Krakow

Ryszard Kukliński Monument

  Plac Jana Nowaka-Jeziorańskiego ,   Old Town         more than a year ago
Ryszard Kukliński is a very controversial figure in Poland. A colonel of the Polish People’s Army, Kukliński began, on his own initiative, to cooperate with US intelligence services during the Cold War. Motivated by his fear of the outbreak of WWIII and the potential annihilation of his homeland in such a conflict, between 1972 and 1981 Kukliński revealed tens of thousands of secret plans drafted by the Warsaw Pact, including a planned attack against NATO allies, to the CIA. With American assistance he and his family were able to escape from Poland right before the outbreak of martial law. In the eyes of some Poles Kukliński is a hero - a brave ally of the United States in a time when the entire leadership of the Polish Army was sold to the Soviets. To others, he is a traitor - a fact reflected by the numerous times his bust in Jordan Park has been vandalised. In 2014 a Polish film about Kukliński’s life was released, entitled Jack Strong, his CIA codename.

This imposing, statement-making monument in front of Galeria Krakowska and the building of the old Kraków train station is perhaps just as controversial as its subject. Designed by Czesław Dźwigaj and Krzysztof Lenartowicz, the monument consists of a series of tipping stone blocks representing the Berlin Wall, and a broken, partially rusted steel arch soaring over them. Inscriptions on the stone blocks tell Kukliński's story in the context of the political climate of the time. Critics of the monument claim it is too abstract and does not suit the surrounding environment (on the latter point we're inclined to agree), while others have embraced the modernist style and thought-provoking aspects of this artpiece. We're in the camp of those who appreciate the aesthetic, but also the monument's readiness to confront a controversial subject and even educate people about it. Kraków was actually the first city to invite Kukliński back to Poland, making him an honourary citizen in 1998.

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