Struggle for remembrance continues

Alicja Dolowska

The attempt, stopped by the social resistance, to unveil the monument dedicated to the Russian soldiers, who died in the Battle of Warsaw in 1920, in Ossow the day before the anniversary of the Polish victory over the Bolsheviks, shows that Poles do not expect such a sequence of commemorating the victims. ‘Monuments should not be built for invaders’, Polish people shout and make us remember that they have been waiting for the commemoration of the Miracle at the Vistula, about which they could only learnt from the underground publications during the Polish People’s Republic for several decades.

In fact, only President Lech Kaczynski cared for authentic partner, and not vassal, relationships between Poland and Russia. Will the new President of the Republic of Poland continue this direction or will we have the historical politics coming from the communist epoch?
The process of correcting history has lasted in Poland for a long time. The very fact that the Russian troops left the Polish territory during the government of Prime Minister Jan Olszewski testifies that the policy concerning our relationships with Russia in independent Poland is full of hesitations.

Relationships are still difficult

So far Russia has not acknowledged the massacre of the Polish officers in Katyn in 1940 as a case of genocide. We have not even received a complete list of the dead. Russia has not even named and judged the guilty symbolically. Moreover, the Kremlin did not condemn the behaviour of the Red Army, which waited on the Praga bank of the Vistula and watched the Warsaw Uprising bleeding to death and then dying. This behaviour of the Russian troops as ‘liberators’ entering the city on 17 January 1944, which the Germans razed to the ground, has never been branded.
After 1945 the commemoration of the heroic Fr Ignacy Skorupka who had died at Ossow, was out of the question although a pedestal had been prepared in the Warsaw district of Praga. After the ‘liberation’ the monument to two Soviet soldiers and two Polish soldiers was built on that pedestal. The Warsavians call the monument ‘a statue of four sleeping men.’
The relationships between our countries are still difficult and evoke anxiety every time the imperial ambitions of the Kremlin are revealed.
The Polish people expect the newly elected President to claim the historical truth. They expect the joint committee for historical ‘difficult and sensitive’ matters to work out some agreement.

We have the right to pride

Why am I writing about that? We have celebrated the 90th anniversary of the Polish-Bolshevik war in 1920. The Battle of Warsaw, known as the Miracle at the Vistula, stopped the horde of the Red Army, which wanted to carry out the flag of the communist revolution to the West through Poland ‘the bastard of the Treaty of Versailles’ as they called her in the Soviet Union. Lord Edgar D’Abernon was right to call the Battle of Warsaw the 18th decisive battle in the world history. That British stated that if the battle had ended in the Bolshevik victory, there would have been a turning point in Europe’, he wrote. ‘Undoubtedly, with the fall of Warsaw Central Europe would have become open to the communist propaganda and Soviet invasion.’ He also thought that the task of political writers was to explain the European public opinion that in 1920 it was Poland that saved Europe. The battle was one of the biggest victories in our history.
In independent Poland we have not commemorated this victory, ‘forbidden’ during the period of the Polish People’s Republic, in a suitable way. We are doing our best to make people remember the event, changing the history textbooks. But according to Minister Katarzyna Hall’s idea secondary school students will stop learning history in their first grade if they do not choose the humanities class. Historians raise the alarm that for many young people lessons of history will stop at World War I and they will have no idea of the later periods. That’s why we should treat very respectfully the idea of the construction of the Monument-Museum to the Battle of Warsaw and the Polish-Bolshevik War in 1920 in the framework of which the Academy of Patriotism is to be created. The idea concerns the construction of a triumphal arch, which was also the thought of Marshal Jozef Pilsudzki and the veterans of those fights. They left us this will.

Will Warsaw build an arch?

Msgr. Jozef Maj, honorary member of the Committee of the Construction of the Monument, says that when Lech Kaczynski was the President of Warsaw he built the Museum of the Warsaw Uprising. As Poland’s President he wanted the monument dedicated to the heroes of 1920 to be a trace of his presidency. His tragic death stopped the plan. Will President Bronislaw Komorowski continue this work? He spoke about his patriotic roots many times. He also mentioned his patriotic attitude during the marshal law and struggle for free Poland.
Fr Maj, who together with other members of the Committee took part in the talks with the head of the Presidential Chancellery Mr Jacek Michalowski, says, ‘It seems to me that something has started. Although the Minister did not declare anything he devoted one hour to our plans and got to know them and the previous arrangements with the Chancellery of Lech Kaczynski in detail. We are expecting that the talks will continue since the Minister must talk to the municipality of Warsaw about a possible location of the monument. Will President Bronislaw Komorowski become an honorary member of the Committee as his predecessor did? We do not know it yet. One can look at the notes written by Minister Pawel Wypych whom President Lecz Kaczynski appointed to talk to us on his behalf. The fact that the President of Warsaw and President Komorowski belong to the same political party can favour the initiative. The deadline is the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Warsaw and the Polish-Bolshevik war, which falls in 2020. ‘So we do not have that much time for this work’, Fr Maj says.

Telling Europe the truth

President Komorowski is paying his first official visits to Brussels and France. It is worth reminding Europe of the significance of the battle and the order of Marshal Tukhachevski issued in July 1920, ‘The fate of the world revolution is about to be decided. Through Poland’s death there is a way to the universal fire. We will carry out happiness and peace to working people on our bayonets. Quick march to the West!’ One should also remember that France was the only country Poland could count for material help and weapon delivery in those times. It is worth using the fact that the President of the European Parliament is a Pole – Jerzy Buzek. ‘I had a good impression about the talk with Minister Michalowski’ Fr Jozef Maj says assuredly. ‘Now we are waiting for some action of the Chancellery’, he adds.

"Niedziela" 37/2010

Editor: Tygodnik Katolicki "Niedziela", ul. 3 Maja 12, 42-200 Czestochowa, Polska
Editor-in-chief: Fr Jaroslaw Grabowski • E-mail: