Stawarz Andrzej


This article looks at the possibility of undertaking more comprehensive research into the functioning and meaning of cultural patriotic sites in large cities. It takes the example of the largest Polish metropolis – Warsaw – in the period from the birth of the 3rd Republic of Poland to the beginning of the 21st century. It considers a patriotic site a site commemorating a historic event of importance to independence, a site symbolising an armed act, or a site immortalising the act or acts of a specific hero or group of heroes. The study is not aimed at conducting a comprehensive analysis of the spatial arrangement of patriotic sites within the Warsaw cultural scenery, but in
this case it analyses the problem of historic remembrance and shaping historic sites.


city: hero, victim, totalitarianism, communism

In this outline, I wish to pay particular attention to the possibility of undertaking

more comprehensive research into the functioning and meaning of cultural

patriotic sites in large cities. In this case, I will use only one example, but

it is typical. I will take the example of the largest Polish metropolis - Warsaw.

As is commonly known, the capital of Poland itself, due to its unusual history,

has for over two centuries remained an ‘untamed' city, the symbol of heroism

and the Polish nation's struggle for freedom. Its space features an enormous

number of sites creating and documenting this symbolic aspect of the city,[1]

growing between the fall of the Republic at the end of the 18th century and the

end of the Second World War to be ‘a nation's sanctity'.[2] The sites were and are

named differently, yet they can be given a common name - ‘patriotic sites'.

What do I consider a patriotic site? First, it is above all a site commemorating

a historic event of importance to independence and (from the nation's point

of view) symbolising an armed act or immortalising the act or acts of a specifi c

hero (or group of heroes). Not infrequently, even very frequently, these are sites

related to the martyrdom of individuals or entire groups subject to extermination

by the enemy; they are used to cultivate remembrance and respect for the

fallen or murdered and are of fundamental importance for shaping the nation's

historic awareness and national identity. The sites adopt various forms such as

a cemetery (including separate areas), a museum (historic and of martyrdom),

a mausoleum, a monument, an obelisk, a commemorative plaque, etc. For the

purposes of semantisation of patriotic sites, one should certainly allow for such

sites which, performing above all other public functions (e.g. religious, educational,

military, etc.), perfectly fit the category of remembrance sites, patriotic

sites, e.g. churches, universities, schools, military bases, etc., within the

premises of which - i.e., not only within the external municipal space - there

are monuments, obelisks, commemorative plaques, etc.

The period from the birth of the 3rd Republic of Poland to the beginning of

the 21st century brought about, both in Warsaw and in other cities of Poland,

a signifi cant change in the manner and extent of commemorating the Polish

independence fi ght and repressions which the Polish nation experienced in the

20th century. In particular, commemorations related to the period of the Second

World War and the Stalinist period were dealt with. Indeed, as excellently

exemplifi ed by Warsaw, we deal with the social and cultural process of restoring

remembrance and shaping a new historic awareness after nearly half a century

of ideological indoctrination of the nation, expressed by instilling in Poles a onesided

vision of the latest history of Poland. Within the process, although a vital

role is played by new scientifi c publications or documentary films, of greater

importance for social awareness there appears to be a phenomenon commonly

called ‘the fight with monuments' (as well as ‘for monuments') or ‘with symbols'.

It can be noted that the phenomenon has so far been characterised by two

phases. In the first, we mainly dealt with rejecting and eliminating from the

city space, that is from its cultural scenery, but also from the collective memory,

sites clearly and negatively associated with the ‘Commune' (monuments to

Dzierżyński, Nowotko, Gen. Świerczewski, the socalled

‘Ubelisk' - commemorating

‘consolidators' of the people's authorities, etc.);[3] in the second, there

were predominant initiatives to recreate and restore earlier destroyed patriotic

sites and to commemorate to a greater extent the acts, events and heroes or

victims of the regime which the Polish nation was supposed to forget forever.

