Destruction of Heritage

Destruction of Heritage – Lech S. Borkowski

Recently one of the newspapers reported that a nineteenth century villa on the outskirts of Warsaw was destroyed by an investor, who bought the site earlier. The building was not in good shape and had to be renovated. It was, however, registered as a historical monument and an alteration of its architectural integrity was not possible. Repairs and renovations of such objects are subject to close scrutiny of a special office of the regional government. A destruction of the building is absolutely out of the question.

However, the monument was first demolished and then taken off the register of historical monuments by the minister of culture and national heritage.

The law has been violated. Part of the heritage is gone. Such stories are repeated over and over again in Poland. Why does it happen?

The answer is pretty simple. The process of gradual removal of pre-1945 heritage continues. The same process has been carried out before 1990. This is a planned erasure of the pre-1945 past. It is carried out piece by piece to make it appear as a series of unfortunate circumstances. In theory the law and the appropriate authority should prevent it. However, the use of law is subject to “revolutionary dynamics”, as Stanisław Mackiewicz wrote in his book “Russian Minds in Fetters” (George Allen & Unwin Ltd, 1932). The Polish title is “Myśl w obcęgach”. Sometimes the law is being applied and sometimes it is not.

The main difference between the pre-1990 and post-1990 destruction of the past is the type of excuse used by the authorities. Post-1990 excuse is the capitalist anarchy of developers. However the real reason in most, if not all, cases is the same as before 1990.