Wednesday, August 17, 2011

9/11 Lights and the Katyn Memorial

The Katyn memorial (or the Katyn soldier, as I call it) stands 34 feet tall on a granite base that contains Katyn soil, at Jersey City's Exchange Place. It is a timeless reminder of the Katyn massacre of 1940, when tens of thousands of Polish nationals were massacred at Katyn, in the Russian forest, by Stalin's Soviet troops. The event led to the occupation of Poland--the eastern part fell under Stalin's Soviet Union occupation.

Created by Polish-American sculptor Andrzej Pitynski, the memorial was unveiled in June 1991, displaying a bronze statue of a soldier, gagged, his back impaled by a bayoneted rifle. The Katyn memorial is also a place of gathering, of commemoration and also celebration. It's where local festivals take place--the Jersey City Pride festival, the Irish festival, and others. Also, in the wake of the late Polish president, Lech Kaczynski, who died last year (2010) in a plane crash, together with his wife and the entire administration on their way to commemorate the 70th anniversary of Katyn, locals, especially those of Polish decent, stopped by the statue to lay flowers and light candles. I had the honor to photograph them. Some of the images I posted on my CNN iReport profile were actually vetted by CNN.

There's also a 9/11 plaque on the pedestal of the memorial. Every 9/11 I try to photograph the lights behind the Katyn soldier. Initially I wanted to call the image  "Backstabbing" or something of that sort, because as the Polish soldiers, intellectuals and officers who were back-stabbed and massacred during WWII, those who lost their lives in the 9/11 attacks had the same... fate. They never saw it coming...

September 11, 2005 offered a partially cloudy sky, which added to the overall symbolism of the day. In 2006, for some reason, I could not photograph the Katyn memorial with the 9/11 tribute lights in the background. If I remember correctly, there was some kind construction going on, something was definitely blocking the view. Otherwise I would have taken the shot.

On September 11, 2007, though, the Manhattan sky was clear, the Tribute Lights peering through the air, heavy with memories, tears and candle lights, to reach far into a Beyond yet to be unperceived by human eye.

A year later, in 2008, I slightly switched my angle and viewpoint on my image of Katyn Soldier and the Tribute Lights. That's how the black-and-white image emerged.

The Katyn statue silhouettes against an empty sky background, one without the Twin Towers. Lately, new constructions have started reshaping Lower Manhattan, and also changing Katyn Memorial background.

As always, thanks for visiting.
Alina Oswald
Author of Infinite Lights - A Decade of 9/11 Photography

No comments:

Post a Comment