Warsaw asked to refrain from restoring changed street names

Lech Kaczynski street in Warsaw, Poland on 28 May 2018. Photo: Mateusz Wlodarczyk/NurPhoto via Getty Images

The Institute of National Remembrance (IPN) in Poland has called on Warsaw city council officials to refrain from restoring already changed street names.

The Institute of National Remembrance is a Polish government-affiliated research institute with lustration, as well as prosecution powers.

“IPN, regardless of current political disputes, calls to invoke a sense of civic responsibility of the Warsaw city council, and appeals them to abandon the procedure if restoring already changed street names to those symbolising or propagating communism,” a statement issued by the institute announced on Sunday.

Warsaw’s current mayor is a member of an opposition party.

The Supreme Administrative Court in Warsaw upheld the verdicts of a lower court on Friday to repeal more than 40 changes to street names in Warsaw in connection with the so-called decommunisation law.

According to the law, the local authorities had to change the names of the streets that promote communism until September 2, 2017. At the end of August last year, the Warsaw Council – at the initiative of the opposition Civil Platform (PO) party – decided that just six streets would have new names.

In November 2017, the governor of the Mazowieckie province, of which Warsaw is a part, decided to overrule the City and issued a decision renaming further 47 streets.

What’s in a name?

The process of renaming streets in Warsaw has been going on since the fall of communism, when most streets named after people with a communist association or streets named after communist government anniversaries like 22 July Street, after the day when a puppet government was announced by Moscow in 1944, were changed.

According to the institute, “these names were a tribute to people and organisations that acted for the slavery of Poland, against its independence and against the freedom of its citizens.

“Their restoration will be an act that does not respect the history. It is particularly painful in the year celebrating Poland’s independence centenary.”

According to IPN, “it is possible to adopt the simplest procedures that will protect the capital from spending public funds for restoring names symbolizing the communist enslavement of Poland, and in many cases also symbolizing the crimes and iniquities of the Stalinist period.”

The institute reminded that the so-called de-communization of 2016 was “passed almost unanimously” and obliged the IPN to name streets, squares and other landmarks.