The following letter from the Russian speaking community in Canada was forwarded to Andrzej Duda, the President of the Republic of Poland, and the National Assembly of Poland.
Toronto, April 19th, 2016
President of the Republic of Poland
Dear President Duda,
The Russian Congress of Canada is deeply concerned about the Polish authorities’ initiative to dismantle more than five hundred monuments to Soviet soldiers who lost their lives during the liberation of Poland from the Nazi troops during World War II.
With deep regret, we have witnessed the continued efforts by Polish authorities to rewrite history in favour of a fleeting, present-day political moment. A campaign has been unleashed against the memory of the people who fulfilled their sacred duty and gave all they had – their lives – for the liberation of the Polish people from the Nazi invaders. We would like to remind you that about 600,000 Soviet soldiers perished during the liberation of Poland. These 600,000 Soviet people, representatives of all of the nations that comprised the Soviet Union, did not return home from this brutal war. They were survived by their families, their loved ones, and by their orphaned children. The war was a great tragedy for our people, touching every Soviet family, and still affects each and every one of us. We still mourn our losses, in every corner of the world we live in today.
The Russian-speaking community of Canada, representing all peoples that historically inhabited Russia, including the period of the Soviet Union, is deeply shocked by such callous and short-sighted acts by the Polish Government. This will cause irreparable damage to the complicated history of Polish-Russian relations. We see it as a deliberate attempt to distort history, to erase from Polish people’s memory the common heroic past in which Soviet and Polish soldiers fought shoulder to shoulder against Nazism and defeated it.
It should be noted that actions such as the dismantling of historical monuments of World War II (which Russian and other former Soviet people call The Great Patriotic War) encourage radical elements to vandalize and desecrate monuments from the Soviet era. Regrettably, the dismantling of monuments to the Red Army soldiers are occurring throughout Poland. It is very unfortunate that in 2015 alone, there were more than 30 incidents of desecration and demolition. For example, the monument to Army General Ivan Chernyakhovsky has been dismantled in the town of Pieniężno, north of Warsaw. General Chernyakhovsky was twice awarded Hero of the Soviet Union and was mortally wounded during the liberation of the city of Mehlsack (now Pieniężno). We want to remind you that the monument was included in the register of the 1994 Polish-Russian intergovernmental agreement on preserving graves and other important sites of remembrance.
Such provocative actions are offensive to the historical memory of all peoples from former Soviet Union both at home and around the world. First and foremost though, they are offensive to the tragic and heroic pages of the history of Poland, when her people, her soldiers fought shoulder to shoulder with the Soviet troops for the liberation of their homeland. For the sake of the future generations of both our nations, we will do our best to appeal to the Polish people to condemn these reckless actions and calls for the destruction of our shared history and ask them to help support the preservation of the monuments to fallen Soviet soldiers.
We fully support the statement made by the Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova on the matter: “Such intentions indicate that Warsaw refuses to listen to repeatedly addressed pleas to be reasonable, demonstrate civilized thinking and common human decency and stop the ‘war on monuments’, which only aims to erase from the Polish people’s memory the fact that they were rescued by the Red Army from the total annihilation by Hitler’s Nazis.”
The governments of Poland and Russia should seek rapprochement and cooperation in respecting and honoring their fallen warriors in the common struggle against Nazism. We are certain that is what the majority of Polish society wants as well. Canadians of Polish and Russian origin and other nationalities from former Soviet Union, living side by side in our new country, find more ways of cooperating rather than disagreeing. We would like to see the same friendship and cooperation between our historical homelands.
The Russian Congress of Canada calls upon the Polish Government to exercise common sense and make efforts to end the policy of dismantling monuments and memorials to fallen Soviet soldiers, which is “contrary to all conceivable ideas of modern civilization” (Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, 2016).
President of the Russian Congress of Canada