As part of the process, some memorial sites established in the times of the People's

Republic of Poland were preserved (e.g. the Mausoleum of the Fight and

Martyrdom in Szuch Avenue, the Pawiak Prison Museum, the Museum of the

Fight and Martyrdom in Palmiry) as, since the very beginning, they had the

nature of patriotic sites or, regardless of the manipulations of intentions of the

Communist authorities, performed such a role in the opinion of a signifi cant

part of Polish society. Still, only after 1989 could one attempt to remove from

these sites those elements which falsifi ed history4[4] (Stawarz 2000: 165-177).

Most important in this fi ght for truth and remembrance were undoubtedly

the following motifs (almost simultaneously developed by scientific research,

investigations conducted, etc.): the Polish-Soviet

War of 1919-1920, the Katyń

Crime, the Warsaw Uprising (1944), great numbers of Poles in the East after

17 September 1939, and repressions against political prisoners of the Stalinist

period in the years 1944-1956. Somehow earlier historic issues (e.g.

Olszynka Grochowska 1831, the hills of the Citadel) remained in the background,

although even these gained numerous advocates and did not disappear

from the Warsaw remembrance map. It should also be stated that the capital

gained new monuments to distinguished Poles with great diffi culty. It is worth

recalling, though, several of those erected after 1990, including the monuments to:

Walerian Łukasiński (1988), Józef Piłsudski (3 realisations - 1990,

1995, 1998), Pope John Paul II (3 realisations - 1992, 1994, 1996), Stefan

Starzyński (1993), Jan Matejko (1994), Father Jerzy Popiełuszko (2 realisations

in 1996, the third in 1999), Maurycy Mochnacki (2000), Henryk Sienkiewicz

(2000), Juliusz Słowacki (2001), Gen. Józef Bem (2002), Gabriel Narutowicz

(2002), Eugeniusz Kwiatkowski (2002), Gen. Grot-Rowecki

(2005), and Father

Ignacy Skorupko (2005). In recent years, a Monument to Roman Dmowski was


This study is not aimed at conducting a comprehensive analysis of the spatial

arrangement of patriotic sites within the Warsaw cultural scenery, although

undoubtedly development of research works in the last several years indicates

such signifi cant possibilities (e.g. Tyszka 1990; Grzesiuk-Olszewska


Ciepłowski 2004; Dąbrowa et al. 2005). Still, it may be stated here that such

analysis should be based on the adoption of the following criteria:

1) nature and chronology of the events commemorated

2) form of commemoration

3) localisation

4) functioning in the city inhabitants' space perception

5) functioning in the city symbolic culture

From the point of view of ethnology or cultural anthropology, the most

important are criteria 4 and 5, whereas the earlier may be used to evaluate

any disturbances associated with the establishment and functioning of patriotic

sites. Observation of the sites in the past leads to a general conclusion: city

inhabitants' care for and devotion to specifi c patriotic sites (including in particular

only selected social circles - combatants and veterans, activists of organisations

and associations or foundations caring for the sites commemorated,

part of the youth - schools, scouting, etc.) may accompany both indifference

and their being ignored by many other inhabitants and acts of aggression - i.e.

vandalism, destroying to obtain raw material (metals) for profi t, or ‘program'


Greatest importance must defi nitely be attributed to patriotic sites of an

institutional nature, accessible to inhabitants and tourists every day and often

on holidays (churches, museums, mausoleums) and those monuments where

offi cial ceremonies are held on a regular basis (anniversaries, taps, readings of

the roll of the dead, etc.) - national, municipal, district, or circlerelated.


Churches. Warsaw churches belonging to the sphere of the absolute sacrum

have for many generations also been the mainstay of historic remembrance

of the Polish nation (Varsavia Sacra 1996; Madurowicz 2002). Practically

every church features commemorative plaques and epitaphs commemorating

both martyrdom and the independence fight of the Poles (Tyszka 1990).

