The Struggle Against Communist Oppression in Poland

Solidarity Gary Cooper

In my previous post I wrote about oppression in Poland after World-War-Two and the struggle for freedom and this reminded me of a visit to the capital city of Warsaw the year before.

Walking in the city centre we approached the heavily guarded Presidential Palace and on the pavement outside there was a display commemorating some previous uprising or other and as a backdrop there was a huge canvas poster of Gary Cooper as Marshall Will Kane in the film High Noon.

I had no idea why until I looked it up later:

In 1989 there were some partially free elections in Poland and this was the official poster of the Solidarity movement and it shows Cooper armed not with a pistol in his right hand but with a folded ballot saying ‘Wybory’ (elections)  while the Solidarity logo is pinned to his vest above the sheriff’s badge. The message at the bottom of the poster reads: “W samo południe: 4 czerwca 1989,” which translates to “High Noon: 4 June 1989.”

Solidarity leader Lech Wałęsa  explained it later:

“It was a simple but effective gimmick that at the time was misunderstood by the Communists. They tried to ridicule the freedom movement in Poland as an invention of the ‘Wild’ West, especially the U.S. But the poster had the opposite impact: Cowboys had become a powerful symbol for Poles. Cowboys fight for justice, fight against evil, and fight for freedom. ”

In 1953 Gary Cooper won the Best Actor Oscar for High Noon and in 1990 Lech Wałęsa became President of Poland.  The Soviet Force of Occupation (The Northern Group of Forces) did not leave Poland until 1993.

After the popular uprising in 1989 which overthrew Communist rule and following independence Poland planned to demolish around five hundred Soviet-era monuments and a mass demolition of reminders that are relics of the country’s Communist past which are seen as reminders of Soviet Russia’s invasion and subsequent decades-long political dominance of the eastern European nation.

Thirty-five statues of Lenin and two of Josef Stalin were removed from towns and cities across Poland.

The picture above is ‘Stalin’s Boots’ a symbolic statue that stands in Budapest in Hungary.  Before it was torn down in the uprising of 1956 it stood eighty foot tall and was clearly too big for its boots!

Since the collapse of the Soviet Union hundreds of statues of Lenin have been removed and demolished but there are still some to be found in more remote locations.  See this web post for details of Lenin Statue Spotting – Lenining

Most are in old Soviet Russia and its previously oppressed territories of course but there is a statue of Lenin in Montpellier in France, Potsdam in Germany (how bizarre), Athens in Greece and most surprising of all, Seattle in the USA.

Read another post about statues of Lenin.

23 responses to “The Struggle Against Communist Oppression in Poland

  1. which memorial to which Uprising?

    Liked by 1 person

  2. The shipyards of Gdansk are an amazing reminder. Great Solidarity museum there.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Much was misunderstood by the Communists. I’m a bit unsure about the statue of Stalin’s boots. Was it installed by the Communists? Seems as though they are more likely to do the oversized full figure rather than the boots. I would tend to read it as a warning more than anything, but not sure how that fits the era. Any ideas?

    Liked by 1 person

  4. And “Do not forsake me oh my darling on this our wedding day,” is once again running through my mind. High Noon is the first westerns I remember, Andrew. I found its connection with the Polish revolution quite interesting. Now, how do I get that tune out of my brain again? –Curt

    Liked by 3 people

  5. Very interesting and insightful. Just slowly getting to know Poland, this was a great read

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Pingback: Gary Cooper and Lech Wałęsa  | Have Bag, Will Travel

  7. From what I’ve seen of modern art, ‘Stalin’s Boots’ are probably worth a couple of million as they are now.


  8. I do remember following events in Poland at the time, but I never knew about that poster. So apt.


  9. I see that I commented on this before, Andrew. interesting use of the boots to symbolize Stalin no longer being around. Somehow, thinking of High Noon also made me think of another western classic, Shane. –Curt

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Who could ever forget Shane?! And I’m led from Alan Ladd’s role in “Shane” to “This Gun for Hire” one that, for me, is up there with “Casablanca”.


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