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  • 27 July 2015

    Well-known Polish figures sit down in front of the Consulate General office in New York, on a bench with a monument of Jan Karski, the legendary Polish courier who, during World War II, informed the Allies about the Holocaust. As part of the #KarskiNYC project, Polish diplomats make use of this unusual monument of the hero to remind American people about his achievements.

    The aim of the “Great Pole’s Bench – #KarskiNYC” campaign conducted in social media is to remind people about Jan Karski on the occasion of the 15th anniversary of his death. The Consulate General of the Republic of Poland invites well-known Poles to have their photos taken while sitting on Jan Karski’s bench, situated in front of the consulate in New York.


    The campaign is now being promoted by Agata Olek Oleksiak, also known as Olek, a Polish artist whose works are made of fiber only, and who is famous for “dressing up” various elements of the landscape. She has already dressed up the bull in Wall Street, made a knitted coat to be put on the Locomotive in Łódź and created some works for the British Royal Family using fiber and a crotchet. Now, she has set her sights on Jan Karski’s bench. Within just a few days, the whole monument got covered with golden yarn.


    - By dressing up this important work of public art in a „new” skin, which will be crocheted on location, I hope to spark people's curiosity as to who the „crocheted” man was and to highlight the heroic deeds of this great Pole who risked his life to tell the world about the atrocities of World War II – she explained.


    During World War II, Jan Karski (b. 1914, d. 2000) was a courier and a political emissary of the Polish Government, who witnessed the horrors of the Holocaust. His reports were shown to the leaders of the United Kingdom and the United States, as well as politicians, bishops, artists and representatives of the media and the film industry in Hollywood, asking for help for occupied Poland. Unfortunately, many people did not believe Karski's reports, which included descriptions of the destruction of the Warsaw Ghetto and the secretive German-Nazi extermination camps. Instead, the reports were considered as propaganda of the Polish government in exile.


    In 1944, Karski wrote a book entitled “Story of a Secret State”, to make the American public finally learn about the struggle and suffering of the Poles during World War II, the extermination of the Jews, as well as the role of the Polish underground state. After the war, Karski became a professor at Georgetown University.


    The #KarskiNYC campaign was inaugurated in 2015 by the Consulate General of the Republic of Poland in New York, by publishing a photo of the famous Polish jazz musician Michał Urbaniak sitting on Jan Karski’s bench.


    The bench in front of Polish Consulate has been made by a Polish sculptor Karol Badyna, who is also the author of similar works created to honour the hero in Washington, Tel Aviv, Warsaw, Kielce and Łódź.



    MFA Press Office


    Photo: Jan Latus

    Olek crocheting and Karski

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