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Museum in honour of slain priest to be built in Poland

08.07.2022 09:00
A museum dedicated to Father Jerzy Popiełuszko, a Catholic priest who was killed in 1984 by communist secret police, will be built in the village of Okopy, northeastern Poland, where the Solidarity chaplain was born on September 14, 1947.
Piotr Gliński
Piotr GlińskiPAP/Michał Zieliński

An agreement to this effect has been signed by the "Dobro" Popiełuszko Family Foundation, which owns the plot of land for the museum, and the Podlasie Museum in the city of Białystok.

The museum is co-financed by the Polish culture ministry and the regional government.

Culture Minister Piotr Gliński said during the ceremony that bringing together a private foundation and public funds would "give further impetus to this unique undertaking."

Gliński described Popiełuszko as "a figure of authority for our time."

He said Popiełuszko "was a man who, while remaining until the end of his life faithful to fundamental Christian values, was at the same time a fighter for Poland’s independence, a man who became a martyr."

Gliński added that Russia's aggression against Ukraine has shown that "determination in the defence of values, one's community and identity is important in the modern world."

He said: “Ukrainians are capable of defending their national identity mainly because they are faithful to certain values."

A letter of intent on establishing the museum was signed at the Polish Ministry of Culture two years ago. The project is scheduled to be completed in 2025.

The museum’s design is the work of Nizio Design International, a Warsaw-based architectural studio.

The design blends architectural tradition and modernity by referring to the beauty and simplicity of the region’s roadside chapels, country houses and local churches.

The core of the project is the Place of Contemplation, a small chapel with a gabled roof specifically designed to blend in with both the natural landscape and the surroundings.

The museum will also include a reconstruction of Popiełuszko’s Warsaw apartment, a library, reading room, auditorium, café and space for both permanent and temporary exhibitions.

The director of the Podlasie Museum, Waldemar Wilczewski, has said that while the construction of the museum is in itself a huge undertaking, it is an even greater challenge to "devise a language that will get across to young visitors."

2024 will mark the 40th anniversary of Popiełuszko’s death.

Ks. Jerzy Popiełuszko odprawia mszę św. w pierwszą rocznicę strajku w Hucie Warszawa, sierpień 1981Jerzy Popiełuszko, pictured in August 1981. Photo: IPN

Popiełuszko was a beacon of hope following the communist regime’s crackdown on Poland’s pro-democracy opposition and the imposition of martial law in December 1981.

On October 19, 1984, he was abducted by three secret police officers on his way back to Warsaw from the northern city of Bydgoszcz and subsequently murdered.

In 2010, he was beatified by the Roman Catholic Church and declared a martyr.