Poland has taken steps to remove the last remaining Red Army monuments situated across the country right as tensions between the former Soviet country and Russia reach new heights over the war in Ukraine.
During the dismantling of a statue in Siedlec in western Poland, Karol Nawrocki, the head of the Institute of National Remembrance (IPN), said that the remaining monuments must come down in order fulfill the parliament’s de-communization bill from 2016.
“The Institute of National Remembrance, during the realization of its statutory tasks, does not work on cemeteries and graves, which are a place of eternal rest,” Nawrocki acknowledged. “However, with full determination, it is going to execute the act from 2016 as a will of the Polish parliament to de-communize the public space and prohibit propagation of the totalitarian symbols in public space.”
“From words to actions,” commented the spokesperson of IPN, Rafał Leśkiewicz, on the removal of statues in Siedlec.
The head of the Institute of National Remembrance also noted that statues in the name of the Red Army are a symbol of the tragedy of millions of Poles.
“We remember all Polish patriots murdered in the NKVD torture cells, Polish workers murdered in 1956 in Poznań, 1970 in Gdańsk, Gdynia, Szczecin and Elbląg, and all victims of the martial law of 1981. This [statue] is a symbol of this system and on bayonets of people such as this Soviet soldier [statue], the communist system was implemented in Poland,” Nawrocki pointed out.
The IPN chief that the de-communization policy is also the act of restoring the historical truth about figures depicted in the statues.
“Injustice to victims, as an act of violating history, historical truth and decency is putting on pedestal those who enslaved free, independent nations, and those who caused pain and suffering of women and children, those who nowadays are becoming a role model for genocide in the 21st century,” Nawrocki said.
Mayor of Siedlec municipality Jacek Kolesiński said that the dismantling of the Red Army soldier statue has a special symbolic meaning during the time of war in Ukraine.
According to an estimate of the Institute of National Remembrance, 60 statues commemorating the Red Army still remain in Polish public spaces.
The Red Army, although seen as being greatly responsible for defeating Nazi Germany, was also involved in the rape of hundreds of thousands of German, Polish, Hungarian, and Romanian women, along with other nationalities at the end of the war, as well as mass killings and atrocities across Central and Eastern Europe.