Monday, November 21, 2011

Walesa unveils one more for the 'Gipper'

Lech Walesa said that there would not be a free Poland without Ronald Reagan, during the unveiling of a statue in Warsaw of the late American president on Monday.

photo - PAP/Andrzej Hrechorowicz

(Polskie Radio) The former Solidarity leader said that “as a participant in these events,” it was “inconceivable” that such changes would have come about without the last American president during the post-1945 cold-war era.

Walesa added that thirty years ago, it seemed that the fall of the communist system would not be possible without a nuclear war.

The bronze statue of Reagan has been installed not far from the American Embassy, on Ujazdowskie Avenue, one of the capital's most picturesque thoroughfares.

A statement from President Barack Obama was read out to the guests attending the ceremony, which said that: “The location of this monument is a fitting reminder of the close ties between the American and Polish people, and a tribute to the strong support the United States gave Poland during its long struggle to free itself from communist rule”.

The three-metre high monument, designed by sculptor Wlaydyslaw Dudek, depicts Reagen nicknamed ‘the Gipper’ making his famed 1987 speech at Berlin's Brandenburg Gate.

During the Berlin address Reagan called on his Russian counterpart, President Gorbachev, to “tear down this wall.”

A letter was also read from Nancy Reagan. “I am touched by today’s ceremony in Warsaw to recognize his accomplishments,” Reagan’s widow writes.

“My husband always felt a strong bond with the people of Poland who longed for freedom. I remember the Christmas in 1981 [after martial law had been declared] when we placed candles in our White House windows, in honour of Solidarity, as [Reagan] was determined that America would do everything it could to advance liberty,” she writes.

Although the statue was created as a result of a private initiative by a group of Polish businessmen, today's ceremony was attended by a number of state dignitaries.

Poland's foreign minister, Radoslaw Sikorski was joined by US Ambassador to Poland Lee A. Feinstein, as well Mayor of Warsaw Hanna Gronkiewicz-Waltz.

Three American senators also flew to Poland for the event. (pg/nh)

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