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Poland Angered as Protesters Smear Hero's Statue

Poland Angered as Protesters Smear Hero's Statue
A file photo of the statue of General Tadeusz Kościuszko in Lafayette Park. Protesters spray painted the base of the statue with graffiti, though the general was a staunch abolitionist. (William Perry/Dreamstime)

By Thursday, 04 June 2020 12:43 PM Current | Bio | Archive

Unlike in Western Europe, where, following the slaying of George Floyd, so-called "sympathy demonstrations" ensued against "American racism," the Three Seas region has been relatively calm. In fact, if anything, the original sympathy toward the protesters in Minneapolis has turned sour as the images of mayhem, violence, arson and looting across America zoomed over the internet to central and eastern Europe. In Poland, for example, the straw that broke the camel's back was the defacing of the Kościuszko Monument at Lafayette Park in front of the White House.

General Tadeusz Kościuszko (1746–1817) volunteered to fight for America's freedom in the War for Independence. He was the architect of the victory at Saratoga in 1777, a turning point in our struggle for sovereignty. Among his many deeds for the cause, Kościuszko fortified West Point and encouraged the creation of a military academy there. A very good friend of Thomas Jefferson, the Polish hero, however, put his money where his mouth was as far as slavery. He willed all the funds and lands granted for his services to him by the Continental Congress to the manumission and education of African slaves in the U.S.

Earlier, he had freed his own peasant serfs back in Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. Upon returning from America to the Old Country, he led a doomed rebellion against Russia in 1794. The General remains revered in Poland, even if his star has lapsed in the United States along with other heroes of 1776 under the onslaught of the intellectual counterparts of the barbarians who have been burning and looting as well as besmirching America's monuments.

The assault on Kościszko was symbolically painful for the Poles. It allowed them to relate directly to America's anguish. Don't take me wrong. The folks over there almost reflexively tend to side with the underdog, so their hearts went out to George Floyd. They also distrust cops, a legacy of the Nazi and Soviet occupations. In popular parlance, cops are aliens; cooperating with the police usually means snitching, which leads to ostracism or worse; victims of police violence tend to be in the right. That is the default.

This sort of approach is not specifically Polish but, rather, it applies across the Intermarium, lands between the Black and Baltic Seas. Without undue mirror imaging one should appreciate the fact that the distrustful attitude there toward the authorities is somewhat similar to what the black communities display in the U.S. The governments in eastern and central Europe had been in alien and hostile hands for so long that passivity, if not outright passive resistance, is the default at the grassroots. This attitude has lingered on since the transformations of 1989.

Yet the distrust of the police does not translate into anarchy. Also, there tends to be respect across the board for memorials and monuments. That is not to say that the Three Seas area has not witnessed its share of iconoclasm. Most of it had to do with slaying stone tyrants, though. Who can forget the Hungarians toppling Stalin's statue in 1956? Or, in 1989, the Poles dismantling the monument to the Polish Catholic apostate psychopath Felix Dzerzhynski, who founded Bolshevik Russia's secret police? Communist landmarks fell everywhere at that time. Many were defaced routinely, in particular in Poland, even before the Communists lost power.

In the wake of Ukraine's Euromaidan uprising in 2014, a legion of bronze and steel images of Lenin were overthrown across the land. Earlier, in the Baltic states the natives removed Soviet "presents," in particular the gargantuan "gratitude statues" to the Unknown Red Army Man, or as the locals fittingly referred to it: "The Statue of the Unknown Rapist." The same applies to moving Soviet war cemeteries from their central locations to less prominent places.

But it is virtually unthinkable to hear about the people of central and eastern Europe assaulting the monuments of their own heroes who had fought for their national freedom. Sure, there are Communists and their heirs who deface, from time to time, new memorials to the fighters of the anti-Communist resistance. But that is not the rule. Indeed, there are also "liberal media," "leftist academics" and "root causes." But very few dare to countenance barbarism openly. They are not "woke" enough yet, I guess. And the only privilege there, after Auschwitz and the Gulag, rests with the post-Communist kleptocrats.

Therefore, most folks over in the Intermarium did not appreciate the desecration of the World War II Memorial on the Mall in Washington, D.C. The sacrifice of the fallen is sacred. That is understood universally, or it should be. And keep your hands off Kościuszko, too, barbarians.

Marek Jan Chodakiewicz is Professor of History at the Institute of World Politics, a graduate school of statecraft in Washington D.C.; expert on East-Central Europe's Three Seas region; author, among others, of "Intermarium: The Land Between The Baltic and Black Seas." Read Marek Jan Chodakiewicz's Reports – More Here.

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The assault on Kościszko was symbolically painful for the Poles.
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Thursday, 04 June 2020 12:43 PM
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