Heroes’ Square – Warsaw

Budapest has one, London has one although it is called “Trafalgar”, what about Warsaw? I imagine Plac Defilad is the perfect location as it is central and will, eventually, be re-shaped. We could even follow the example of Trafalgar square by having the main statue atop the Pałac Kultury and then a plinth in each corner for the other worthy souls.

If you need some inspiration for whom should be represented in such a square, here are the people London chose:

Admiral Horatio Nelson rises above the rest. An all round good egg, inspirational leader and naval battle winner par excellence. His signal of “England expects that every man will do his duty”, although originally intended to be “confides” not “expects”, is right up there with “We will fight on the beaches….”. Churchill was lucky that Nelson was a naval commander, or he might have been struggling for things that had not already been said!

King George IV stands on the north-east plinth. An all round bad egg who seems to have done nothing of consequence besides asking the architect, John Nash, to come up with a bit of town planning aimed entirely at the glorification of himself as Prince Regent. His father, king George III, was nutty as a fruit cake and so left the Prince Regent plenty of latitude for high living and extravagance. This association with Nash gave us Regent’s Park, Regent’s Street as well as the Brighton pavilion. Certainly obese and an alcoholic. Very possibly addicted to laudanum and controversially linked with the poisoning of his estranged wife. On his death The Times wrote “There never was an individual less regretted by his fellow-creatures than this deceased king. What eye has wept for him? What heart has heaved one throb of unmercenary sorrow? … If he ever had a friend — a devoted friend in any rank of life — we protest that the name of him or her never reached us.”.

Major-General Sir Henry Havelock occupies the south-east plinth. Son of a wealthy shipbuilder father and solicitor mother, he went to nice schools and had what appears to be a good childhood. He went into the legal profession but fell out with his father and then didn’t have the funds to continue so he joined the army instead. He progressed in his army career and ended up being involved in a lot of skirmishes and siege-busting both in Afghanistan and in India. During what the Brits call “The Indian Mutiny” and others call “The First War of Indian Independence”, he was very much involved in the action known as “The Siege of Lucknow”. He died of dysentery there a few days after the siege was lifted.

Sir Charles James Napier occupies the south-west plinth. A General and Commander-in-chief of the British forces in India, perhaps most famous for conquering Sindh province in present day Pakistan but generally one of the most effective soldiers of the day at fighting insurgencies (of which there were many). As the eldest son of Colonel George Napier, he was destined to live an army life. His first adventures during the Peninsular War show what a gung-ho kind of chap he was. Left for dead on the battlefield of Corunna, saved by a French drummer and taken prisoner. Recovered and no longer a prisoner he went straight back into action in the battle of Coa, where he had two horses shot from under him but kept on going through that and subsequent battles until he left with a chest-full of medals. At the age of 60 he was commanding an army in India and asked to deal with demonstrations against British rule by the Muslim rulers of Sindh, which he did. A couple of quotes might give an idea of the sort of man we’re talking about – “The best way to quiet a country is a good thrashing, followed by great kindness afterwards. Even the wildest chaps are thus tamed.” and “You say that it is your custom to burn widows [on the funeral pyre of their dead husbands]. Very well. We also have a custom: when men burn a woman alive, we tie a rope around their necks and we hang them. Build your funeral pyre; beside it, my carpenters will build a gallows. You may follow your custom. And then we will follow ours.”.

The fourth plinth, north-west corner, is empty and has been the subject of long debate about who should be put up there.

I must say that I was unaware of the irony involved in the celebrations of Indian culture taking place in Trafalgar square when we were there last summer being watched, as they were, by Napier & Havelock. I wonder if they would have approved?

Clearly, if London were to start from scratch with a new “Heroes’ Square” the personalities will almost certainly be different. Nelson might still retain his lofty perch, but what about the others –

a) Churchill, Thatcher, Wellington & Beckham?

b) Bobby Moore, Hitchcock, Dickens & Douglas Bader?

c) Princess Diana, Blair, Alex Ferguson & someone from Big Brother?

d) John Lennon, Newton, Brunel & Red Rum?

I could be here all night!

So, on to Plac Defilad then, the Polish “Heroes’ Square” of the future. Any nominations of who is worthy to occupy the five spaces up for grabs? I am ignorant of much of Polish history but I’ll throw out a couple of lists just to allow target practice:

1/ Władysław Sikorski, Lech Walęsa, King Władysław II Jagiełło, Mikołaj Kopernik, Andrzej Wajda

2/ Jan Tomaszewski, Adam Mickiewicz, Sigismund III Vasa, Doda (or Michał Wiśniewski), Jan Matejko

Oops – forgot Maria Skłodowska, Jerzy Owsiak, Robert Korzeniowski & Adam Małysz!

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9 thoughts on “Heroes’ Square – Warsaw

  1. guest says:

    Plac Pilsudskiego is the heroes’ Square.

  2. scatts says:

    But it only has one hero and not one that many people I talk to consider to be the greatest, either.

  3. Piękny Lolo says:

    There is no need for yet another way of paying tribute to Polish heros and heroines.
    And if, it surely wouldn’t be Plac Defilad. An artificial square in the place where tenament houses used to stand. Never rebuilt after the war because of the Soviet present in the form of Stalin Palace of Culture and Science. Plac Defiad was used in communism for all the “people’s” holidays, army displays etc. You couldn’t have chosen a less appropriate place.

  4. scatts says:

    Lolo, I’m aware of the history of Plac Defilad. Sounds to me like it would be the perfect place to celebrate Polish heroes! Or would you rather just keep all the Soviet memories?

    guest – I know about Piłsudski square as well but as it has already been named after one person and already has his statue erected I thought a fresh start was required. I think Piłsudski should be kept for all the unknown soldiers.

    Anyway, wherever the new square is – who’s statues will be there? That was, after all, the main thrust of the article.

  5. darthsida says:

    The people London chose:
    => Nelson, an Englishman
    => George IV, a German (Hanoverian)
    => Havelock, a Danish tint?
    => Napier, a Scot
    => the fourth: [a New Zealand-born son of a Scot? an international RAF ace?]

    Pilsudski is a good start to expose the multiculture of Poland. Born in Russia, now Lithuania — a Soviet hero, one’d say, under not so weird circumstances. Don’t leave too much of Stalin, though. Georgia’s on our mind – not too often.

  6. guest says:

    Plac Defilad could be a good place for something like that ,but it will be a bit smaller than it is now….


  7. Piękny Lolo says:

    Plac Defilad needs something to demistify it. It needs something artsyfartsy, something hilarious, like pink roe deer, not heroes!
    Not to mistify it further with our national complex and ever lasting national cause. Let’s finally have fun. Now we can.

  8. David says:

    I’m interested in names of Polish women who would be heroines in polish history that would be an inspiration to a 20 year old polish women. Can you help me with this?



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