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Baltimore Remembers Katyn Massacre

November 20, 2000

BALTIMORE (AP) _ As a young Polish officer, Monsignor Zdzislaw J. Peszkowski was spared execution when Soviet troops invaded Poland in 1939. But thousands of his comrades were not as fortunate.

Those fallen soldiers, buried six decades ago in unmarked graves, were honored Sunday with the dedication of a new monument near Baltimore’s Inner Harbor.

``It is the voice of them,″ Peszkowski said of the 30-foot high statue. ``They are shouting here about the truth.″

Located near a Polish enclave in the Fells Point neighborhood, the statue depicts Polish soldiers of the past thousand years, engulfed in gold-leaf flames.

Between April and May 1940, the Soviet secret police shot 15,000 Polish officers in the head and dumped their bodies into common graves near the Russian villages of Mednoye and Katyn. Some 11,000 captured civilians also were killed secretly.

The Katyn graves were discovered by the Nazis in 1943 when they invaded Russia. The slayings became a rallying symbol for Polish nationalism and a point of contention between Poland and the Soviet Union, in part because the Kremlin didn’t acknowledge the massacre until 1990.

Katyn also came to symbolize Soviet crimes against Poland.

Congress held hearings on the massacre in 1951-52.

During Sunday’s ceremony, Peszkowski helped lay an urn filled with soil from the Katyn burial ground at the foot of the new monument. Among the 400 people who attended the National Katyn Memorial’s unveiling were Mayor Martin O’Malley, Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., and Polish government officials.

For the memorial’s sponsors, the monument is a physical reminder of a history that was long suppressed by the Soviet Union.

``For over a half century, their supreme sacrifice was kept secret,″ Stanislaus Wisniewski, reading the words of his brother and memorial organizer Alfred Wisniewski, said of the slain officers. ``The murderers of those gallant heroes wanted all memory buried.″

Antonine Hubska, 60, came from Seminole, Fla., for the ceremony. The secretary of the Siberia Society of Florida, her family was sent to a Siberian camp in 1948 as part of the Soviet farm collectivization.

The monument, she said, is a tribute to both the fallen soldiers and the struggles of families like hers.

``We’ve been in the same shoes.″


On the Net:

Polish Community of Baltimore: http://www.polishcommunity.com/katyn1.htm

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