Battle Over Jersey City’s Katyn Memorial Heats Up

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Katyn Memorial Jersey City
Katyn Memorial at Exchange Place. Photo by Chris Fry/Jersey Digs.

There are many landmarks along the Hudson River that will never be moved, but a plan to relocate a memorial in Exchange Place has created a controversy that’s gotten ugly and is now heading to court.

The latest clash along the waterfront started last week, when the Exchange Place Alliance Special Improvement District announced plans to renovate a plaza situated between the neighborhood’s PATH and Light Rail stations. The project will create more green space and recreational areas but will require moving the Katyn Memorial.

Katyn Memorial Exchange Place Jersey City
Katyn Memorial at Exchange Place. Photo by Chris Fry/Jersey Digs.

The 34-foot tall bronze statue, first unveiled in 1991, depicts a bound-and-gagged solider being stabbed in the back by a bayonet that commemorates the massacre of over 22,000 Polish prisoners in 1940 that was ordered by Joseph Stalin. The renovation plan had called for temporarily moving the statue, but Jersey City Mayor Steve Fulop tweeted over the weekend that the Katyn Memorial will be permanently moved three blocks away to a location outside of the Post Office.

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Officials in Poland voiced their displeasure with the move, and Fulop’s tweets have gotten personal. The Mayor called Polish Senate Speaker Stanislaw Karczewski a “known anti-Semite, white nationalist + holocaust denier” with “zero credibility” and added that “senior ppl of the polish govt reached out + I won’t meet w/ppl that try to rewrite history on their country’s role in a Holocaust.”

The heated rhetoric has been returned to Fulop in the form of negative comments on his social media accounts relating to the memorial being moved, although how much of that is driven by “troll” accounts is up for debate. Nonetheless, a lawsuit was filed on Tuesday over the memorial’s removal seeking a temporary restraining order that would keep it right where it is.

Filed in Federal Court by four Polish Americans, the complaint claims that Fulop’s action to move the memorial “has unlawfully sought to usurp the City Council’s authority and move the Katyn Memorial without any public input.” One of the plaintiffs in that case is Andrzej Pitynski, the sculptor who designed the memorial itself.

Representing the plaintiffs in the case is Bill Matsikoudis, who unsuccessfully ran against Fulop for Mayor last November. Matsikoudis told the Jersey Journal that Fulop’s move on the Katyn Memorial is “acting in conjunction with real estate developers” and argued that the Mayor is “governing by Twitter in a way that is misleading.”

While the war of words has continued on social media, Polish Radio reported yesterday that Fulop appears to have softened his stance towards moving the memorial a bit. That outlet quoted him as saying “my commitment to the community is that we will conduct a formal meeting with you prior to the monument being re-situated anywhere and I can commit to you that we will place it back in the public view in a respected location in the city.”

A temporary stay was placed on moving the memorial for now as the case winds through the courts, but some staging appears to have already begun in Exchange Place regarding the plaza’s renovation. When exactly the renovation will commence and what it will look like isn’t immediately clear, as no detailed plans have been released about the project.

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13 COMMENTS

  1. Being someone who identifies politically as left-of-center; I am in favor of the reexamination of ALL statues and monuments currently erected in the 21st century. I am in favor of tearing down the symbols of white supremacy and white hegemony.

    This statue is not one of those symbols.

    The Katyn Memorial in Jersey City’s Exchange Place exists as a symbol representing all of those who were murdered by the politically totalitarian regimes of both Stalin’s Soviet Union and Hitler’s Germany in 1940. Such a symbol of free expression, stood in defiance, abreast a backdrop of billowing smoke and fire on the darkest day in modern American History. At the base of this statue, those who survived the horrors of 9/11 were laid out and tended to by medical professionals, firefighters, and common citizens. One of the first visual expressions of collective grief over 9/11 was found at the base of this statue in the form of hundreds of flowers and candles mourning the loss of friends, family, and loved ones who died in New York on that day.

    And now the Mayor of Jersey City, Steven Fulop — a man who supposedly was so moved by 9/11 that he resigned from his corporate job with Goldman Sachs to join the United States Marine Corps, to fight in Iraq — has FORGOTTEN such a sentiment, and is now selling out this memorial and symbol of defiance so that his developer friends can further erase more of Jersey City’s history in the name of neoliberalism disguised as community improvement!

    Long time Jersey City and Hudson County residents (Polish or not) should be disgusted and outraged by this gesture! Some symbols are meant preserving, this is one of them.

    ~ Michael Pellagatti

    #SaveKatynMemorial

  2. Katyn Monument represents not only remembering Stalin’s crimes against humanity, where vicious murdering over 20 thousands of Polish elite, also of various ethnic descent, in Katyn and surrounding areas, took place at the beginning of WWII, and is a prime example of many war crimes committed by Stalin and Hitler – it also represents grieving over every historic massive murder committed on people by people.

    Steven Fulop should be ashamed, his ignorance should forced him out of office. Picking as a target, as he thought Polish-Americans, makes his attacks even more bewildering. Stop actions of Steven Fultp and his cronies, save Katyn Monument, keep the Monument where it is. Rally at Katyn Memorial Sunday, May 13, 2018, 3pm.

  3. While I agree that the statue should stay where it is – it is important to remember such atrocities and why they should never be repeated – and that corporate-money that businesses in the area that use to have the park redeveloped, should hold no sway here, the hate speech against the mayor is a little over the top… that never sways anyone, dialogue does, and action does. So rally at the statue and make your voices heard… hopefully enough public voices being raised will have an effect.

    • “the hate speech against the mayor is a little over the top…”

      There is no hate speech against the mayor. He himself created a tension, and used unacceptable hate language. The only explanation might be his lack of knowledge of history, that is even more bewildering, since he got education at Oxford, Columbia and NYU. Sometimes admitting an error in judgement, something that each wise politician should learn how to do, is better than to push for escalating the problem. Nobody wants to assume that the mayor was malicious when he decided to entertain the idea of moving Katyn monument that is important to many. Conflict resolution is an art.

  4. It has become to easy for local governments to just move monuments or remove them over the last several years. Mayor please rethink this action.

  5. This is such a terrible memorial. It’s gruesome, has no relevance to Jersey City, and no place in a park where kids will be playing. Move it back to Poland if you think it’s so significant.

    • Kids are playing close to gruesome memorial so they can reflect on atrocities of war so they could be a little bit depoisened from movies and video games where a lot of blood is pouring–definitively it is very good reason for memorial to stay (more good ‘traditional’ reasons are provided in other posted comments).
      Relevance is from 20 years of standing in this place–now, after mayor actions, it also important JC’s tourist attraction. JC hosting such memorial does the same what cites around the word doing hosting 9/11 memorials. In Poland there is at last four 9/11 memorials (only Israel, Canada, UK, Ireland, and Afghanistan have more).

  6. Those who murdered Polish officers,were zionist jewish bolsheviks, like it was always in NKVD terror groups… Influential, not to say ruling minority today in US like Kushners mafia behind puppet Trump

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