- Title: "Westerplatte should unite us", Polish war veteran says amid political tensions
- Date: 26th August 2019
- Summary: GDANSK, POLAND (AUGUST 13, 2019) (REUTERS) VARIOUS OF 91-YEAR-OLD WAR VETERAN JERZY GRZYWACZ WALKING AROUND WESTERPLATTE WHERE GERMAN NAZI BATTLESHIP OPENED FIRE ON POLISH GARRISON STARTING WORLD WAR TWO GRZYWACZ'S POLISH HOME ARMY ARMBAND IN POLISH NATIONAL COLOUR WHICH HE WORE DURING WARSAW UPRISING IN 1944 GRZYWACZ WALKING TOWARDS WESTERPLATTE MONUMENT COMMEMORATING DEFENDERS OF POLISH COAST GDANSK, POLAND (AUGUST 12, 2019) (REUTERS) FLAGS OF POLAND, EUROPEAN UNION AND CITY OF GDANSK WAVING WITH WESTERPLATTE MONUMENT IN BACKGROUND GDANSK, POLAND (AUGUST 13, 2019) (REUTERS) PEOPLE PASSING BY WESTERPLATTE MONUMENT / GRZYWACZ TALKING GRZYWACZ SPEAKING NEAR WESTERPLATTE MONUMENT SAYING (Polish): ''18 YEARS OLD (when asked about the minimum age to join Polish Home Army during World War Two" GDANSK, POLAND (AUGUST 12, 2019) (REUTERS) PEOPLE PASSING BY WESTERPLATTE MONUMENT GDANSK, POLAND (AUGUST 13, 2019) (REUTERS) (SOUNDBITE) (Polish) WORLD WAR TWO VETERAN AND FORMER HOME ARMY SOLDIER, JERZY GRZYWACZ, SAYING: "That was the first day (September 1, 1939). The day that seared very deeply into my memory. Even after 80 years, despite everything, the surprise of this war, of the fact that they were bombing us was a very strong feeling."
- Embargoed: 9th September 2019 17:00
- Keywords: Westerplatte battle Polish veteran World War Two war in Poland political battle
- Location: GDANSK AND GDYNIA, POLAND
- City: GDANSK AND GDYNIA, POLAND
- Country: Poland
- Topics: Society/Social Issues
- Reuters ID: LVA001ATZU893
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text:On one of the first day of September 1939, Jerzy Grzywacz, then a ten-year-old boy, was standing on a wooden pier in Gdynia watching German Nazi battleship 'Schleswig-Holstein' opening fire from Gdansk harbour on the Polish garrison in Westerplatte in the first days of World War Two.
The granite column that towers over the Baltic port of Gdansk commemorates the seven-day siege of Westerplatte in September 1939, when dozens of Polish soldiers defied the overwhelming firepower of a Nazi German naval fleet.
For many Poles the monument - comprising the column and a small park - is a symbol of national courage, but the ruling Law and Justice Party (PiS) accuses the Gdansk municipality, which is linked to the opposition, of allowing the site to fall into disrepair. Near the column stand ruined barracks with rusted wires protruding.
Grzywacz, who fought for the Polish Home Army and now runs the veteran association, opposes the plans to rebuild Westerplatte and would like to keep the buildings the way they are now. He says Westerplatte is a symbol of Polish resistance and should unite people and not divide them.
"The political battle over Westerplatte is very painful for us, the war veterans, a really painful experience," Grzywacz told Reuters appealing to both sides of this dispute for the willingness to talk and to reach the compromise.
Last month PiS rushed legislation through parliament to transfer oversight of the area to the central government in Warsaw.
Critics of PiS say the row over Westerplatte is part of a broader government policy of historical revisionism they say is aimed at fanning nationalist sentiment among voters and discrediting the opposition.
(Production: Malgorzata Wojtunik)
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