Warsaw: Only seven monuments commemorate specific women
There are over four hundred and fifty monuments in Warsaw, only seven of them depict specific female figures, emphasized Michał Krasucki, the Warsaw Monument Conservator.
Most of the “female” monuments are anonymous figures. Only seven of them commemorate specific women.
“On most monuments, a woman is depicted as a symbol of motherly love, grace, sacrifice or mourning. There are also a lot of sculptures that play decorative roles. We can most often meet them in parks, for example Bathing Woman (Olga Niewska) in Skaryszewski Park, Alina (Henryka Kuna) in Żeromski Park, a townswoman in the Old Town and a street vendor in Mariensztat. We have a rich representation of female sculptures in the Saxon Garden, where out of 21 personifications of virtues, seasons, features of the mind or science, 18 are female figures. In the back of the Supreme Court building, impressive figures of women-caryatids symbolize faith, hope and love, said the conservator.
In Warsaw, you can also find monuments of mythical figures, such as Syrena and Nike, which, after all, have a female figure. One of the numerous mermaids in the capital is, however, a hybrid. “The legendary and unreal half-woman half-fish has the face of a real woman. It is about the statue of the Mermaid from the Vistula sculpted by Ludwika Nitschowa, for which Krystyna Krahelska, later a paramedic and Warsaw Uprising member, posed. So is it a statue of a heraldic mermaid or a specific heroic girl?” asks Michał Krasucki.
However, sculptures of women do not always play only a decorative role. With the help of their image, the artists also convey sublime and respectable feelings. An example of this is the monument to the Mother (Łukasz Krupski) in the Park Powstańców Warszawskich in Wola, the monument to the Women of the Warsaw Uprising (Monika Osiecka) at pl. Krasiński, or the statue of a woman mourning the dead (Irena Nadachowska) at the monument to Home Army soldiers who died in the attack on the Gdański Railway Station. “They all, however, represent anonymous people” – noted the conservator.
An interesting fact is that virtually all monuments dedicated to women do not have plinths. They were placed on low pedestals, and the figures themselves are not much taller than the height of an average person.
Only seven specific women have been honored with the statue. Two in particular in this narrow group. Namely, Maria Skłodowska-Curie and Eliza Orzeszkowa, who each have two monuments.
The Nobel Prize winner has a statue (of Ludwika Nitschowa) at ul. Wawelska, near the Radium Institute and on Skarpa Wiślana (Bronisława Krzysztofa) in the vicinity of the Church of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The writer was distinguished with two busts: in Park na Książęcem (Romuald Zerycha) and Park Praski (Henryk Kuna).
Another woman whose monument was erected is Maria Konopnicka (Stanisława Kulona), who was hidden in the Saxon Garden. Agnieszka Osiecka, unlike her fellow writer, got a monument (by Dariusz and Teresa Kowalski) in a very exposed place, because on ul. French. “Unfortunately, the change of the tenant of the neighboring premises from a cafe to a grocery store destroyed the authors’ idea of a romantic reception of the poet’s commemoration” – the Warsaw conservator said. In the park behind the Sejm of the Republic of Poland, a monument to Halina Mikołajska, an actress and opposition activist, was erected (work by Krystyna Fałyga-Solska).
Two more women were immortalized on the monuments. Unfortunately, the sculptures were placed in places where passers-by would hardly see them. The first one is the statue of General Maria Wittek (Jan Bohdan Chmielewski) standing so far in front of the Museum of the Polish Army. The second one was unveiled in the courtyard of the Institute of the Deaf at pl. Three Crosses for scoutmaster Wanda Tazbir. “We still have an interesting exception. And it is the marriage monument in Wilanów of Jan III Sobieski and … Marysieńka, not Queen Maria Kazimiera,” Krasucki noted.
“The necessity of restoring the rightful place to outstanding women and commemorating them in the public space becomes obvious over time. When asking the question why there are no women on the monuments, one must remember who wrote the textbooks and whose deeds were described in them – i.e. men. They underestimated the actions of women or deliberately downplayed them. And it is not about elevating the traditional role of women in the home and raising children to pedestals, but about their social and creative activities or even heroic deeds. The lack of their merits on the pages of textbooks translates into the awareness of almost all of us and the conviction that there were actually no meritorious women” – said the conservator.
“It’s time to describe the history of humanity from the point of view of both sexes and honor them fairly,” he added. (PAP)
author: Marta Stanczyk