WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Poland on Wednesday began demolishing a Soviet-era memorial to Red Army soldiers, an unwanted reminder of the power that Moscow once held over Poland and a symbol that grew even more objectionable after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
The removal of the memorial in Brzeg, in southwestern Poland, fell on Ukraine’s Independence Day and on the sixth-month anniversary of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24.
It is part of a longer effort to remove hated communist symbols from the public space in Poland and across the region. Poland, like some of its neighbors, was invaded and occupied by Germany and the Soviet Union at the start of World War II and then endured decades of Moscow-backed rule until 1989.
The Polish state historical institute, the Institute of National Remembrance, has been working with local communities to remove dozens of similar Soviet-era memorials.
Rafal Leskiewicz, the institute’s spokesman, said that in March, when a decision was announced to remove them, there were still 60 standing. The monument in Brzeg mark’s the 24th to be demolished.
He said it was important to remove such memorials because of Russia’s war in Ukraine, but also because a Polish law in 2015 calls for them to removed.
“It is impossible to keep such monuments in the public sphere,” he told The Associated Press.
The work to dismantle the Brzeg monument is expected to last several days, he said.
Poland, which lies on Ukraine’s western border, has been a key ally to Kyiv, sending military and humanitarian aid into the war-torn country. It has also become a place of exile for more Ukrainian refugees than any other single country.
The development in Poland comes after Estonia’s government last week started removing a Soviet World War II monument from near a city on the Russian border as part of a wider effort, prompted by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, to dismantle remaining Soviet-era symbols.