communist organisations.
In 2014, Polish President Bronisław Komorowski signed a law which made the Kotwica a legally protected symbol. According to the law, “the Kotwica sign, a symbol of the Polish struggle against the German occupation during WWII, is a common national treasure.”