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Wrocław, Poland

Przejście (Passage)

A striking public sculpture representing the period of martial law in Communist Poland. 

A chilling sculpture in Wroclaw, Poland depicts a group of 14 lifelike people sinking into the ground on one side of Swidnicka Street, and reemerging on the other side. It’s most often interpreted as a memorial to the citizens who were killed or went missing during period of martial law in Poland in the 1980s.

The captivating sculpture, called Przejście (meaning “Passage” or “Transition”) is also known in English as the Monument of the Anonymous Passersby or the Anonymous Pedestrians. Created by the artist Jerzy Kalina, it consists of 14 ordinary citizens, 7 on each side of the street, descending and re-ascending into the sidewalk.

The bronze monument was installed in December, 2005 to coincide with the 24th anniversary of the onset of martial law in Communist Poland. From December, 1981 to July 1983, the authoritarian government imposed restrictive laws on everyday citizens to quash the burgeoning anti-Communist political opposition groups. 

Symbolically, martial law drove people underground in fear, and many were arrested in the middle of the night and disappeared. The pedestrians rising out of the sidewalk on the other side of the street is believed to represent the re-emergence of Polish citizens when martial law was lifted in 1983. Notably, the monument is based on a temporary piece by Kalina installed in Warsaw in 1977, so the martial law symbolism would have been added in for the new version.

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