Two sculptures in the square at the corner of Bedford and Nassau Avenues across from McCarren Park commemorate Father Jerzy Popiełuszko (1947–1984), a Polish Roman Catholic priest.
Father Popiełuszko supported the Solidarity Movement, which fought for Polish independence and the civil rights of the Polish people. He spoke out from the pulpit of his parish in Warsaw against the Soviet-controlled government, and his sermons were often broadcast by Radio Free Europe. He was ultimately kidnapped and murdered by officers of the Polish Security Police. After his death the Solidarity Movement continued to gain influence, and democracy and civil rights were eventually restored in Poland in 1989.
The granite bust was sculpted by Stanislaw Lutostanski (b. 1950) was donated by the Polish American Congress and dedicated on the sixth anniversary of Father Popiełuszko’s death. The rough-hewn base below the bust is carved in the shape of Poland. Another sculpture, Bound Hands Rising Free, was sculpted by Tom Cleveland (b.1952) and installed in 2000. It depicts a dove taking flight from a group of three raised hands, and was cast at the Modern Art Foundry in Long Island City. Both sculptures represent the heroic life of Father Popiełuszko and Poland’s struggle for freedom.
Fun Fact: Father Popiełuszko was beatified in 2010 and is now only one step away from sainthood.