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 until. Thirty-five statues of Lenin and two of Josef Stalin were removed from towns and cities across Poland.
Sadly, Russia being an authoritarian, militaristic state seems unable to understand a desire for independence and to be free of strutting jack boots from the East!
The picture above is ‘Stalin’s Boots’ a symbolic statue that stands in Budapest in Hungary. Before it was torn down in 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.