Who did the flag represent if there was no Polish government, or Poland as a State?
The state does not always represent the majority of the people. How often do you get a majority govt? The state often serves in self interest at the expense of the masses.
Most nations also have laws what you can do with other people - murder, prostitution, child abuse, adoption laws etc, are all regulated. Does that mean people's lives belong to the state?
Actually, most laws are what you can not do, rather than what you can do.
In a centralized state, the lives of people pretty much belong to the government. Even in a neoliberal decentralized state where there is supposed to be little involvement of the state, as in the US, there is a lot of governmental involvement in people's lives.
And what about flags of nations who do not have an independent State, or government? Poland, Ukraine, Lithuania, Latvia and a host of others were in that situation. Who do or did those flag represent when there was no state or government?
The people appropriated the flag as their own. Ultimately, I believe that the flag belongs to the state, once it is reinstated.
Our perceptions may differ because of a generation that sets us apart, and perhaps the culture, even though we are both Polish.
I don't want to sound too dramatic, but for me as a person born and raised in Poland, whose history has been so difficult in the last couple of centuries, it is not acceptable to burn the Polish flag. Thousands gave their lives for the right to display it. IMO this is similar to desecrating graves.
I don't think that they're anything wrong with wanting to display the flag or even being proud of it. However, if a people are fundamentally against what their government is doing (ie starting a war), they should be allowed to burn the flag to show their unhappiness and not be punished for it. Of course, the situation differs in many nations because of their history and I do think that it would be different to burn a flag in Poland (where people had to fight for their flag, as you said) versus the US where you are expected to agree with what the state is doing because you are unpatriotic if you disagree.