I don’t have to walk downtown to find history in Warsaw. I live very close to the Warsaw Citadel (Polish: Cytadela Warszawska). I had been meaning to go over and see the Tenth Pavilion at the Citadel, for a while. As it turned out, I kept getting sidetracked, and waiting until it was too late in the day to head over that way. The first day I went out early enough to see the museum, I followed Google Maps, which took me to a gate that was not open to the public.
One thing, which I didn’t come across while reading about the Citadel, was that it is an active military installation. As I approached the gate shown below, I saw to men in military fatigues, go though. They were apparently stopped by someone in the shadows to the right of the archway and had to present IDs. I walked over to the bulletin board to the right of the window. Though the postings were not in english, it was still made very clear that the gate was not for tourist. A map showed how to go around the fort to the museum. It was too late in the day to walk that far, so I left it for another day and headed home.
Today, I decided that it was time to try again. Though Google Maps wanted to route me back to the no-go gate, I forced it to lead me to a point on the other side of the fort. After several cold days, it was finally a nice one. It was still a little chilly, so I walked quickly on my way to the museum.
As I walked, I noticed banks of white along the sidewalk (above). It was not snow. It was fluff from trees, as can be seen in the closeup below.
I was nowhere near to the Tenth Pavilion, when I saw a gate leading to another museum which is on the Citadel grounds; The Muzeum Katynskie. I had plenty of time so I headed in to see what it was. I didn’t have it on the list of museums to see, which I made up using walking tour itineraries.
I took a few photos of the brickwork of the fortifications before going into the the museum. Walking under the archway, I saw the ticket office and headed that way. The guard at the gate stopped me and handed me a ticket. Admission was free, without audio tour.
I took no photos of the inside of the museum, not because photography was banned, but because the exhibits were too profound for me to even think about taking photos. The exhibit is multimedia, with lighting and sound effects enhancing the story being told. It was done with a very light hand, so that it didn’t detract from the experience. Not all the explanations had english translations, but enough of them did for me to understand what I was seeing.
The museum’s website says, “The Katyn Museum is the first martyrological and museum museum in the world documenting the Katyn massacre committed on 22 thousand prisoners and prisoners detained in the years 1939-1940 in Soviet camps and prisons.” As I walked through looking at the personal items of the survivors and the ones who did not make it back home, I felt as if I was invading their privacy. Photos would have been too much of an invasion.
While some of the items were donated by survivors, most where things excavated from “killing pits”. All the canteens had what looked bullet holes in them. One of the placards stated that the damage was intentional.
It looked to me as if the victims had been told to take their things, because they were being moved, before they were taken to the pits and killed. The items on display seemed to be more than just what they would carry in their pockets all the time. It was as if they gathered up their few precious things before heading out.
There were razors, toothbrushes, homemade dominos, hand-carved chess-sets, and other things you wouldn’t expect a person to carry everywhere. Of course there were lots of things you would expect a person to have on their persons like; eyeglasses, cigarette tins, dogtags, wedding rings, lighters, coins, clothing and etc. It seemed as if the killers didn’t rob their victims. Of all the heart-wrenching things I saw, the ones that will stick with me are the homemade shoes. They were carved from wood, with belt leather fashioned into straps.
Once outside the main museum, it took me a moment to realize that the museum was continuing along a pathway to another building. The pathway was lined with steles with one or more words engraved in them. It took passing a few before I realized that the words were occupations. When I began writing this post I looked up the words I didn’t know and they too were occupations.
When I came to the next building, I hesitated for a moment, wondering if it were open to the public. No one was around, so I tried the door. It was open. The first thing I saw was a line of large panels with names; so many names. When I turned to my left, I saw a model of the Monument to the Fallen and Murdered in the East, which I walk past often. That was when I made the connection. The whole time I was in the museum, I didn’t think about the fact that what I was seeing was what the memorial was about.
At the end of the memorial are blank tables awaiting the names of the currently unknown victims. Once outside the memorial, I walked up the staircase that I had seen before going into the museum. It gave a feeling of escape. At the top of the stairway, I found myself looking back across the symbolic woods to the front of the main museum building.
When I got to the museum exit, I asked the guard for the restroom. As usual the restroom was very clean. Though the museum had been cold, which added to the atmosphere of the exhibit, the restroom was heated by a radiant heater.
Leaving the fort, I noted that I had plenty of time to go to the Pavilion Ten museum before heading home. Rather than walking back to the road and following Google Map directions, I walked along the path outside the fort walls. I came across another filming crew, setting up for production. I guess I was wrong to think that I had gotten away from the inconvenience of always having to change my route to go around production crews when I left Hawaii. I have heard that the local TV stations are concentrating on filming original content.
Once I got around the production crew, I was able to cross back over the road to follow the path again. As I went along the path seemed to be more like a park. The bell shown below has no clapper, but inside are some things which I wasn’t able to tell if they were lights or speakers.
Inside the prison building was a huge mural. In the gallery around it were studies done by the artist of the various figures.
I managed to see all there was to see at the museum and head home. As I continued to walk around the edge of the fort, the park continued getting more beautiful as I went.
Google Maps kept freaking out, wanting me to walk on the sidewalks next to the streets, as I made my way through the park. I kept it going, hoping that I was adding to Google’s tracking information. The bridge above was gated off, and unused, except by a cat, which went running along the top with what seemed to be a fresh kill in its mouth. Not far past the bridge, I saw the tree below. I took a photo just because I thought it was neat that a wreck of a tree was resprouting.
When I got closer to the tree, I saw what I thought was some colorful trash stuck in a hole. Closer inspection showed me that someone had filled most of the tree’s holes with stained glass. I walked around to the back and found that I could stick my head inside to take a photo.
I was glad to find that that the back side of the park ran very close to my neighborhood, so that I was soon home.