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The Warsaw Voice » Society » December 21, 2011
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Reagan Memorial Unveiled in Warsaw
December 21, 2011   
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A statue of former U.S. president Ronald Reagan, who strongly backed the Polish opposition in its efforts to overthrow communism in the 1980s, has been unveiled in Warsaw by ex-Polish president and former Solidarity union leader Lech Wałęsa.

The more than 3-meter statue, unveiled Nov. 21, stands across the street from the U.S. embassy on Ujazdowskie Avenue and depicts the former U.S. president standing behind a rostrum. It was inspired by photographs of Reagan speaking at Berlin’s Brandenburg Gate in 1987, when he uttered the memorable line: “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!” The statue was created by Polish sculptor Władysław Dudek.

“Let us bow our heads to Mr. Reagan for the fact that it was in our generation that the big divide was overcome, and big potential conflicts were staved off,” said Wałęsa at a ceremony attended by Polish and American officials.

Wałęsa headed the Solidarity trade union when in the 1980s it was at the forefront of efforts to topple Poland’s Moscow-backed communist regime. Communism finally collapsed in this country in 1989.

Jacek Michałowski, head of the Polish President’s Office, read a letter from President Bronisław Komorowski at the unveiling ceremony. “Ronald Reagan took office as president of the United States at a time when the confrontation between the East and West had gained momentum. In those circumstances, as the leader of the free world, he pursued a determined and consistent anti-communist policy,” read the letter. According to Komorowski, Reagan’s famous words in which he called the Soviet Union “the evil empire,” “clearly pinpointed the... difference between democracy and totalitarianism.”

The U.S. ambassador to Poland, Lee Feinstein, read a letter from Barack Obama, in which the American president said that Reagan “had a gift for inspiring hope in people facing difficult circumstances. He helped restore a sense of optimism in America during a period of economic and global challenges, and did the same for the Polish people through his unflinching support for the Solidarity movement.” Obama also said in the letter that the United States “values its long friendship with Poland and looks forward to continued cooperation as [both] nations work together to confront the challenges of the 21st century.”

Reagan supported efforts in Poland to overthrow communism. With his permission, the CIA channeled funds to the Polish opposition to help them fight the communist regime. Reagan also supported a campaign of providing help for Solidarity activists after the imposition of martial law in Poland and was instrumental in imposing economic sanctions on communist Poland. In 2007, during a visit to California, late Polish president Lech Kaczyński posthumously bestowed the Order of the White Eagle, Poland’s highest state honor, on Reagan, handing the order to his widow Nancy.
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