WARSAW, Poland OSV News – On Warsaw's Rakowiecka street, flanked by a smart new Metro station and office buildings, a gray cement wall runs mournfully along a damp surface of fallen leaves.
At midpoint in the wall, a narrow gateway opens out onto crumbling barrack buildings, still daubed with political graffiti between tightly barred windows.
When Mokotow prison was opened as the Museum of Cursed Soldiers and Political Prisoners of the Polish People’s Republic in March, six years after shedding its last inmates, it was agreed regular Masses and liturgies should be held to dispel the site's dark, malevolent associations.
Today, dedicated to communist-era resistance fighters and political prisoners, the museum's melancholy courtyards and corridors gain special poignancy during the commemorative month of November.
"Though this is a secular institution, it's also a place of prayer," explained Father Tomasz Trzaska, the museum's chaplain.
"While Poles place candles each year on the graves of loved ones, we should remember many victims of past misrule have no known resting place. It's especially those people we pray for in November, as work continues to uncover and identify their remains," the priest said.
Opened in 1902 by Poland's Russian occupiers, with room for 800 inmates, Mokotow prison was used during World War II by the Germans, who crammed in over 2,500 and conducted mass shootings here.
When the war ended, the prison was commandeered by Poland's new communist Security Ministry, whose officials also secretly eliminated hundreds of internees, in circumstances revealed only in the 1990s.