Belarus opposition leader unveils memorial to Polish freedom

WARSAW, Poland — A Belarusian opposition leader on Friday helped unveil a new monument commemorating Solidarity, the Polish trade union and freedom movement that played a historic role in the collapse of communism in eastern Europe.

Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, the main opposition candidate to challenge longtime dictator Aleksander Lukashenko in an election last year, attended the unveiling alongside Warsaw Mayor Rafal Trzaskowski.

At a news conference ahead of the inauguration, she said the struggle for freedom in Poland has been an inspiration for her people.

“The history of the Polish Solidarity movement is especially close and important for Belarus,” she said. “These events inspired Belarusians both when they took place back in Soviet times and later when a new dictatorship emerged in our country and Belarusians began to rely on the experience of our neighbors in fighting it.”

The monument is made up of large letters reproducing Solidarity’s iconic logo. Friday is the 32nd anniversary of the first partially free elections in Poland after decades of communism, an achievement of Solidarity.

Tsikhanouskaya met with Belarusians living in exile on Thursday, and was greeted by a crowd of Belarusians and Poles. Many Poles feel a strong sense of support for the struggle for freedom in Belarus, a fellow Slavic nation on their eastern border.

On Friday she also met with Polish President Andrzej Duda.

She expressed gratitude to the Polish people and the governments at all levels for supporting the Belarusian struggle against dictatorship.