There is no room for such memorials and symbols marked with the red star in public space in free, independent and democratic Poland, not in free Europe – says Karol NAWROCKI
.I come from a country which experienced a long and dreadful 45 years of communist dictatorship, a country where after 1945, the communists attempted to destroy the Poles’ desire for true freedom. I was born in 1983, just after the beginning of the famous “Solidarity” movement which gave Poles strong hope for a better future. This hope was brutally crushed by the imposition of Martial Law in December 1981 by Gen. Wojciech Jaruzelski. In late 1989 and early 1990, I was fortunate to witness the determination of my country’s citizens which led to the final defeat of the hated and brutal totalitarian regime.
Three years after the first partially free elections, the functioning of Jan Olszewski’s government, which took up the subject of the lustration of public life in Poland, was blocked. The process of re-communization began. The task of both making public life fully transparent and removing the remnants of the former system has never really been completed.
Today, we are living in an independent and democratic country which respects the views and beliefs of all of its citizens. However, the unwelcomed years of communist rule over Poland have taken their toll on our society. We remember the victims; we remember the damage inflicted upon our people and our land. The communist system had no respect for patriotism, freedom or truth. The burning desire for freedom may be difficult to understand for those who have never experienced enslavement, repression for their beliefs or for those who have never lost their loved ones, murdered at the hands of communist oppressors.
History is being made before our very eyes. Wearing uniforms of the Russian Federation, yet bearing Lenin and Stalin in their minds and hearts, the Russian soldiers are pretending to be liberating Ukraine while they are actually murdering innocent women and children, and killing the soldiers of an independent state. A Russian tank decorated with the Soviet Union flag heading towards Kherson has become a very powerful symbol viewed by the whole world. Let us not forget, ladies and gentlemen, that communism still poses a serious threat to the world.
I am taking part in today’s opening of this Museum, dedicated to the victims of communism, with sheer hope, relief and peace of mind. I am very thankful to be able to be here in Washington, in the US capital, the cradle of modern democracy and civil rights. This is most certainly an institution through which the victims of this brutal totalitarian regime will be duly remembered and respected. This museum will remind all visitors and guests about the millions of victims of communism, and defame all those in charge of this terrible system.
I would like to express my gratitude to all the people who, through their dedication and determination, have made the opening of the Center for Victims of Communism possible. Thank you, Dear Ambassador Bremberg, Chairman Feulner, all Senior Staff, members of the Board of Trustees and the advisory and academic councils of the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation.
I would especially like to thank the Polish Minister of Culture and National Heritage, Deputy Prime Minister, the Custodian of Polish heritage, Professor Piotr Gliński and the President of the Polish National Foundation, Marcin Zarzecki, for their significant contribution to this initiative.
For nearly a year now, I have had the privilege of being at the helm of the Polish Institute of National Remembrance. It is a unique institution with a mission to safeguard the memory of the victims of two totalitarian regimes: German Nazism and Soviet communism. The prosecutors at the Institutes’s Chief Commission for the Prosecution of Crimes against the Polish Nation prosecute the perpetrators of German and communist crimes, war crimes and crimes against humanity. We conduct investigations even if the perpetrators are no longer alive, in order to clarify all of the circumstances and to identify the victims. Moreover, through the work of our scholars and educators, we fill the gap in the collective memory of current generations. At the same time, we create a bridge that connects us with the generations to come. What is also worth noting is that the Institute is part of numerous international networks, which facilitates carrying out our mission abroad as well.
It is now clearer than ever that the eradication of names and symbols promoting communism is of utmost importance. Although the Soviet Union collapsed 30 years ago, and its crimes have been thoroughly examined, there are many places in the world where we can still find monuments commemorating the Red Army, and streets or squares named after Soviet dignitaries. It is high time we took action. There are still about 60 Soviet monuments in Poland alone.
The Institute of National Remembrance will continue the campaign aimed at removing all the monuments commemorating Red Army soldiers from public space.
Let us emphasize that there can be absolutely no consent for any forms of commemorating the totalitarian communist regime and people serving it!
Placing those who enslaved free, independent states — those who inflicted pain and suffering on women and children — on monuments, is an injustice to the victims and an assault on history.
There is no room for such memorials and symbols marked with the red star in public space in free, independent and democratic Poland, nor in free Europe. The red star, just like the swastika, was behind the outbreak of World War II. After 1945, it stood for the Soviet enslavement and colonization of Central and Eastern Europe.
The removal of these memorials is also important for our future because unless the communist system is held accountable for its crimes, and such symbols disappear from public space, the despots of this world will see them as an encouragement.
.Thank you very much for the invitation to today’s event. I would like to declare my full support and assistance in developing this vital institution. God bless The United States of America. God bless independent and free Poland.
A speech delivered by Karol Nawrocki, Ph.D., President of the Institute of National Remembrance during the opening of the Victims of Communism Museum in Washington, DC on 8 June 2022.