WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Poland’s president and government ministers attended the state burial Sunday of a World War II resistance commander and communist regime victim whose remains were found in a hidden mass grave.
The funeral at Warsaw’s Powazki military cemetery was part of democratic Poland’s efforts to remind the nation about facts and figures from the past that were taboo themes under decades of communism — for example, resistance against the regime and the persecution it was met with.
The current conservative government of the Law and Justice party is especially focused on honoring wartime and communist-era independence fighters who were imprisoned, executed and secretly dumped in unmarked mass graves by the communist regime in the 1940s and ’50s. Only a few of the graves have been found.
One of the victims was Col. Zygmunt Szendzielarz, codename “Lupaszka,” who was executed in a Warsaw prison in 1951, aged 41. An officer of a mounted regiment, he fought against the Nazi German and Soviet invasion in September 1939 and later led an underground resistance movement.
He continued his fight for Poland’s sovereignty after communism was imposed on Poland in 1945. Secret security agents arrested him in 1948 and he was given a death sentence.
“Today, 65 years later, as we honor Col. Szendzielarz with these ceremonies, we are giving Poland its dignity back,” President Andrzej Duda said during a funeral Mass at the Powazki church. “Dignity that was trampled by those who tortured and murdered” Szendzielarz.
“Today, Poland has top authorities who remember, honor and appreciate” such fighters, Duda said.
Szendzielarz’s remains were found in 2013 among dozens of others, buried in sand under wild grass in a Powazki corner. Szendzielarz and some others were identified through DNA tests. A white stone memorial has been since put up at the site.