'Pseudo-Art': Russian Ambassador Slams Wartime Rape Sculpture

The controversial sculpture alongside the Soviet tank in Gdansk, Poland. Zoom
DPA

The controversial sculpture alongside the Soviet tank in Gdansk, Poland.

The brief appearance of a concrete sculpture in Gdansk last Saturday depicting a Red Army soldier raping a pregnant woman has sparked ire on both the Polish and Russian sides. Now the artist could be facing two years in prison.

He wanted to depict the tragedy and "the whole suffering" of rape victims. But now Jerzy Bohdan Szumczyk is facing up to two years in prison. Prosecutors have launched an investigation into a possible charge of inciting racial or national hatred against the 26-year-old artist, even though his concrete sculpture was only in place for one night. It was erected without permission in the northern port city of Gdansk next to a Soviet tank, a communist-era memorial to Red Army soldiers who liberated the city from Nazi forces in 1945.

The reason for the heated reaction is the theme of Szumczyk's life-sized sculpture: It shows a soldier -- identifiable as Russian by his helmet -- kneeling between the legs of a heavily pregnant woman lying on the ground. He is holding her hair in his left hand as he puts a pistol into her mouth with his right. The title of the piece, "Komm, Frau," is a German phrase meaning "Come, woman."

Police removed the sculpture just a few hours later -- but the deed had already been done. According to the English-language Moscow Times, Russia's ambassador in Warsaw, Alexander Alexeyev, said he was "deeply outraged" and that Szumczyk had "defiled by his pseudo-art the memory of 600,000 Soviet servicemen who gave their lives in the fight for the freedom and the independence of Poland." Alexeyev also called for an "appropriate reaction" from Polish authorities.

The incident has stirred up much controversy in the media and on Internet forums. One person wrote that the sculpture is not an insult to Russian soldiers, but a silent scream of the victim. Others emphasized that sexual violence had occurred on all sides, and not just in World War II.

Journalist Marek Gorlikowski also spoke out critically in a commentary for the Polish daily Gazeta Wyborcza, writing: "Such a monument is absolutely not the way to commemorate the victims of rape." A proper memorial should be established, he added, perhaps at the Museum of World War II in Gdansk, but such nighttime happenings do not do them justice.

Soviet soldiers' rape of women was especially frequent in the last months of the war, although exact figures are unknown. In Gdansk, the victims were largely made up of German women as well as Russians and Poles who had been Nazi prisoners. Before the war, the free city of Gdansk -- or Danzig, in German -- had a mostly German population. In Russia, discussing the crimes of the Red Army during World War II has remained largely taboo.

-- with wires

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1. Truth Hurts
redbaron616 10/17/2013
Sometimes the truth hurts, but it is a fact that the Soviet Union used rape as a weapon. It is amazing that a Soviet tank is still there as a monument to the Soviets driving out the Germans during WWII. That was merely exchanging one brutal dictator for another brutal dictator. Yet the tank remains. Truth hurts, but it will ultimately triumph. The Soviet tank is just as abhorant as the Russians find in the other statue.
2. optional
Hans George 10/17/2013
Perhaps Treptower Park in Berlin would have been a more appropriate venue. Is the film Katyn also considered to be "inciting national hatred" against the Russians? As usual, the Russians remain largely clueless as to why so many in eastern Europe have mixed feelings about their Soviet "liberators."
3. Can I Say This In Europe?
4nd.you.know.this 10/17/2013
I constantly hear Europeans pathetically squall about freedom of speech and freedom of expression as if they have any idea what it is. Europe’s ignorant citizens have no idea how censored their societies truly are. Freedom of speech in Europe? No, more like freedom of government-approved speech.
4.
High Hat 10/17/2013
"Russia's ambassador in Warsaw, Alexander Alexeyev, said he was "deeply outraged" and that Szumczyk had "defiled by his pseudo-art the memory of 600,000 Soviet servicemen who gave their lives in the fight for the freedom and the independence of Poland." I guess this Russian forgot that Stalin and Hitler both attacked Poland at the start of WWII. It took another 40 some odd years for Poland to become independent before the Russians really left. Poland simply had the misfortune of being between Hitler and Stalin and caught it from both sides. There were plenty of barbaric acts committed during the war, neither Russia nor Germany can point a finger at the other. I hope all the countries involved can resolve to never enter war again.
5. Gdansk sculpture
ipreferzihua 10/18/2013
I think Jerzy S B is very brave. The idea that he may be sentenced to 2 years in jail is outrageous. Freedom of expression should be protected by all countries, especially Poland. He is to be commended for his brilliant work and praised for his courage. I believe "Dottore" Paul Christoph Martin will agree with me. C C-S, Salem, MA, USA
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