Poland demolished four communist-era statues honoring Red Army troops on Thursday, intensifying its campaign to erase symbols of Moscow’s post-World Conflict II dominance and emphasizing its opposition to Moscow’s war on neighboring Ukraine.
Workers demolished the 1945 memorials at four different places around Poland, using drills and heavy equipment. The majority of them were concrete obelisks dedicated to Red Army fighters who died while battling Nazi German troops.
Karol Nawrocki, the director of the state Institute of National Remembrance, has asked for the removals. He claimed the statues represented a society that enslaved and murdered its own people as well as other nations, including Poles.
“This is a monument to dishonor, a symbol of disdain of the winners over the victims,” Nawrocki said as workmen prepared to remove the statue of a Red Army soldier before removing the entire monument in Glubczyce, in southern Poland.
“The Soviets did not provide liberation in 1945; they brought new enslavement.” In an impassioned address, Nawrocki remarked, “They were taking Poland and treating it as plunder.”
He claimed that the spirit of such regime is still alive in Russia, which is killing civilians in Ukraine.
Nawrocki emphasized that anybody dismantling Soviet army monuments, including in other nations, is prosecuted and sentenced to up to three years in jail under Russian law.
Other monuments were taken from old burial places at Byczyna, southwest Poland, and Bobolice, northwest Poland. In the 1950s, the soldiers’ bones were excavated and relocated to suitable cemeteries. A stone monument was also dismantled in the forests south of Staszow.
The institute investigates and prosecutes Nazi and communist atrocities against Poles, as well as honoring national heroes who opposed tyrants.
Since the end of communist authority in 1989, Poland has worked to remove reminders of Moscow’s prior dominance from public spaces, such as monuments and memorials. Some have been relocated to specialized storage. Cemeteries and existing burial places are not included in the drive.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine earlier this year has heightened the urgency of the operations. Poland is a political, military, and economic supporter of Ukraine’s fight against Russia.