Fallen – Invincible – Anonymous
Last year we wrote in the Warsaw edition of ‘Niedziela’ that the Warsaw Insurgents Cemetery, located in the district of Wola, is neglected. Dogs run over the burial mound that covers 12 tons of ashes of the burnt Varsovians, collected in 117 coffins. And in the area of the cemetery people sunbath on the grass, wearing bathing suits like on a beach. Writing about the veterans’ success – as some media do – that after 67 years they won the possibility to restore the necropolis, which should be a sacred place for the capital, is going too far! We should beat our breasts since the changes come so late that most of the insurgents, for natural reasons, will not see them. But their last will should be realised by the living. The thing is to make this place look worthy. Over 104,000 people, fallen and murdered mainly during the Warsaw Uprising in August and September 1944, are buried here. As many as 80% of them were civilians who were killed in mass executions and buried here mostly as anonymous people. The veterans would like to establish the identity of the victims if it is possible.
Can they succeed after such a long time? Will the painful recollections, transmitted by those who survived those horrible moments to their children and grandchildren, allow saving from oblivion the names of the people who have been anonymous so far? One should try to do it, do one’s best to restore the memory of the victims. The tombs, made by the Society of Fighters for Freedom and Democracy, with the images of the Cross of Grunwald, are to be at last replaced by tombs with the Christian symbolism, the symbols of ‘Fighting Poland’ and the inscription, ‘Fallen for Poland in the Warsaw Uprising 1944.’ ‘Remembrance Wall’ with the names of the buried and a presentable gate are to be built in Wolska Street. The cemetery will be fenced. The veterans have appealed for the reconstruction of the necropolis for years. The urgent need to reveal the true history of this necropolis led to the creation of the Committee for the Warsaw Insurgents Cemetery, connected with the International Association of the Home Army Soldiers, after 1989. The main aim of the Committee is to place the insurgents’ symbols in the cemetery so that it will be known for good in which circumstances the buried lost their lives.
The reconstructed necropolis should be completed for the 70th anniversary of the outbreak of the Warsaw Uprising in 2014, in accordance with the promises of the local authorities. The costs of the investment will amount to ca. 5.5 million zloty. The district of Wola cannot afford this money alone and that’s why the declarations given by the Governor of Mazowsze and the municipality were received with joy. But why were the declarations given so late, and actually in the elections year? A coincidence?
So far over 3,000 names of the buried have been determined. The Council for the Protection of Struggle and Martyrdom Sites is appealing to Poles living in Poland and abroad to help in their search. The appeal has also been spread by the Metropolitan Curia of Warsaw which fulfilled the request of the Committee and asked all parish priests and church rectors to spread the appeal in their parish bulletins and notices.
A certain part of the Warsaw’s inhabitants did not return after the destruction of the capital. They had nowhere to live. The Germans took revenge on the insurgents and mined the buildings and then blew them up, one by one. A see of ruins was left from the Paris of the North. Therefore, the Varsavians settled in various parts of Poland, anywhere they could find places. And so they and their families should know about this action to collect the names. Perhaps more names can be identified. All information, family records, valuable reports of eye-witnesses of the insurgents’ burials or exhumations should be sent to Warsaw University, Krakowskie Przedmiescie 26/28, 00-927 Warszawa, with the note: POWSTANIE WARSZAWSKIE.
It is actually the last moment to complete the list of the anonymous victims buried in this cemetery. We owe this to them. Most Poles associate the insurgents’ graves only with the Warsaw Powazki Cemetery. But the biggest insurgents’ necropolis is the Warsaw Insurgents Cemetery in the district of Wola. The communist authorities falsified the history of this place for long. Even when the monument ‘Fallen Unconquerable’ designed by Gustaw Zemla, which shows a fighter with a torn-out heart (shielding the breach in the barricade with his own body), was placed on the burial mound in 1973. The symbol of ‘Fighting Poland’ – the anchor – could be placed on the wall and shield that the fighter holds (the insurgents lacked ammunition) only in 2001. Only on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the outbreak of the Warsaw Uprising the cross – altar with the emblem of Fighting Poland and the inscription, ‘In honour of the fallen and murdered’ – could be placed there. This place was still inconvenient to the authorities.