Patriot or Vandal? Teen in Southern Poland Charged with Defacing Monument to Red Army

A teenager in southern Poland is to be tried on suspicion of vandalising a monument in his home town – but veterans’ organisations supporting the boy say that defacing the statue was an act of patriotism, not crime, because it is a memorial to Red Army soldiers.

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The 16-year-old boy, who cannot be named for legal reasons, is said to have vandalised the Braterstwa Broni (Brothers in Arms) monument to the Red Army in Nowy Sącz, during a rally on September 27 last year. He has been charged with causing 500 złoty worth of damage to the monument.

The offence, like all similar acts of vandalism in Poland, may be prosecuted under articles 261 and 288 of the Polish Criminal Code, and the boy will appear in court on March 19.

However, Krzysztof Bzdyl, speaking on behalf of veterans’ and independence fighters’ associations in Kraków, said the monument was a relic of the Soviet occupation of Poland, adding that the case showed that communist-era police repression continued in Nowy Sącz today.

Mr Bzdyl said: “Police are exacting revenge [for the fall of communism], even on a 16-year-old boy, sending him to the juvenile court for his patriotism and courage.”

The Red Army swept into Poland in September 1939, just days after Hitler’s armies had invaded. Throughout the war, and immediately afterwards, Russian troops committed attrocities against Poles. Stalin then won an agreement from the USA and the UK at Yalta, which put Poland in Moscow’s sphere of influence after the war, until 1989.

The Nowy Sącz case echoes others in nearby Kraków, where monuments in the city’s Park Jordana have been defaced. One such was a monument to Cold War spy Ryszard Kukliński, who passed secrets to the West, but who some still say was a traitor.  Even the late Pope John Paul II has not escaped, as his monument on Kraków’s Błonia was vandalised with anti-semitic graffiti.