Open letter against so called decommunisation of Dąbrowski Brigade Street in Warsaw

Zdzisław Sipiera
Governor of Masovian Voivodeship

pl. Bankowy 3/5
00-950 Warsaw

Dear Sir,

On behalf of the Volunteers for Freedom Association, in connection with the Act of April 1st, 2016, banning the promotion of communism or other totalitarian systems through names of buildings, sites, and public facility buildings, and the rights you shall acquire when the aforementioned Act becomes effective, i.e. in September 2017, we wish to bring to your attention the disturbing use of the Act so as to erase several names of Warsaw streets which
commemorate formations, organizations, and persons who have rendered outstanding service in fighting fascism and nazism. We believe the case of Dąbrowszczaków (Dąbrowski Brigade) street in Warsaw deserves particular attention, bearing the name of volunteers of the fight against Spanish, German, and Italian fascism during the Spanish civil war 1936-1939. The last months saw a debate in local and national media concerning the unfair acts of erasing memory thereof from urban space.

The Dąbrowski Brigade, along with the International Brigades’ volunteers of all ethnicities, are commemorated and venerated all over the world as the first ones to confront the military expansion of fascism. Their efforts and sacrifice are widely recognized regardless of the political views held by those aware of the fact that the volunteers aimed at stopping the havoc wrought on September 1st, 1939.

“If Madrid falls today, Warsaw will fall tomorrow” – this motto led thousands of men and women from Poland to Spain to defend a young democratic republic against the troops of Francisco Franco, Adolf Hitler, and Benito Mussolini. German airplanes which bombarded Spanish towns were the very same ones that dropped bombs on the Polish capital in September 1939. Today the existence of a street whose name commemorates the Dąbrowski Brigade in Warsaw is in question. Hereby addressing you as the last instance who has power over the change of street names within the so-called decommunization act, we urge you not to allow to erase the remembrance of Polish antifascists from Spain, from urban space.

The definition of the Dąbrowski Brigade authored by Institute of National Remembrance (Instytut Pamięci Narodowej), which serves as support to recommend the change of street name, contains several errors and misrepresentations, as well as simplification and ideological interpretation of historical facts. These concern the following information: the composition of the XIII International Brigade (the Dąbrowski Brigade), their ideological belonging, their motivation, and the post-war activities of Polish volunteers. Above all, however, the aforementioned
definition does not state the aim of the Brigade members’ journey to Spain: i.e., the fight against fascism. The notion of fascism, like the names of Franco, Hitler, and Mussolini, is not once mentioned in the Institute’s memorandum. That such a statement – one which does not meet scientific standard and diverges from an objective approach – should influence the change of Dąbrowszczaków street in Warsaw, is extremely disturbing.

In addition, bearing in mind the laws, principles, and values comprised in the Constitution of the Republic of Poland as well as the European Charter of Local Self-Government, we urge you to consider the statement of the city dwellers’ and of the Council of the Capital City of Warsaw in the first place. We wish to emphasize the fact that in November 2016, the Council registered a petition against the change of Dąbrowszczaków street name, signed by nearly 1700 residents who live in the immediate vicinity.

We demand that all the arguments and premises described herein be considered, and the change of the name of Dąbrowszczaków street in Warsaw should not be allowed, so that the memory of Polish antifascists is not erased from the city map.

Yours sincerely,

On behalf of the Volunteers for Freedom Association:
Jeremi Galdamez, member of the Board
Pat Kulka, member of the Board
Maciej Sanigórski, member of the Board