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Polish ambassador demands apology in trans-Atlantic row over statue

PR dla Zagranicy
Grzegorz Siwicki 05.05.2018 11:40
The Polish ambassador to the United States has demanded an apology after the mayor of Jersey City called a senior Polish senator an “anti-Semite, white nationalist and Holocaust denier.”
The Katyn Massacre monument in Jersey City. The Katyn Massacre monument in Jersey City. Bild: Photo: Colin Knowles [CC BY-SA 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

The ambassador’s intervention comes amid a trans-Atlantic spat over plans to remove a statue in Jersey City in the US state of New Jersey that honours the victims of a 1940 Soviet massacre of thousands of Poles in the Katyn Forest, western Russia.

Members of the Polish community in the United States and officials in Warsaw protested after Jersey City on Monday announced that the statue would be removed in order to redevelop a public square in the city that has been the monument's home for 27 years.

Mayor Steven Fulop said the monument — at Exchange Place in Jersey City, just across the Hudson River from New York City — would be put in storage while the space is converted into a park.

Polish Senate Speaker Stanisław Karczewski called the plan "really scandalous" and "very unpleasant" and vowed to write to Fulop.

Fulop responded on Twitter that Karczewski “is a joke.”

“The fact is that a known anti-Semite, white nationalist + Holocaust denier like him has zero credibility,” Fulop said on Thursday.

The Polish ambassador, Piotr Wilczek, on Friday said he had sent a letter to Fulop. He posted a copy on his Twitter account.

“I was shocked to see the accusations you leveled against Senator Karczewski, Speaker of the Senate of the Republic of Poland,” Wilczek said in his letter.

He added that Fulop’s statements were “false, hurtful and unbefitting of international dialogue between office holders of two Allied countries.”

He also said that the upper house of Poland’s parliament, the Senate, “has among its responsibilities to care for Polish diaspora communities around the world” and that “Speaker Karczewski was expressing his concern about the future of the Katyn Memorial in Jersey City.”

“Given the severity of the baseless accusations you made, I ask on behalf of the Government of the Republic of Poland that you apologize to the Speaker of the Senate,” Wilczek said.

"... we cannot allow emotions to guide us," he wrote. “Let us clear the air and refocus our attention to the task at hand.”

He urged “constructive dialogue to find a solution that does not involve the permanent relocation of the Katyn Monument.”

Karczewski on Friday said that he has taken "legal steps" after being accused by Jersey City's mayor of anti-Semitism, Holocaust denial and "white nationalism."

Polish presidential aide Krzysztof Szczerski said that President Andrzej Duda "cannot imagine" that the Katyn massacre monument is not being respected in the US, "which so venerates its heroes, especially those who died for their country."

Sculpted by Polish-American artist Andrzej Pitynski and unveiled in June 1991, the monument features a 10-metre-tall bronze figure of a soldier — who has been gagged and bound and impaled by a bayonetted rifle — mounted on top of a granite base containing soil from the Katyn Forest in western Russia where thousands of Poles were murdered by Soviet secret police during World War II.

Around 22,000 Polish prisoners of war were killed with shots to the back of the head in the spring of 1940 on orders from top Soviet authorities in what came to be known as the Katyn Massacre.

(gs/pk)

Source: IAR, Twitter

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