Witor Węgrzyn died on the 17th January in Chicago, the commander and founder of the Polish Katyń Motorcycle Rally. Who was the man who managed to bring together nearly 30 thousand motorcyclists?
Commander Węgrzyn was born in 1939 r. in Warsaw. His father was a soldier of famous gen. Kleeberg, the undefeated general of the battle of Kock. Later served In the underground National Armed Forces (NSZ).
Wiktor was four when in 1943 he learned about the murder of Polish officers by the Rusian in Katyń. Even as a teenager during the times of cruel Stalinist terror, when not a word could be said about Soviet crimes, he printed Katyń poems and together with a friend pasted them at night in the streets of Warsaw.
He studied at the Central School of Planning and Statistics in Warsaw. He went to the USA in 1973 what meant to be a short stay. However, following a quarrel with the Peoples’ Republic consul, he decided to remain abroad. In Chicago, he joined in the life of Polish community, bound to the former soldiers of gen. Władyslaw Anders, very critical of the communist regime in Poland.
He ran his own radio “Viktoria”, a patriotic bookshop as well as car repair shop.
He used to assist his compatriots in Poland organizing collections for the repressed workers, among others Anna Walentynowicz.
After a twenty-year absence, in 1993 he visited Poland. His meeting with the homeland was very painful to him. A new generation had grown, brought up on communist lies, not knowing the history of their own country. In one of grammar schools, 17 percent of students wrote: “the Poles murdered the Jews in Karyń”! Such a lie perpetuated by the young generations was a shock to him. He decided to change that.
Motorcycles were his passion from his early youth but really, his great love for motorbikes could be fulfilled when he was fifty-three, and diagnosed with cancer. He gave up his job – his own car repair shop and when he got better he went with his seven years old granddaughter on a three-month tour of the United States. The experience he gained he decided to graft onto the Polish soil in order to restore historical memory and dignity to the Poles and the Polish history.
The Polish motorbike milieu is not associated with gangs and violence, more with freedom and independence that is why the response was not long to wait for. In 2001, he founded the International Katyń Rally Association and with a group of 50 adventurers they set off for Katyń. He was assisted by Reverend Prelate Zdzisław Jastrzębiec Peszkowski, a former prisoner of POW camp in Kozielsk and the chaplain of the Katyń Families. Assistance also came from the minister of foreign affairs, Primate Józef Glemp and from RC radio station “Radio Maryja” run by father Tadeusz Rydzyk and from “Nasz Dziennik” daily. Non-Roman Catholic even now media happen not to notice the phenomenon of the Katyń Rally and its commander Wiktor Węgrzyn – was attacked, lately for allegedly supporting President Putin’s “The Night Wolves”. Wiktor Węgrzyn and his rally have a better press abroad than in Poland.
During the Rally, which has a different route each year, the bikers with white and red flags visit places over our eastern border mainly connected with the Katyń massacre such as: Katyń, Kuropaty, Kharkiv, Miednoye, Ostashkov..
Węgrzyn’s bikers were the first to go to Huta Pieniacka and pay tribute to the Poles murdered by SS-Galizien and UPA (Ukrainian Insurgent Army), to Ponary near Wilno, where Lithuanian Shaulis and Germans executed approximately 100 thousand Polish citizens. They also went to Kłuszyno, where, in 1610 in a great style we defeated tsar Vasili Shuyskiy’s army.
Along the route of the Rally, there also were places of birth of great Poles: Mickiewicz, Paderewski, Słowacki, orphanages in Belarus, Russia, and Ukraine. The most important place, though, was Katyń. There, at the memorial cemetery, an annual mass with torches was held in memory of the murdered Polish officers, and also the Russians that were the first victims of Communism.
Over the sixteen years, the Katyń Rally became an institution and a powerful social movement. The Commander was an unquestionable leader of this movement. Financially independent and decisive to tell the truth. Two years ago he supported an independent presidential candidate. Rally to Jasna Góra in Częstochowa draws around 30 thousand motorcycle riders. In several kilometers long cavalcade with red and white flags to a holy mass at one of the most important sanctuaries in Poland. Commander Węgrzyn never hid his patriotic conviction. He critically took to the changes that took place in his fatherland.
“The air in Poland is so full of lies that it is difficult to breathe” – he said in one of his interviews but did not wring his hands.