City Hall - Table of Contents

2011 photos
Katyn  Memorial Plaque
Entrance Lobby, City Hall, Buffalo, NY

beneath the text.




Jozef Slawinski


Hammered copper
Unveiling: The memorial plaque was unvailed on the 40th anniversary of the Katyn Forest massacre.

Excerpt from
Remembering Katyn
by Brian Crozier
April 30, 2000
Hoover Digest, 2000 no. 2

In April 1940, nearly twenty-two thousand Polish prisoners were rounded up, transported to Katyn and various other sites, and executed. They included army officers, civil servants, landowners, policemen, ordinary soldiers, and prison officers. They were lined up, made to dig their own mass graves, and shot in the back of the neck.

The victims were never tried or presented with any charges. The executions were ordered personally by Stalin in a memorandum dated March 5, 1940, to Lavrenti Beria, the head of the NKVD (predecessor of the KGB). Per Stalin's instructions, the prisoners were to receive the "supreme measure of punishment - shooting."

The mass grave in Katyn Forest was discovered by the occupying Nazi forces in 1943. The disinterment of more than four thousand corpses was an unexpected gift to Goebbels's propaganda machine, which broadcast the story to the outside world - to the embarrassment not only of Stalin but of his wartime allies Roosevelt and Churchill. Roosevelt dismissed the Nazi claims as "German propaganda and a German plot." Churchill was less explicit: "The less said about that the better."

There the matter lay—until March 3, 1959, when Aleksandr Shelepin, then head of the KGB, gave full details in a secret memo to Krushchev of the numbers executed. The total was 21,857 killed:

4,421 in the Katyn Forest (Smolensk region)
3,820 in the Starobelsk camp (near Kharkov)
6,311 in the Ostashkovo camp (Kalinin region)
7,305 in other camps and prisons in western Ukraine and western Belorussia

Excerpts from

  Choosing Icons
by Bruce Fisher
July 5, 2007
 Artvoice  (online Nov. 2014)

Katyn is a name known to Poles. Katyn was once known to the world, in the way that My Lai, Rwanda, Ground Zero and other geographies of horror and outrage are known to the world. Katyn is the name of a forest in eastern Poland in which 15,000 Polish army officers were slaughtered by Stalin’s secret police.

Slawinski’s plaque is a grim, dignified work of mourning for a monstrous crime. In metal like an icon, it is a dark negation of any possibility that that crime can be forgiven. In hammered copper, it is a reversal of the iconic Russian vocabulary of religious art, in which the painting of the face of the Virgin, or of a saint, is surrounded by the protective strength and richness of the metal. Here, the image of the horror is on the metal itself: The only paint is a small field of red above the central figure, red for the Polish flag.

Excerpts from
 Before All Memory is Lost: The Polish story of survival in Buffalo after Hitler and Stalin 
by Bruce Fisher
Sept. 16, 2009
 Artvoice  (online Nov. 2014)

Deep in a dark recess in Buffalo’s City Hall is a terrifying piece of art made by the same Polish exile who created the Calasanctius muralJozef Slawinski’s hammered-copper bas-relief commemorates the place, the event, the process, the unimaginable suffering that the Poles know as Katyn.

On the border between Buffalo and Cheektowaga, there are hundreds of stone monuments to members of the Polish army-in-exile who came to America, specifically to Buffalo, and who lived out the remainder of their lives in the hope of returning to their homeland, but while here created a complex legacy that literally reshaped our collective landscape.

Many of the displaced persons were educated, because Poland in the years after World War I had broadened the reach of its schools. Many DPs arrived knowing English, especially those who had been in the military in Britain or in British-controlled territories in the Mideast. Some had been among the 1.5 million Poles who had been exiled to Siberia or to Central Asia by Stalin; there are, or were, Poles in Buffalo who had toiled in cotton fields in Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan until they made their way out.

Andy Golebiowski and a small group of volunteers formed the Polish Legacy Project to try to gather up some of the stories of the Polish DPs. DPs were the “displaced persons” who survived the German death camps, including Auschwitz and Buchenwald, where so many of their Jewish and Christian countrymen were murdered. The DPs were also the survivors of the German forced-labor camps and farm-labor slavery, people who then found themselves stranded in Allied zones at war’s end in 1945.

2011 Photos

Details below:

Lower left signature: N.F. [Niagara Falls, where Slawinski worked],  N.Y.

Photos and their arrangement 2011Chuck LaChiusa
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