Even during the era of the People's Republic of Poland, when there were no

other possibilities, it was at churches that ‘disloyal' plaques were placed, for

instance commemorating the Home Army and other secret organisations,

soldiers or priests who, ‘for faith and homeland', lost their lives in the years

of the Second World War, etc. The same churches often held masses for the

souls of the fallen and murdered but also ‘national retreats', including lectures

by historians that were devoted to the ‘white stains' on the national history;

thematic exhibitions were presented; epitaphs were unveiled, etc.[5] Here

in Warsaw we have churches which have become unusual national sanctuaries

- above all St. John's Cathedral, the Field Cathedral of the Polish Army

and Holy Cross Church, as well as numerous others. The exceptional sacral

role of these churches performed over consecutive decades, even centuries,

has been mixed with the history of Poland and the Polish nation. Hence, Warsaw

churches, because of their crypts, tombstones and epitaph plaques, are

unusual patriotic sites. It is suffi cient to remember that at St. John's Cathedral

there are the remains of several Mazovian princes, the last king of the

Republic, Stanisław August Poniatowski, and the murdered first President of

the Republic of Poland, Gabriel Narutowicz. Here are also the epitaph plaques

of distinguished Polish statesmen - Józef Piłsudski, Roman Dmowski and

Ignacy Jan Paderewski (also his crypt since 2001) as well as of the indomitable

President of Warsaw, Stefan Starzyński. But not only the history of Poland is

‘incorporated' in the Cathedral interior. The Cathedral itself - just as Warsaw,

reconstructed after destruction - was many a time a site of historic events.

Most recently, one event was of an exceptional dimension: it was at this cathedral

that, with farreaching

consequences, the first pilgrimage of John Paul II

to his homeland started in 1979. Many years earlier, this magnifi cent building

inspired the work of Henryk Sienkiewicz, a great writer who so excellently

strengthened Polish patriotism with his work. Let us recall a fragment of our

Noble prize winner's memoirs:

Yet I do not know myself if because, from all these various mementos, these

portraits, these monuments, these marble faces, there did not blow towards me

the wind of the centuries past, fame, power, freedom - and did not bring these

seeds which long were lying in my soul before my historical novels grew from them.

(Sienkiewicz 1916). It may be said that history, in a strange manner, came full

circle: it is at Saint John's Cathedral that the Henryk Sienkiewicz crypt can be

found (since 1924). There are many more such strange coincidences at this

unusual place, thanks to which the Cathedral is part a national pantheon and

on the other hand a site of utmost importance in shaping Polish patriotism for

the next generations of Poles. And every epoch contributed something new,

which intensifi ed both the sacral and the patriotic and national dimension of

the church.

If we investigate the history of Warsaw churches deeply, we will see the

continuous connection of many of them to numerous historic events, including

the Poles' fi ght for independence. During the era of the People's Republic

of Poland, when entering the churches one might not only participate in the

service but learn the national history or even discover it anew. And then, when

the patriotic custom was actually withering due to ideological indoctrination

and governmental bans, holy masses to the homeland or services on anniversaries

of ‘prohibited' national holidays were held in the churches. Many patriotic

priests were repressed for this brave activity, from the Stalinist era (1944-

1956) to the late years of the People's Republic of Poland. An unusual symbol

of priests involved in the realisation of the ‘God, Honour, Homeland' motto is

Father Jerzy Popiełuszko, bestially murdered by a group of Security Service

offi cers in 1984. Within a few years the grave and the monument (as well as

the recentlyopened

museum) of Father Jerzy located within the premises of St.

Stanisław Kostka in Żoliborz became exceptionally important elements of the

new national sanctuary, a destination of numerous pilgrimages from the country

and of Poles from abroad. As a living place of religious cult of patriotic values,

the sanctuary is also probably strongest and most important in Warsaw as

a symbol of the contemporary martyrdom of Polish priests as well as an unusual

symbol of Solidarity struggling with the communist authorities.


Museums and mausoleums. Already existing buildings of this kind (the Polish

Army Museum - 1920, the Mausoleum of Struggle and Martyrdom - 1952,

the Pawiak Prison Museum - 1965, the 10th Pavilion of the Warsaw Citadel

Museum - 1962, the Museum of Struggle and Martyrdom in Palmiry - 1980)

