Renovation of mass graves at the Military Cemetery in Płock.
A project titled “Renovation of mass graves at the Military Cemetery in Płock.” carried out by the Busola Socially Excluded Education Association within the second edition of the programme “Czuwamy! Pamiętamy!” („We stand by! We remember!”) managed by the ORLEN Foundation.
Project “Renovation of mass graves at the Military Cemetery in Płock.” was a continuation of our activities run within the previous edition of the programme “Czuwamy! Pamiętamy!” („We stand by! We remember!”). Then, we renovated five mass graves and one individual grave. Thanks to the engagement in this project we brought nice and neat outlook of the next six mass graves as well as four individual, anonymous ones. In this way, we managed to commemorate in a dignified way memory of those who died in fights for the freedom of the motherland in the first half of the XX century.
Objectives of the project.
The objectives were identical to the ones we had when trying to get a grant in the previous editio of the programme “Czuwamy! Pamiętamy!” („We stand by! We remember!”). These are:
– commemorating soldiers who died fighting for the freedom of the motherland in 1920, especially those who died during the ‘Defence of Płock in 1920’.
– taking care of the mass graves of the mentioned above soldiers and carrying out cleaning and renovating works at the Military Cemetery in Płock, at Norbertańska Street 25.
– carrying out named above works at the mass graves,
– developing knowledge about history of Płock and fights for freedom of Poland among inmates from Płock prison,
– developing respect for history of Płock and Poland among inmates from Płock prison,
– shaping patriotic attitude among inmates from Płock prison and the inhabitants of Płock,
– social rehabilitation through history,
– awakening prosocial attitude among inmates from Płock prison.
An additional objective, a very important from the point of view of the ones who were engaged in the activities at the cemetery (namely, prisoners) was enabling a chosen group of students-inmates a possibility to temporarily leave prison premises to renovate mass graves at the Military Cemetery. An option to temporarily leave the prison is one of the most important social rehabilitation factors, since thanks to this, prisoners have a chance to spend their time in conditions different from the ones they face in penitentiary isolation. It has a huge, positive impact on the social rehabilitation factor itself as well as it is a very important educational and psychological element.
Why have we decided to choose this place?
The most important reason why we chose the Military Cemetery in Płock is the fact that we took part in the first edition of the programme “Czuwamy! Pamiętamy!” („We stand by! We remember!”). Our activities, within which we renovated a few mass graves, were very positively received by many recipients. The previous edition received a lot of attention – the management of the Płock prison was very pleased with the work we did and with the engagement both of the association as well as the prisoners who were directly involved in the works. The representative of the ORLEN Foundation, Ms. Małgorzata Rogowska visited the Cemetery in person and very highly assessed our engagement and done work. Our activities were also described in the national opinion-forming NGO portal (www.ngo.pl) as an example of involvement in the programme:
All these elements had influence on the decision to carry on with our works.
The second, no less important reason to choose this place was the fact that this is the only cemetery in our city (at least to our knowledge), where one can find ashes those who died during the “Defence of Płock” in 1920. In 1920 there was a 100th anniversary of the event and we thought it would be a good moment to be able to commemorate the ones who died then. Unfortunately, COVID pandemic forced us to put off the activities till September 2021.
Another reason was the fact that at the cemetery there are still very many mass graves that need putting effort to bring them proper outlook back. That is why we wanted to carry out works, effects of which would satisfy all parties – the funders (ORLEN Foundation), the Płock City Hall as an institution looking after the Memorial Sites in Płock, our association as a beneficiary of the programme “Czuwamy! Pamiętamy!” („We stand by! We remember!”), because thanks to the involvement in the project we were able to follow our aims set in the association constitution. Not without the significance was also the fact that thanks to the involvement in the project, volunteers could take advantage of it – these were prisoners serving their sentence in Płock Penitentiary Unit. Their advantage was the fact that they were allowed to temporarily leave the prison premises and effectively use this time for the sake of the local community.
What did we do?
Condition of the majority of the mass graves is not the worst, nevertheless they should be taken proper care of. Mass graves that we renovated are graves in soil. There are a lot of weeds growing and dishevelled plants. In the soil we could find many unwanted elements that we had to remove. Concrete edges around the graves were broken in many places and they need filling in. We should also clean the graves out of moss and dirt as well as impregnates concrete elements. Crosses at the graves should also be cleaned, broken areas filled in, and they should be completely painted.
Being aware in what conditions graves are, we managed to implement the following works (we are talking here about 6 mass graves and 4, individual, anonymous graves):
we cleaned concrete elements of the mass graves; we removed moss and all dirty residue,
we filled in cavities in these concrete elements,
we impregnated concrete elements,
we cleaned concrete crosses which stand by the mass graves – 71 pieces,
we painted white the crosses,
we dug the soil and removed all unnecessary elements found in it (i.e. stones, twigs, branches, chestnuts, etc.),
we commemorated the deceased by lighting candles at the graves, after all works had been done.
Moreover, we decided to „refresh” the graves which we cleaned in January 2020 during our first involvement in the programme “Czuwamy! Pamiętamy!” („We stand by! We remember!”). To read more, please see the tab “Resocjalizacja przez historię” (“Social rehabilitation through history”). WE cleaned the crosses and repainted them, we removed all unnecessary items from the soil, we raked the soil and cleaned the edges of the graves. In total, including refreshing the “old” crosses, we painted 136 pieces and took care of 11 graves + 4 individual graves. We think we have managed to do a lot of good work!
All of the named above activities led to the final, direct effect – renewed, nice-looking mass graves. All of these works were done by a small group of prisoners from the Płock penitentiary. The chair of the “Busola” Socially Excluded Education Association is also the Headmaster of the school at the Płock prison. Together with the management of the prison (and most of all the prison Penitentiary Department) we selected a group of three inmates who, being temporarily released, could go to the cemetery to do the named above works. These works were supported by two teachers from the prison school (among of which was the Headmaster of the school) who, at the same time, are the members of the association.
The results of our works.
An image is worth more than a thousand words. Below you may find a movie clip and a picture gallery which presents the course of our actions. All works were done on 04, 05, 11, 12, 17 and 21 September 2021 by 8 inmates and 4 teachers of the prison school who are the members of the association.
Photos: Hubert Skrzyński and Hubert Dajnowski [ hubertdajnowski.pl ]