Wandering about Szeroka Street of Krakow Jewish Quarter, it is impossible not to stumble across a unique statue located in the heart of this place, right ahead of Remuh Synagogue. Being the work of the local artist Karol Badyna, the statue presents an old, smart man sitting on the bench with his legs crossed. The man is a Polish-Jewish hero, Jan Karski himself.
Jan Karski was a legendary courier of Polish Underground State during II World War. This glorious emissary, putting his life in danger, got across the Warsaw Ghetto to prove to the Western world the truth about the Holocaust. In 1942 Karski informed the Allies about the mass extermination of Jews in Poland. For that reason, he is known as 'the man who tried to stop the Holocaust'.
For his courageous activity, Jan Karski was awarded with the highest decoration in Poland – the Order of the White Eagle. In addition, he was honoured by Yad Vashem with the titles of the Righteous Among the Nations and the honorary citizen of Israel.
The bronze statue of Jan Karski located in Krakow was unveiled on January 26, 2016 and it is the most recent of the Jan Karski Benches' series. The remaining benches, created by the same artist, are situated i.a. in Warsaw, Washington, New York and Tel Awiw. As the author emphasizes himself, Karski memorial bench in Krakow is different from the others – it is characterized by drama of those days. When we take a closer look at details, we'll notice that the bench is in the shape of imprinted bodies – this is the symbol of absence and emptiness after these people who used to live there not very long ago. In this way the statue brings associations with the Holocaust. However, despite being so popular, Karski memorial bench meets with opposition from the closest family of the deceased courier.
'History does not want to be a story. History still lives among us.'