Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Angel of Death

photo by
Sometimes I feel like such a schmuck. Such was the case this afternoon, when I was happily surfing the web looking at statues like this one at It was pricey so I moved on, coming to a complete stop when I discovered this moody photo of an Angel of Death statue.
Photo by Xartez 

My pupils enlarged to take in all that beauty. What a perfect specimen, I  thought. What a marvel of engineering, to keep those heavy wings extended so far upright. Wish I had one of these in my yard, I thought.

Well, I am the World's Biggest Ass.

Further research on this statue revealed I had fallen in love with a sculpture that had become an international symbol of  Russian deceit.

I will make this history lesson very short. One paragraph, in fact.

Turns out this statue is part of a monument to the 22,000 Polish police officers, border patrol agents, intellectuals, soldiers, and priests who were murdered execution-style in the woods near the small Russian village of Katyn, Russia by the one of Stalin's secret police forces in 1940. All of these men had been at a concentration camps with other people and had been duped into registering their occupation upon arrival. Because of their occupations, these victims were pulled from camp early, executed, and all thrown into the same pit that had been dug in the privacy of the woods. There they lay, secretly buried there in foreign soil, and forgotten. An elderly villager eventually told a visitor of what he suspected was in the woods, causing the International Red Cross to investigate. No one expected to find more than a few dozen bodies; certainly not 22,000.  The site was excavated, revealing mummified bodies, many clearly in uniforms. For over 50 years, the Russians denied their involvement, and pointed fingers at the Germans. Great tension between Poland and Russia ensued, and Katyn became a metaphor for Russian deceit. In 1991, Mikhail Gorbachev finally admitted Russia's guilt and a year later released documents showing Stalin had authorized the killings.

This is what the statue is facing: 
photo by Aga

This haunting set of monuments was created by Tadeusz Tchórzewski, a sculptor from Warsaw, and was  unveiled in October, 2000. The statue is located in Wroclaw, Poland.

On the highest pedestal there is a figure of the Angel of Death. In front of it, between symbolic graves, there is a figure of Katyń Pieta (the Matron of Poland) despairing over a body of a murdered prisoner of war. On the granite walls of the graves, the names of the prisoner-of-war camps are inscribed.

Another Katyn Massacre memorial had been erected in the U.S., at Saint Adalbert Catholic Cemetery in  Illinois, by Polish immigrant and sculptor Wojciech Seweryn, whose father had died in the Massacre.
One year ago, this sculptor was traveling with Polish President Lech Kaczynskihis to a memorial service in Russia for the 70th anniversary of the Katyn Massacre. The plane crashed in heavy fog, and all 96 on board perished.
photo by RaKLeZ
photo by Ferran Cornella

Here's more of the statue's facial details, if you look really hard:

photo: dayslikethis on flickr

I really love angel statues, and this one has the most marvelously detailed spread wings. But I am really sorry about the history behind this one.


  1. Well, it can still be seen as a marvel of engineering. It's interesting how learning the history behind something can make you view it in a whole new light!


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