"We prayed for the imminent establishment of Polish war cemeteries. How much effort, how much adversity had to be overcome during the last ten years, know only those, whom, from our hearts, we can thank today."
On behalf of the Katyn Families, Dr Ryszard J. Rudziński.
From a speech delivered on 28 July 2000, during the opening ceremony of the Polish War Cemetery in Katyn.
With the publication on 13 April 1990 by the TASS Agency of the statement of the Soviet authorities "on the direct responsibility for the Katyn crime of Beria, Merkulov and their accomplices", there appeared a chance for a proper and dignified memorial to the victims. Families and relatives of the victims gathered together as members of the Katyn Families Federation and passed a resolution to build a Polish War Cemetery in Katyn. This demand became the basis for, as it turned out, long and strenuous negotiations between the authorities of the Republic of Poland and the government of the Russian Federation.
The establishment of the cemetery was preceded by measurement and survey works carried out by Polish experts, geodetic and cartographic research and the exhumation of victims' remains. All works were organized and coordinated by the Council for the Protection of Struggle and Martyrdom Sites (ROPWiM), headed by Andrzej Przewoźnik. The surveying and exhumation works carried out in the Katyn Forest in the years 1994 - 1995 by specialists led by Prof. Marian Głosek proved beyond doubt that the remains of Polish soldiers murdered by the NKVD in the spring of 1940 were located in the mass graves there. Precise geodetic measurements of the area made it possible to prepare the documentation necessary for those entries, who were invited to take part in the competition for the project of the spatial development project of the cemetery in Katyn.
After many years of effort and diplomatic endeavors, a document was signed in Smolensk on 25 March 1995, which allowed for the building of a Polish cemetery in Katyn. In June 1995, on the fifty-fifth anniversary of the Katyn Massacre, the President of the Republic of Poland, Lech Wałęsa laid the foundation act and the foundation stone consecrated by Pope John Paul II for the construction of the Polish War Cemetery in Katyn.
The ROPWiM's open competition for the project of the spatial development of the cemeteries in Katyn, Mednoe, and Kharkiv was won by a team led by sculptor Zdzisław Pidek from the Academy of Fine Arts in Gdańsk and Andrzej Sołyga from the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw.
In the years 1998-1999, as a result of the tendering process, contractors were selected for the construction of the cemetery were selected. Groundworks and construction works were performed by the Polish companies Budimex S.A., together with its subcontractor Energotechnika Sp. z o.o. from Knurów. The consortium of Budimex S.A. and Metalodlew S.A. from Kraków handled the production of the cemetery's sculptural decor, its delivery, and assembly. The bell was made by the Janusz Felczyński i S-ka Odlewnia Dzwonów [Bell Foundry] from Przemyśl.
In April 1999, the ROPWiM received from the Russian authorities the right to dispose of the area for the construction of the cemetery and permission to build it. A month later, construction work started.
On 28 July 2000, as part of the celebrations commemorating the 60th anniversary of the Katyn Massacre, the Polish War Cemetery in Katyn was opened and consecrated. The construction of the Katyn Cemeteries and their opening ceremonies were held under the patronage of the then Prime Minister, Prof. Jerzy Buzek.
As Andrzej Przewoźnik wrote: "This moment symbolically crowns the long and thorny road to the cemetery in the Katyn Forest. This place attracts and will attract the attention and thoughts of Poles from all over the world, united by a collective grief following the loss of their loved ones".
Based on A. Przewoźnik’s "Cmentarz w Katyniu", (in:) Katyń. Księga Cmentarna Polskiego Cmentarza Wojennego [Cemetery in Katyn, (in:) Katyn. Cemetery Book of the Polish War Cemetery], Council for the Protection of Struggle and Martyrdom Sites, Warsaw 2000.