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POLAND, LITHUANIA MARK 1410 DEFEAT OF GERMANY

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The presidents of Poland and Lithuania took part for the first time in celebrations marking the anniversary of the crucial 15th century Battle of Grunwald, which halted eastward expansion of Germany.

Presidents Wojciech Jaruzelski of Poland and Vytautas Landsbergis of Lithuania attended a Roman Catholic Mass Sunday and large rally at the site of the battle in northeastern Poland, the Polish news agency PAP said.On July 15, 1410, the joint forces of both countries, which at the time formed a two-nation state, won perhaps the biggest battle of medieval Europe. They defeated the might of the Teutonic Knights that had threatened subjugation.

"Here Poland and Lithuania defended its existence, which could have become vassal states to the Teutonic Knights and vanish in the swirls of history," Jaruzelski said during the ceremonies.

The anniversary has always been a major patriotic event because it celebrates a victory over one of the two neighboring powers - Germany and Russia - which eventually wiped the country off the European map for more than a century.

Poland and Lithuania regained their statehood only after World War I.

Bishop Edmund Piszcz said in his homily the contemporary message of the Grunwald battle is "for this place to become a place for reconciliation of the Polish and German nations, reconciliation between many other nations of Europe."

The presence of Lithuania's delegation, and an hourlong talk between Jaruzelski and Landsbergis, was understood in Warsaw as another sign of Poland's support for its neighbor, now struggling for independence from the Soviet Union.

Landsbergis spoke to the rally in Polish, stressing the battle's importance and its patriotic inspiration.

"Grunwald has always remained for Lithuanians a symbol of courage, resistance and national victory," he said.