were joined at the beginning of the 3rd Republic by the Museum of Independence

(1990), and, after slightly over 20 years of collection and organisation

works, by the Warsaw Uprising Museum (2004). These institutions systematically

conduct broad educational and popularising activities (museum lessons,

lectures, documentary fi lm projections, meetings with combatants, etc.). In

the second half of the 1990s there were introduced - upon the initiative of the

Museum of Independence - special series of meetings allowing ever greater

social circles (including teenagers' groups) to acquaint themselves with the

history of struggle and martyrdom of the Poles: The Pawiak Prison Remembrance

Days[6] and Warsaw Citadel Days (May). On the other hand, the Warsaw

Uprising Museum is both the main place of meetings of the Uprising fi ghters

and their families and an institution ever more successfully applying modern

forms of familiarising the young generation with historic issues, in particular

those related to the fate of Warsaw and Poland in the years of the Second World

War. It is worth emphasising here that the building where the Warsaw Uprising

Museum was located, although not historically related to the Uprising in

any special way, apart from strictly museum functions, has been provided with

symbolic attributes (the Park of Freedom with the Remembrance Wall featuring

several thousand names of the Uprising fi ghters who lost their lives fi ghting

the invader) and a sacral object (a chapel). The Warsaw Uprising Museum

is the latest example of creating a modern museum to perform the role of an

institution implementing the historic policy of state authorities (as proven by,

among others, the celebrations of the 60th Anniversary of the Warsaw Uprising)

but also to become a very important place in the capital city symbolic

space, a place of important patriotic values comprehensible to all the inhabitants

and visitors. It should also be noted that the development of the Museum

is part of the almost continuing series (begun in 1945) of commemorating the

vastness of the martyrdom and unusual heroism of Varsovians during the German

occupation. The city cultural scenery still lacks an institution expressly

presenting and symbolising Polish victories, such as in the Polish-Soviet


of 1919-1920 or the ‘road to freedom' of 1980-1989. Nonetheless, there are

more and more frequent exhibitions and educational events in the leading Warsaw

museums: The Polish Army Museum, the Historic Museum of the capital

city of Warsaw, and the Museum of Independence.


Monuments. Monuments that were erected, from the point of view of their patriotic

role, should be divided into three categories:

- monuments to the fi ghts for independence,

- monuments commemorating martyrdom,

- monuments to specifi c historic characters - heroes, freedom fighters,

creators of the national culture.

Warsaw monuments have their own most complicated history. Beside

several long rooted in the city cultural scenery (in fact, it is hard to imagine

Warsaw without them), such as Sigismund's Column (the oldest European

monument of laic nature), the monument to Adam Mickiewicz, the monument

to Chopin in Łazienki, the monument to Copernicus in front of the Staszic Palace,

or the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, the vast majority appeared relatively

recently - i.e. in times remembered by the living generations. Remembering

here the recent history of Warsaw monuments one must know that many of

them would not have been erected but for the determination of individual social

committees and organisations. Very often the many years of hardship were

worthwhile despite the aversion of the authorities (especially in the years of the

People's Republic of Poland) and trouble collecting relevant funds. Monuments

become gradually rooted in the capital scenery despite sometimes clearly bad

localisations, scandals associated with competition results (winning designs

sometimes were not realised), and despite lack of interest of the city authorities

in restoring certain monuments to their original locations.[7] Some monuments

have often faced the risk - after 1989 - of devastation, such as the Mermaid

Monument designed by Konstanty Hegla (which was eventually fi nely restored

and placed in 1999 - just as before the war - in the centre of the Old Town

Square), symbolic crosses on the hills of the Warsaw Citadel, or the Traugutt

Cross. Other monuments sometimes sank into oblivion, decayed due to lack

of care and maintenance, or the space around them was appropriated for purposes

not having anything to do with the nature of the monument (e.g., for

several years now teenagers have been skateboarding at the Monument to Wincenty

Witos in Three Crosses Square).

Capital city monuments, as well as a vast majority of patriotic sites, document,

commemorate and symbolise the outstanding role of Warsaw in the

fight of consecutive generations of Poles for freedom of the Homeland. It is

interesting that the contemporary city space is currently dominated, due to

their localisation, shape and dimensions, by patriotic sites related to the fi ght

for independence during the Second World War. Sites commemorating uprisings

(of 1794, 1830-1831, 1863-1864) are in general located beyond the very

centre but, signifi cantly, at historic sites to which they are related. Unfortunately,

the dynamic urban growth of the city, its suburbs and new districts,

but also the activities of the communist authorities aimed at wiping out the

meaning of many commemorations (if certain monuments could not have

been removed totally), resulted in gradual removal of these sites from the

inhabitants' memo ry. Recently, ‘Generations' Associations demanded commemoration

of part of these sites (let us note - how selectively however) (the

Warsaw Commission of the Youth Movement History) issuing a special paper[8]

(Dąbrowa et al. 2005).

