The offending work of art, entitled “Komm Frau,” German for “Come Here Woman,” had been installed on Gdansk’s Avenue of Victory on Saturday. Polish authorities removed the statue on Sunday, saying that it had been put there illegally, while Szumczyk was brought in for questioning by . . . . “ Read the rest of the article here.
Jerzy Szumczyk, a twenty-six year old student of the arts, was in the process of researching the Russian Army’s march into Germany when he was struck by what he had been studying. His studies led him to WWII and Gdansk’s German population (making up nearly 95% of the city in the 1940s) during WWII as Russia moved through Poland on its way to Germany (2). The army worked to push back the German threat and have long been hailed as saviors of the Polish people. But there was a darker side to the story. The army was also infamous for the rapes that it enacted as it swept through the nations in its way; some believe as many as 2 million German women and nearly 100,000 Polish and Russian women were raped by the Russian Army (although Russia has always denied this number as vastly over-exaggerated). (3) Reading of the horrors involved, Szumczyk was struck with inspiration and began creating the art that would nearly land him in prison.
His goal was to “depict the tragedy and ‘the whole suffering’ of rape victims” (1), so late one night he crept up next to an old Soviet tank placed in Dansk, Poland as a tribute to the Russian soldiers who fought against the Nazis. There, without a legal permit, he set up his work–a life-sized statue of a Russian soldier raping his pregnant victim:
“[I]t 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.’“(1)
But then he found himself looking at 2 years in prison for the statue he created due to its”racist” nature and its illegally erection. (1) Two days ago, the police finally announced that, while he is no longer facing prison time, he may have to pay a fine. (4)
The backlash over this piece of art has grown significantly, as many argue over the “reasonableness” of the statue’s depiction. As you can see above, Russia has “denounced” the work as “blasphemous,” claiming he “defiled” the bravery of the Russian soldiers serving in the war to defend Poland (from whence the artist hails). They call it “hooliganism,” “vulgar,” and offensive to those who remember their rescue from the Nazis (3).
On the other hand, some claim that its acknowledgment of the crime is long overdue. Others say that there were better ways to go about acknowledging the issue or remembering their pain. Still others point out that rape happened on both sides of the war–there is nothing national about the problem. The Nazis themselves were infamous for the practice (2). The question then being was his acknowledgment long overdue–or too narrowly focused on the Russians’ behavior?
What do you think?