We were utterly shocked and saddened when we learned about the proposed plans to remove the Katyn Memorial in Jersey City, USA.
The decision to remove the Memorial reached us on the last day of April, the month commonly remembered in Poland for the Katyn Massacre, one of the most tragic events in Poland's 1000 years history. The Memorial, sculpted by a renowned artist Andrzej Pitynski was unveiled on the 19th of May 1991 and is the oldest monument in the entire USA commemorating the Katyn Massacre. The Memorial, situated in Exchange Place on the Hudson River pays tribute to the victims of the hideous crime committed by the Soviet NKVD, the Soviet secret police, who executed 22.000 Polish officers and intelligentsia, as well as remembers thousands of Polish citizens deported into the Soviet Union in the years 1939-1945. Therefore, the Memorial is deeply symbolic as a living memory of the atrocities committed by the cruelest of all totalitarian regimes, the Soviet communism.
We hereby express our strongest disapproval of the Mayor's of Jersey City, Steven Fulop, plans to remove the Memorial and stow in a warehouse. The Mayor's intention to build a city park in place of the Memorial is beyond our comprehension, especially that the Memorial has a commemorative plaque honoring the victims of 9/11 embedded into its base as well.
In February 2018 the delegation of the Museum of the Second World War in Gdańsk visited the USA. The agenda of the visit included historical sites commemorating the tragic histories of armed conflicts, including those of WWII. Naturally, we could not have bypassed the Katyn New Jersey Memorial. The symbolic wreath of flowers was laid at the foot of the monument as every official Polish delegation consider this as their duty to pay their respect at the Katyn Memorial. Together with the representatives of the Polish Community in New Jersey, at this very distinguished venue, we have thus paid our tribute to the victims of the Katyn Massacre. We consider Katyn Memorial important not only for all the Poles but also for other nations that were affected by the tragic events of WWII.
The authorities that took the decision to erect the Katyn Memorial were surely aware of the fact that the Poles, crushed by the Soviet regime for 45 years, deserve the truth that would shine in the public space of the free world, the USA; especially that both nations, the Americans and the Poles, have had common history through our common heroes: Tadeusz Kosciuszko or Kazimierz Pulaski, among others. Places and monuments honouring Polish heroes defending American ideals may be found across the whole of the USA -- on the Gettysburg battlefield or carved into the USS Arizona monument honouring the victims of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour. Our recent museum's exhibition, "A Million from Overseas", paying tribute to one million Polish soldiers who served in the American army during WWII is a testament to this sacrifice of Polish blood on American soil.
Therefore, we find Mayor Fulop's ruling to remove the Katyn Memorial from the soil that many generations of Poles regarded as Homeland deeply disturbing, unjust, and painful. At the same time we remain hopeful that the Mayor's decision is but a misunderstanding that may stem from Mr. Fulop's incomprehension of the emotional burden and tragic experiences that the Memorial signifies for the millions of Poles in the USA and worldwide.
We are therefore confident that the Mayor will revoke his decision to remove the Katyn Memorial and that the loud voices in defense of the Memorial will lead to constructive dialogue. Eventually, we sincerely believe the Katyn Memorial will be left where it rightly belongs.
Dr Karol Nawrocki
Director of the Museum of the Second World War in Gdańsk
Prof. Dr. Tadeusz Wojciech Wolsza
The Chair of the Museum Council at the Museum of the Second World War in Gdańsk