Remember Me Research Affiliate, Dr Marcin Biernat, shares some photographs of the Red Army Cemetery in Bielsko-Biała, Poland.
A few days ago I visited the cemetery of Red Army Soldiers in Bielsko-Biała, my hometown. I took a long walk around in the morning and I want to share some photos.
The Soviet invasion of Poland took place shortly after Hitler’s invasion in 1939. However, the cities Bielsko and Biała (back then they were two different towns) were occupied by the Germans. After the Soviets were attacked by Germans (Operation Barbarrosa) Russia joined the Allies. In April 1945 Soviet soldiers actually liberated the cities of Bielsko and Biała. They fought against the Germans and freed the towns from German occupation.
So the soldiers buried in the cemetery ‘liberated’ parts of Poland (liberated in inverted commas is used in Polish historiography and public discourse, as after that Poland was actually under the power of USSR).
The cemetery is located on the outskirts of the city, just by the busy road. It looks a bit unkempt. Some headstones are overgrown with bushes and the grass looked as if it has not been cut for a while.
There is a large monument of a soldier pointing towards the city centre. You can notice some grave candles and flowers put on the monument.
There is also a memorial plaque with the names of some soldiers to the left from the monument. The inscriptions on the plaque are written in Cyrillic stating the names, surname, army ranks and the Russian word красноармеец (Red Army Soldier).
The rows of headstones located around the whole cemetery are only symbolic. There is one common grave that holds the remains of the soldiers. Most soldiers buried here are unnamed.
Dr Marcin Biernat worked as a Research Associate on Case study B: Countries old and new: memorialisation among Polish migrants in Hull with Dr Lisa Dikomitis, and he maintains a strong affiliation with the project. He is a graduate of Jagiellonian University, Poland holding MA degree (magister) in Sociology and a PhD in Sociology (Jagiellonian Univeristy), focussed on Irish cultural and national identity. His research interests include collective memory, collective identity, national pride, local communities and new media. Currently he is also conducting a research on collective memory and identity in local community in Poland.