It should also be added that some kind of ‘fight for monuments' is still

continuing. Recently founded social committees and associations have been

endeavouring to realise further monuments, but have not been meeting with

either appropriate social atmosphere, interest of the media, or a friendly attitude

of governmental authorities. The most spectacular examples indicate that

most probably Warsaw will still have to wait at least for the erection of monuments

to: Józef Wybicki (author of Dąbrowski's Mazurka - the Polish national

anthem!),[9] Tadeusz Kościuszko - one of the greatest national heroes,[10] as well

as a monument (initially planned as a triumphal arch) commemorating Polish

victory near Warsaw in August 1920 over the Red Army, or one commemorating

the victims of the Warsaw concentration camp. But, on the other hand,

social activists managed (initially still illegally) to commemorate the victims of

the Katyń Crime and maintain and develop the monument in Olszynka Grochowska

(gradual realisation of the Alley of Fame) which in the Communist era

had been almost totally destroyed (Melak 2004: 7998).

Monuments belonging to patriotic sites considered an important element

of municipal symbolism reveal, above all, the Polish nature and our attitude to

commemorating history, at the same time defi ning and maintaining the legend

of Warsaw as an undefeated, unbroken city. This symbolism is strengthened by

both remembrance of events important to the fate of the city and the frequently

dramatic lots of those very monuments. Examples of monuments well rooted

in city symbolism certainly include the unusual Mermaid Monument realised

in 1939 by Ludwika Nitschowa. The monument, unveiled during a modest

ceremony and without publicity just before the outbreak of the Second World

War, survived the hard time of the German occupation, becoming one of the

few symbols giving strength to the inhabitants returning to the devastated

and bloodless city. But knowledge of the history of this monument enables us

(although today only an insignifi cant part of Warsaw inhabitants fully realise

it) to appreciate the somehow dual symbolism of the Mermaid Monument. Not

long ago, Małgorzata Baranowska referred to it (1998: 95):

The model for Ludwika Nitschowa's Mermaid was a young poet, Krystyna

Krahelska (1914-1944), who died in the Warsaw Uprising fi ve years later. She

fought for that bronze maid and for herself. The mermaid remained, just wounded,

and its various symbolic meanings also include that of having the face of a participant

in the Warsaw Uprising. Neither invaders nor anyone else realised it. The

Germans were less afraid of it so it escaped the fate of deliberately destroyed Warsaw


What is very important is that this monument of such interesting and

strong symbolism does not have surroundings matching its importance (thus

confi rming the continuation of the strange ‘city turning its back to the river')

nor ‘does it participate' in the patriotic custom of Warsaw inhabitants. Nonetheless,

as one may believe that, based on numerous publications, it retains its

leading position among numerous mermaid images depicting the capital city

emblem (Grochowska 2000: 84-103).

One patriotic site erected in a prestigious place because of its close relation

to national history and national functions performed is the Tomb of the

Unknown Soldier in Piłsudski Square. The characteristics of the tomb were

most aptly recently defi ned by Wiesław Jan Wysocki (2000: 7):

... This form of a soldier's tomb - the Homeland Altar - features evidence of

a soldier's oath fulfi lled, a sign of loyalty to the Republic, and at the same time

symbolic identity with each soldier's tomb and war cemeteries from so many battles

of our thousandyearlong

history. It was erected to glorify Sacrifi ce and

Heroism, which are known and named, yet remain nameless. The Tomb of the

Unknown Soldier is also evidence of the moral rights of the state to freedom and

life in a sovereign state...

