The draft law on freedom and independence struggle veterans’ graves that passed its first reading in Poland’s Lower House on Thursday specifies the resources allocated for looking after the burial places of Poles who contributed to the Polish state’s independence.
A minister at the PM’s Office, Paweł Szrot, said that “generations of Poles and all other ethnicities resident on the territory of the Republic of Poland sacrificed their lives in its name. Those who have fallen fighting, as members of regular military formations or guerrilla or underground resistance or as the occupiers’ victims… all of them are revered and respected and future generations should cultivate them in their memory.”
According to the draft law, a record of veterans’ graves will be compiled by the Polish Institute of National Remembrance (IPN) and its head will be responsible for keeping it updated. In addition, the law will allow NGOs, churches, religious organisations and legal entities to apply for financial support with repair and conservatory works for veterans’ graves. Individuals will also have the possibility to apply for partial or full funding.
The draft law interprets “veterans’ graves” as “graves of people fighting for the regaining of Polish independence or in defence of Poland’s independence and its sovereign borders... between 1768-1963.“ Moreover, it will also cover “civil servants… the underground Polish state authorities of 1939-1945, members of the Polish Government in Exile from 1939-1990 and members of underground independence civil organisations…”
For his part, the opposition Civic Platform (PO) party MP Michał Szczerba said that his party supports further work on the law, adding that the phrase “honour and glory to the heroes” is often repeated in an act of homage to the heroes of Polish independence, who “deserve respect here and now, and they also deserve respect when they depart.”
There are a large number of Polish graves, cemeteries and burial places located outside of Poland, which the Polish government will look after in accordance to the law once it is passed. Perhaps one of the most famous is the Katyń War Cemetery in contemporary Russia where a total of 4,421 Polish officers and cadets rest out of 15,000 murdered by the Soviet secret police in 1940 alone.
Another famous burial place is the Cemetery of the Polish Eaglets in Lviv, Ukraine where nearly 3,000 Polish soldiers are buried. Also in Ukraine, the Janowski Cemetery hosts graves of Polish soldiers. Further to the north, in Belarus’ Kurapaty Cemetery around 3,800 Poles are buried in mass graves.