Warsaw, Poland – A statue of Solidarity chaplain Jerzy Popiełuszko has reportedly been vandalized in New York City, angering the city’s Polish community who sees the murdered priest as a martyr.
The statue, which has been up for nearly 30 years, was found covered in trash, with a garbage bag pulled over the priest’s head.
The NYPD says it is investigating the incident, which took place in the historically Polish neighborhood of Greenpoint, as a potential hate crime.
The fact that the incident occured Polish Constitution Day, an important holiday for the Polish-American community, does suggest that the target was not accidental, although nothing has been confirmed yet.
According to local news, activists say this is not the first or even the second time this has happened here. Back in 1990, on Polish Independence Day, the statue’s head was knocked off and garbage strewn around it.
As the unofficial chaplain of the Solidarity trade union, Jerzy Popiełuszko became famous throughout Poland for his uncompromising stance against the regime with his sermons routinely broadcasted by Radio Free Europe. He was kidnapped and murdered by Communist agents in October 1984.
Agnieszka Holland’s 1988 drama To Kill a Priest tells the story of Popiełuszko’s murder, with Christopher Lambert, starring as a fictionalized version of the chaplain, and Ed Harris, who plays the secret police captain set to assassinate him.
Last year, the statues of Tadeusz Kościuszko and Casimir Pulaski, erected not too far from the White House in Washington, were also defaced during the demonstrations the nation’s capital, sparked by the death of George Floyd in police custody.
The Polish Poland’s ambassador to Washington reacted at the time by saying that he was “disgusted and appalled” by the “acts of vandalism” committed against the statues of the two Polish national heroes.