WarsaW is notable among EuropE's capital cities not for its size, its age, or its beauty but for its indestructibility. It is a phoenix that has risen repeatedly from the ashes of war. Having suffered fearful damage during the Swedish and Prussian occupation of 1655-56, it was again assaulted in 1794, when the Russian army massacred the population of the right-bank suburb of Praga. In 1944, after the WarsaW Uprising failed, by AdolfHitler's order the city was razed; the left-bank suburbs, controlled by the Germans, were emptied of their remaining population; and the buildings were systematically reduced to rubble by fire and dynamite. In 1945, however, the people of WarsaW, the Varsovians, returned, and the city resumed its role as the capital of Poland and the country's centre of social, political, economic, scientific, and cultural life. Many of the historic streets, buildings, and churches have been restored exactly according to their original forms.
Since the second half of the 18th century, the emblem of WarsaW (originally a siren) has been a mermaid with sword and shield in hand, representing the creature who in legend led a prince to the site of Warsaw and ordered him to found the city. The city's motto is, appropriately, "Contemnit procellas" ("It defies the storms").