Therefore, it may be said that the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier symbolises

fully Polish armed action in defence of the state and the fi ght for independence

during the nation's enslavement. All the other patriotic sites refer

to defi ned periods of our history (e.g. a complex of buildings associated with

the Warsaw Citadel, the Pawiak Prison Museum), events (e.g. the Monument

to the Heroes of the Warsaw Uprising), facts of mass repression of the nation

(e.g. the Umschlagplatz Monument, the Monument to the Fallen and Murdered

in the East, the Monument to the Martyrs of the Communist Terror in Poland

in the years 1944-1956), or, to fi nish, historic characters. Among numerous

patriotic sites appearing in Warsaw public space, I would like to mention only

two sites which, featuring exceptionally strong symbolism, are of unusual

importance now for shaping the contemporary liberation ethos. One of the sites

functions in the sacred sphere (Tomb - Monument to Father Jerzy Popiełuszko

at St. Stanisław Kostka Church in Żoliborz), the other - the Monument to the

Polish Underground State and the Home Army - in the profane sphere but in

a very important, prestigious part of Warsaw, just next to the Seym buildings

[For You, Homeland 1999].

Within the remembrance sphere, of exceptional nature are the monuments

and commemorative plaques documenting the fi ght and extermination of the

Jewish community. At the moment, at over 60 sites (mainly in the district of

Muranów), we can read about the great tragedy of the Jews (Ghetto... 1999:


most meaningful is the Route of Remembrance of the Fight and Martyrdom

formed by 19 memorial sites marked with black syenite blocks.[12]

It should be noted that in the next few years, along the Route, opposite the Monument

to the Ghetto Heroes, a Museum of the History of Polish Jews will be


Patriotic custom - ceremonies. Numerous ceremonies associated with historic

anniversaries are held at patriotic sites. Mere presentation of the schedule

of these ceremonies held in Warsaw would require a signifi cant volume of

this publication. Generally, almost every month in the capital may play the role

of ‘national remembrance month', from January (anniversary of the start of

the January Uprising) to December (anniversary of the fi rst mass execution

during the German occupation, anniversary of the martial law of 13 December

1981). Undoubtedly however the following holidays and anniversaries feature

extremely extensive agendas and are certain of mass participation of Warsaw

inhabitants. 1 August (anniversary of the start of the Warsaw Uprising), 15

August (anniversary of the ‘Miracle at the Vistula'), 1 September (anniversary

of the outbreak of the Second World War) and 11 November - Independence

Day. Let us see which patriotic sites are included in the scenarios of celebrations

of only one of the holidays - Independence Day. Gradually since 1989,

Independence Day has been enjoying ever greater popularity; not only do

state and military authorities observe it in an appropriate setting (Independence

Day..., 2003: 77-95, 125-135)

but also individual city districts celebrate

it more and more widely. Apart from masses, patriotic song concerts, exhibitions,

Independence Day races and rallies and swimming competitions, there

are marches to monuments and other patriotic sites. And so, in 2004, apart

from the offi cial changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

attended by top state officials, the city inhabitants were invited to march to

the monument to the Polish Underground State and the Home Army near the

Seym. Moreover, wreaths and fl owers were placed in the district of Wawer at

the monument to Józef Piłsudski and in Żoliborz (‘under boulders commemorating

the anniversary of recovery of independence')[13] at the Sokolnicki Tower.

The day before Independence Day offi cial delegations (including government

authorities of the capital city of Warsaw and of the Mazowieckie Voivodeship)

placed wreaths and bouquets of fl owers in the Execution Gate of the Warsaw



Casual actions - remembrance. For several years after 1989 there were few initiatives

of this type. Overwhelming and aggressive advertising (also large format

adverts) of strictly commercial nature practically prevented, for instance,

presentation of posters of patriotic content (reminding the people of national

anniversaries). Scout alerts organised from time to time (e.g. associated with

commemorating the famous Action at the Arsenal) did not meet with any wide

social or media response. The years were defi nitely dominated by ceremonies

which - although in the spirit of independence - appeared too offi cial and

standard to a signifi cant part of the people. Recent years may indicate a possibility

of a signifi cant breakthrough within this sphere of public activity. One of

the most interesting examples of activities aimed at raising and restoring historic

remembrance of the city inhabitants is for example the latest event during

which, in memory of the 63rd anniversary of the Warsaw Uprising, youths

put 1,000 simple crosses with lamps and small white and red paper fl ags at

selected sites where the Uprising fi ghters died. What is more, Varsovians were

reminded of the time of the Uprising by a lamp shining on top of the Warsaw

Uprising Mound for 63 days (from 1 August to 2 October) and furthermore,

near the Old Town, scouts lit lamps at sewer manholes.

