On the 1st March the art action by Zuza Hertzberg DABROWSZCZACY – DISAVOWED AMONG DISAVOWED – took place in front of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Warsaw.
Dąbrowszczacy are the Polish citizens who were part of the International Brigades in the 1936-1939, defending the democratically elected government of the Republic of Spain.
In the nineties the inscriptions commemorating the battles fought by Dąbrowszczacy in the Spanish Civil War (Madrid 7.11.1936, Guadalajara 18.03.1937, Ebro 24.08.1938) were removed from the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
There is a significant gap, which shows how memory can be disrupted. My action aims at restoring the pluralistic nature of history – writes the artist.
The 1st of March is the official Day of Remembrance of the Disavowed Soldiers, and this year also marks the 80th anniversary of the outbreak of the Civil War in Spain.
The performance of Zuza Hertzberg creates a narration which integrates the Dąbrowszczacy into the circle of the Cursed Soldiers, as at present they have been erased from memory and forgotten. While in fact they have fought for the freedom of Europe during its first confrontation with fascism, and then for the independence of Poland at many fronts. I want to recall the people fighting under the banner “For Your Freedom and ours”. We connect to the past through what we talk about: the idea originating to Kościuszko, the Polish Legions and International Brigades–writes the artist.
The symbolic dialogue with the space of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier on this day was rooted in the tradition of official gestures and typical rituals. The artist made a tricolor flower wreath, the flowers of which were composed into the symbol of the flag of the International Brigades and a replica of the flags of the XIII International Brigade from Poland. The first flag of the Naftali Botwin Company, the Palafox Batallion was created on the basis of the original stored in the archives of the Jewish Historical Institute in Warsaw. The other flag –of the Adam Mickiewicz Battalion was recreated based on the collected documentation from the times of the Civil War in Spain. Similarly, a few antifascist flags were made.
The artist together with friends invited to take part in the action marched from the memorial of Marshal Józef Pilsudski to the Tomb of the Unknown Solider. The group walked in two columns, with the artist at the front carrying the wreath, and the other members carrying the flags. They paid tribute to the Dąbrowszczacy,
laying the wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Solider, just as any official delegation would. Hertzberg announced: To the Volunteers of Freedom, members of the XIII International Brigade, Dąbrowszczacy. Next, the actress Agata Różyca read the poem by Władysław Broniewski “Glory and Dynamite”.
The performance showed that the memorial is an ideological matter, susceptible to political changes. Through her actions the artist was able to seize the public space and demonstrate that the Tomb of the Unknown Solider should be a memorial of collective history of the Polish citizens, fighting for the freedom and independence at different fronts of war, and not be dependent on the changes of the current political mood.
The artist incorporate the private in the public, by explaining the context of this individual protest on the leaflets given out to the participants during the event. She shared that it is the family memory which inspired her to start the project. Hertzberg: We are a part of these people and they are a part of us.