Polish Kotwica Symbol Sparks Debate on Usage
When Greenpointers received a tip last week that someone was allegedly passing out flyers identifying hate symbols following the discovery of hate stickers on McGuiness Blvd, we posted an image of the flyer to Instagram and began to receive many messages from local Polish residents that the Kotwica symbol should not be placed in the same category as the Swastika and other hate symbols. We also received messages insisting that the far right in Poland has recently used patriotic symbology during rallies, including the Kotwica. The local debate even received the attention of staff at the Polish Consulate in New York and the Greenpoint-based Polish and English radio station and news site, Radio Rampa, posted on the matter.
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With the rise in hate crimes in NYC in 2018, along with the spread of hate symbol graffiti in Brooklyn, someone is passing out flyers in Greenpoint to educate on how to identify hate symbols. We reported on an incident from last Sunday in which a Greenpointer discovered a series of hate graffiti stickers along Mcguinness Blvd. Read more at greenpointers.com ——————————— Many Polish businesses display the Kotwika symbol. It was the symbol of resistance to the fascist forces attacking Poland, then became the symbol of independence against the Soviets. It’s a symbol of great pride amongst the Polish culture that has been co-opted by a small number of fascists today.
It’s a fact that the Kotwica is a symbol of the underground Polish resistance fighters who fought against Nazi occupation in the 1940s. The symbol to commemorate the resistance fighters is also found in Greenpoint on a flag during summer months at the Polish and Slavic Federal Credit Union on McGuiness Boulevard and on a mural on Eckford Street around the corner from the Warsaw music venue.
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The Polish Kotwica symbol of the resistance against Nazi Germany and Russian Soviets has been misidentified as a hate symbol with the recent wave of hate crimes in Brooklyn. Earlier in the week we posted a picture of a flyer that someone was handing out in Greenpoint. The creator of the flyer placed the Kotwica symbol next to other well-known symbols of fascist groups, and we would like to clarify that the Kotwica is not a hate symbol. In fact, it can be found around Greenpoint in honor of the Polish resistance fighters who served. Every year it’s displayed on a flag at the Polish Slavic credit union on Mcguinnes Boulevard and is painted on a mural at Warsaw on Eckford Street. Scroll through and checkout the clip from @radiorampa, the Greenpoint-based Polish/English radio station.
The post is still receiving new comments and one commenter states that they wear the symbol to honor their family:
I assume the creator of the flyer together w Greenpointers.com have inside knowledge into the workings of the Polish community – since “they” explicitly know “Polish American Skinheads adopted the Kotwica Sign”. I’m pretty sure it was nationalists (number of organizations have their chapters in Greenpoint) It could have been people proud of their history. Stop labeling/generalizing. I have the Kotwica T-shirt, Jacket, Hoodie. I proudly wear it all over the world to honor my grandfather who at 14 fought in the Woods of Southern Poland only to end up in the Communist prison when the West betrayed him to the Soviets. I also wear it to honor his German Shepard who was killed w the MG-42 shells by the SS when they spotted my grandpa on the trail. Next time I’ll see this “activist” around Greenpoint – I’ll ask him to point out “Polish-American Facist Skinheads”
The Polish government even named the Kotwica a “protected symbol” in 2014, and a guide to the city of Warsaw explains why visitors will spot the symbol everywhere during the summer.
Walking the streets of Warsaw – particularly around August 1st – you see the Kotwica (“anchor”) everywhere – scrawled on the sides of buildings, adorning monuments and memorials, printed on t-shirts and pins, the occasional tattoo. For those who don’t know its significance, the ubiquity of the anchor may seem strange. The Kotwica, however, isn’t just any anchor – it’s the symbol of the Warsaw Uprising. In a city committed to remembering its past, there is perhaps no event more commemorated than the Warsaw Uprising. Though brutally suppressed, the Polish fight against Nazi occupation from 1 August to 3 October 1944, is remembered as emblematic of the nation’s commitment to freedom and her willingness to sacrifice in the battle against oppression.
So what does an anchor have to do with fighting Nazis? The Kotwica is actually more than an anchor, as the figure is an amalgam of the letters P and W, which take on a number of meanings when associated with the Polish Home Army’s (AK) fight to retake Warsaw. Starting in 1942, members of the Polish underground “Wawer Minor” sabotage unit started using “PW” to signify “Pomścimy Wawer” (“We Shall Avenge Wawer”).
While the Anti-Defamation League’s hate symbol database does not identify the Kotwica, some of the commentators on our follow-up post insist that the Kotwica is a common sight at far right demonstrations in Poland:
The reason it found it’s way on the flyer is because of the way it’s being used in Poland right now by the nationalist far right wingers. I don’t deny it’s positive meaning during WWII, but you can’t omit it’s dual meaning and keep that out of the discussion.
The comment also represents the private messages that we received on the matter insisting that the Kotwica, much like patriotic symbols in America, have been co-opted by ultranationalist hate groups. It’s difficult to confirm how the symbol is currently being used by unofficial groups in Poland, but Greenpoint residents should not be alarmed by the Kotwica, that’s unless it’s being used alongside hate symbols.