Worth remembering is also the more and more frequent appearance of

more or less successful outdoor attempts to reconstruct historic events. For

some years now, they have been enjoying ever greater popularity and attracting

numerous spectators. They appear to have an ever greater impact on the

interests of the capital city inhabitants in the history of the city and Poland.

It is good to mention at least several of the most spectacular events of this

type. For some years now (1998, 2001, 2002), events have been staged related

to Józef Piłsudski's coming to Warsaw (on 10 November 1918) while in 2004

quite successful attempts were undertaken to reconstruct battle scenes: fi rst,

inhabitants of Warsaw were shown a fragment of PolishSoviet

battles in the

Old Town of April 1794. (Warsaw Insurrection), then the 1994 Warsaw Uprising

battles in the district of Wola and, fi nally, in November, the capture of the

Arsenal by the insurgents in 1830.

* * *

When we look at the barely analysed problem of historic remembrance and

shaping historic sites from a slightly longer time perspective, we will discern

that during the ‘people's rules' (1944/45-1989) Warsaw was for political

and ideological reasons shaped to be a centre of dominating industrial features

which were to provide the social and professional structure of the city with

a working class majority, that is the socalled

‘leading power of the nation'.

Within the ‘national remembrance' sphere this meant the firm will of the

authorities to realise monuments, obelisks and commemorative plaques referring

above all to the traditions of the workers' movement. After 1989, political

changes but also the city's entry into a postindustrial

development phase,

enabled gradual transformations within Warsaw public space. In most general

terms, it may be said that new patriotic sites to an ever greater extent personify

the traditions of independence suppressed by the Communist regime and show

respect and do justice to those historic characters the nation was supposed to

forget during the era of the People's Republic of Poland. But most recent history

(after 1945) found its symbolic expression in the form of monuments and

plaques to commemorate the victims of communist crimes, including hundreds

of Poles repressed during the Stalinist era. What is interesting and surprising

is that Warsaw does not have within its public space any patriotic sites related

to the events of 1970 and 1980-81 or devoted to the victims of the martial law

of 13 December 1981.

In the case of Warsaw, further documentation and research - from the

point of view we are interested in here - should be conducted in parallel in two

directions: 1) full inventory and preparation of a special publication generally

available to the city inhabitants and other interested parties (e.g., an atlas of

patriotic sites);[14] 2) conducting studies and analyses related to the symbolism

of patriotic sites, the role of these sites in shaping historic awareness of the city

inhabitants, and culturecreating

importance of patriotic sites. The nature of

possible further research, ethnological or sociological works associated with

patriotic sites as important elements of the city symbolic space but also of signifi

cance to the process of shaping contemporary cultural identity of our city

appears to be indicated by a fragment of a recent statement of Dariusz Gajewski

(director of ‘Warsaw' of 2003) in the context of commemorations related to

the lots of the city inhabitants during the German occupation, including those

associated with the Warsaw Uprising:

... Uprising fi ghters cannot fi nd themselves here as it is not theirs anymore;

theirs ceased to exist during the war. Supposedly everybody knows that but it is

hard to accept it emotionally. And understanding Warsaw without this knowledge

is not possible... We live here for years and do not think about it, and this is the

case when the city has another in it - the destroyed one... (quote from: Sańczuk,

Chaciński, Skolimowski 2005: 215)

On the other hand, various forms of commemorations in the public space

- both in the sacred and profane spheres - will make it possible to organise

anew the life of inhabitants in a destroyed and then restored city now aspiring

to play the role of one of the most important European metropolises. In further

research into this signifi cantly important cultural process let us use - as

some kind of inspiration - current remarks of humanists learning and still discovering

Warsaw anew. Here is one more such remark which, in that respect,

inspires ethnologists or cultural anthropologists:

... what layers of horror do we tread every day, nobody could sleep here peacefully.

