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Katyn Monument In Jersey City
Remains At Location

By on October 23, 2020

The Polish community is uniting again!

September 2020 was a most noteworthy month in the history of the tri-state Polonia community of New Jersey, New York and Connecticut.  What transpired highlighted the vigilance displayed by the Committee for the Conservation of the Katyn Monument and Historic Objects since it began two years ago lead by Janusz Sporek.  The Sporek Committee learned that an ordinance proposed by the City may have a profound effect on the status of the Katyn Monument remaining at its location in Exchange Place.  Without hesitation, Charles Balcer, Vice-Chairman of the Committee for the Conservation of the Katyn Monument and Historic Objects (Sporek Committee) alerted all members and began communicating with the City Council and the City’s Law Department advising them of our concern.  After successfully negotiating new language which would remove the threat three members of the Katyn Committee, Janusz Sporek, Wojciech Mazur and Charles Balcer spoke at the September 10th Council meeting.  All eight members, with one being absent, voted in support of the change.  Following are the remarks made by the three Katyn Committee members:

Charles Balcer:

The Committee for the Conservation of the Katyn Monument and Historic Objects would rather not be here tonight but for the fact that vigilance is a necessary component of our democracy.  There are many battles that have been fought on foreign soil and here at home to insure our freedoms and to support all we hold sacred.  The Katyn Monument symbolizes the hope and suffering of mankind in its eternal search for freedom from oppression.  

Our mission is to safeguard the Monument and the Councils action here tonight with regard to the minor change to Ordinance 20-062 adds another measure of strength to that mission.  We’ve come a long way since 2018 when we fought for the Monuments perpetuity at its site.  During that fight thousands of people of all persuasions stood by us, as did you, the Council, when it came to a vote and you all voted affirmatively.  For that we are eternally grateful and shall not forget your standing by us.

In the time since we began a cordial and solid working relationship with the Exchange Place Alliance who have been very gracious to us in understanding our mission.  We look forward to continuing that relationship as Exchange Place develops toward the future.

We are now here on the eve of a sacred day in America’s history.  I recall Council president Watterman, congratulating us in 2018, saying the fight has been won and hopefully it’s over.  But, in truth, it never is.  The fight for the right looms above us in all things and as I said in the beginning vigilance is a necessary component of our democracy.

In these uncertain times we look to better days ahead and our hundreds of members, near and far, thank the Council for your support and good wishes.  If we have to come back, we will.  It’s always good to see you. 

Janusz Sporek:

My name is Janusz Sporek.  As President of the Committee for the Conservation of the Katyn Monument and Hisoric Objects I would like to thank the Council for their support to the Polish American community and Jersey City residents.  Thank you for keeping the dialogue open to address our concerns.  Thank you for continuing to honor the promise to keep the Katyn Monument at its present location in Exchange Place.  I would like to remind the Council that the Katyn Monument holds a plaque commemorating those who died from the attack on 9-11.  On the eve of that anniversary I would like to thank you for continuing to support the community’s wish to keep memorials such as these in order to remind and teach about those who sacrifice for our freedom.  Thank you.

Wojciech Mazur:

My name is Wojciech Mazur and I am a professional engineer and businessman.  I fully understand the process which needs to be initiated for the reconstruction of Exchange Place.  As one of the members of the Committee for the Conservation of the Katyn Monument and Historic Objects who met with Ms Elizabeth Cain and her staff at Exchange Place last June I believe we came prepared to discuss our concerns for the overall plan.in an intelligent manner.  We presented our view for the changes to make Exchange Place even better.  Ms. Cain and her staff were grateful for our input and together our goal was consistent with the Exchange Place Alliance.  The overall goal is to make the city even more beautiful and attract visitors and tourists which will create added revenue for the city and its residents.  We reminded them also of the importance in keeping the existing art protected, particularly the Katyn Monument, which is on many visitors priority lists when arriving in Jersey City.  It is important that all ethnicities understand the significance of the Monument as a symbol of all peoples struggles for freedom whether they be Polish, Latino, African American, Korean, Indian or any one of the multitude of nationalities Jersey City hosts under its roof.  In this time of turmoil we, the Katyn Committee, are an example of unity.  Thank you.

September 20th was another memorable day for Polonia as the Committee for the Conservation of the Katyn Monument and Historic Objects organized and celebrated the 81st anniversary of the Soviet aggression against Poland on September 17, 1939.  The celebration was hosted by President Janusz Sporek and a minute of silence was observed in memory of those who died then as well as the deaths of our dear friends,  Councilman Michael Yun and Andrzej Pytynski, the worldwide acclaimed sculptor of the Katyn Monument.  Their untimely loss is notable in that one created the monument and the other protected it on our behalf.  To them we are eternally grateful.  The celebrations music and patriotic songs were provided by Mariusz Bielski and Julia Bielska.  In attendance we were honored by the presence of the Vice Consul of the Polish Consulate in New York City who gave a wonderful speech.  In addition to the Vice Consul we heard from the Honorable Slawomir Platta, Esq. who recalled the early days of our struggle.  President Janusz Sporek spoke as well a 92 year old who was exiled to Siberia in that terrible time.  We were greatly honored by the presence of Jersey City Councilman James Solomon who read out the Solemn Proclamation issued by the City Council and signed by Mayor Steven Fulop.  The Proclamation recognized the Committee for the Conservation of he Katyn Monument and Historic Objects as an organization representing the Polish Diaspora and acknowledged the very date of the treacherous aggression of Soviet Russia as a significant fact in the history of the Second World War.  We most deeply appreciate the presence of Jersey City Councilman Richard Boggiano, a close ally of the late Councilman Yun,  who expressed his support of our efforts to honor and maintain the Monument as a universal symbol of the sacrifice of veterans and patriots for future generations.  Turning to the Monument and in a decisive tone, he loudly assured us he would never allow its removal.

Also in attendance on that memorable day we were honored by the presence of the following delegations:  the Polish American Strategic Initiative, the Grand Marshal of the 2020-2021 Pulaski Day Parade and a representative of the Polish Army Reconstruction Group.  Boguslawa Huang, a Sporek Committee member, honored us with a beautiful rendition of Polish music and poetry given by the students of her Polish school.  We also acknowledge the presence of Andrzej Burghardt representing the Polish American Congress as well as a group of motorcyclists from the Polish Husaria Club.  The Sporek Committee was represented by Iwona Rachelski and Wojciech Mazur who laid flowers with a red and white sash girdled around the monument informing passersby in English of what transpired by Russia in its aggression on September 17, 1939 and was co-responsible for unleashing the Second World War. 

Despite the limitations of Covid-19 the Committee for the Conservation of the Katyn Monument and Historic Objects, along with the magnificent showing of the Polish community, showed once again how by acting in a collective and unified manner we are able to overcome all obstacles.  

Charles Balcer
Committee for the Conservation of the Katyn Monument and Historic ObjectsVice-Chairman