Mural in Prague Honours Polish Anti-Communist Protester

A new mural has been unveiled in Prague to pay tribute to Ryszard Siwiec, a former Polish Home Army soldier who set himself on fire in protest of the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia more than 54 years ago.

The mural, which was created by local artists and unveiled on Friday, is on a street in Prague 3-Žižkov named after the Polish anti-communist protester and next to a monument honouring him, news outlets have reported.

On the night of August 20, 1968, Soviet-led Warsaw Pact forces invaded Czechoslovakia to put a stop to liberal reforms.

Less than three weeks later, Siwiec protested the move by dousing himself in paint thinner and setting himself ablaze during an official harvest festival in central Warsaw, where some 100,000 people had gathered.

Before setting himself on fire on September 8, 1968—an idea he may have borrowed from monks protesting against the Vietnam War—the 59-year-old wrote his will and recorded an anti-communist manifesto which ended with the words: “Hear my cry, the cry … of a man who loved his own freedom and that of others more than anything else, more than his own life.”

A fierce opponent of the regime in Poland, he left his wife a letter in which he said: “Forgive me, it could not have been any other way.”

Siwiec died in hospital four days after later.

But his protest went largely unnoticed. The authorities said Siwiec was mentally ill and film footage of Siwiec in flames did not emerge until after the fall of communism.

He was posthumously awarded Czech, Slovak and Polish state distinctions.


‘Hear my cry’: On September 8, 1968, Ryszard Siwiec, a 59-year-old former Polish Home Army soldier, doused himself in paint thinner and set himself on fire in protest of the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia. Photo: PAP/Leszek Łożyński
PAP/Leszek £o¿yñski
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