The dead would not let us fall asleep... Death in Warsaw does not evoke

thrills of emotions or ill fascination but has been domesticated, involved in ordinary

routine (...) (Zielińska 1995: 180-181)


[1] Back in the period of the People's Republic of Poland), Kłoskowska (1983) paid attention to the

possibility of researching the city as a value (axiological criterion) with reference to a wider complex of

national culture phenomena.

[2] The expression was used - in connection with the capital reconstruction - by Cardinal August

Hlond, Primate of Poland, in his sermon during the enthronement at the Saint John Cathedral in Warsaw

on 30 May 1946 (see: Katedra..., 1998: 23).

[3] At the same time changes were made in the names of streets whose patrons were ‘badly' associated

with the People's Republic of Poland (e.g. Nowotko Street was changed to Anders Street, Marchlewski

Avenue was changed to Jan Paweł II Avenue, Świerczewski Avenue was changed to Solidarity

Avenue, etc.).

[4] Changes to this type of objects in the 1990s were described in numerous issues of the ‘Past and

Remembrance' magazine published by the Council for the Protection of Remembrance of the Fights

and Martyrdom as well as in the ‘Information Bulletins' of the Main Board of the World Association of

Home Army Soldiers or other periodicals.

[5] One of the fi rst attempts to synthetically summarise such activities in the years 1947-1989 was

undertaken nearly 10 years ago by one of the leading post-1956 independence opposition activists in

the People's Republic of Poland - Wojciech Ziembiński (1998).

[6] Originally, the Pawiak Prison Remembrance Days were held in April and for some years now

have been organised in the last week of September, connected with the Warsaw surrender anniversary

and beginnings of the Polish Underground State (1939).

[7] Such was the situation with among others, the Dowborczyk Monument which in the 1930s was

erected in Powiśle and during the years just after the war was removed by the Communist authorities.

Several years ago the monument was recreated but the city authorities did not agree to its prewar

localisation. As a result, the monument was placed (‘temporarily') in front of the Polish Army


[8] The authors of the publication demanded in it commemoration of the leftist activities of the

Polish Workers Party, the Związek Walki Młodych, the People's Guards and the People's Army from

the time of the Second World War. What is interesting is that as ‘forgotten' places (contradictory to

the actual state of affairs) the authors classifi ed both the Pawiak Prison Museum and the 10th Pavilion

Museum (including the Execution Gate), which were perfectly incorporated in the city historic space

as well as in the memory of the inhabitants.

[9] The foundation act was officially built in Gen. Jan Henryk Dąbrowski Square in 1997 to celebrate

the 200th anniversary Dąbrowski's Mazurka.

[10] Appointed on the 100th anniversary of Kościuszko's death, the committee did not manage during

the Second Republic to have a monument of the famous Commander in Warsaw, which was managed

by social activists and authorities in many cities of the country even before 1939. For some years

now, the Committee for the Erection of a Monument to Tadeusz Kościuszko in Warsaw presided over

by Professor Marian Marek Drozdowski, PhD, has been trying to solve the grave situation.

[11] A fine biography of Krystyna Krahelska was published by Maria Marzena Grochowska and Bohdan

Grzymała-Siedlecki (1996).

[12] Ibid., pp. 169-170. The route was created according to a design by Z. Gąsior, S. Jankowski and

M. Moderau in 1988 - on the 45th anniversary of the ghetto uprising.

[13] ‘Rzeczpospolita' daily no. 264 of 10-11 XI 2004, p. 20 (press release).

[14] With respect to the years before the Second World War, one may indicate an interesting attempt

of a similar study, see: S. Sempołowska (et al.), 1938 (p. 201-276, section entitled ‘More important

buildings and sites commemorated in the years 1788-1792, 1794, 1830-1831, 1860-1864, 1904-

1906, 1918' - with a map of Warsaw). On the other hand, among the numerous publications of recent

years, the ‘Warszawskie Termopile' [Warsaw's Thermopylae] series ought to be deemed some kind of

an example setting the correct direction of documentation and popularisation works.



Vydání: 9, 2007, 1


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