Anti-Polish Efforts To Erase History
By Removing Memorial Statue
The anti-Polish efforts to erase history by removing the Katyn Massacre memorial statue in Jersey City, the unnecessary war of words JC Mayor Fulop stoked with the government of Poland, the amazing response of the Jersey City and NJ Polish-American community, and the many discussions I have had with fellow Republicans about how we must defend the Katyn memorial have been a personal blessing. Obviously, the attempts by the Democratic leadership of Jersey City at the erasure of the Katyn massacre from the historical memory is immoral, but by unwittingly bringing Poland to the forefront of the public conversation they reminded and encouraged this essayist to look into his own family history.
I had long known the Einstein family story of coming to America but I hadn’t looked up the dates nor at the old documents my family had kept. Around the turn of the 20th century, my great great grandfather came from the eastern Polish city of Bialystok (then ruled by the Russian Empire) to the United States to earn money to send back to the family. There was no plan to stay in America, nor for the Einstein’s to immigrate here. Yet in June of 1906 forces of the Imperial Russian Army aided by Russian nationalists, who had been previously stymied by the Polish Bialystok police chief until his murder by the local Russian commissar, attacked Jews, ransacked Jewish neighborhoods, looted and burned down Jewish businesses and Synagogues, and murdered roughly 85 people. The pogrom took only three days but the impact on my ancestors changed the direction of the Einstein family because of the 85+ people murdered, one was my great great uncle. The Einstein family told my great great grandfather to stay in America because they were coming to America.
In December of 1906 my great grandfather entered the USA on his Russian Imperial passport. He and the Einstein’s made it to freedom. Many Jews, Poles and other people from Eastern Europe would continue to the flee the violence and oppression of first Tsarist Russia, the USSR, Nazi Germany, and then the USSR once more. Many more Poles, other Eastern European peoples, and Jews would be murdered. For too many of our fellow Americans, the oppression and violence the peoples of Eastern Europe and the Jews faced are too far away in time and geography to matter to them. For too many, the constant oppression and destruction of Eastern Europe that was the 20th century is a historical footnote if they know anything about it at all.
This is why the empty assurances that the Katyn Massacre memorial statue will be moved to an as of yet unbuilt park ring hollow. I know how easy it is to lose one’s history – had not Poland been on my mind, my father and I might have forgotten about the box in the attic with my great grandfathers’ passport and other documents. Poles know how easily the world forgot their oppression at the hands of the Russians, both Tsarist or Soviet. Ukrainians know that almost no one outside of Eastern Europeans knows the genocide that was the Holodomor. We cannot allow history to be erased, we must stand up for the Katyn Massacre memorial and all who were oppressed.
By Joshua Sotomayor-Einstein