Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Poland Issues Unique Commemoratives To Honor Murdered Priest Jerzy Popiełuszko

The National Bank of Poland has issued a series of coins in gold, silver and nordic gold to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the murder of Catholic Priest Jerzy Popieluszko. This sombre tribute to the charismatic priest, a popular figure amongst Poland's anti-communist movement in the 70's and 80's, is made all the more special with the striking of the special denomination gold proof to mark Popieluszko's 37 short years on earth.

Poland 2009 37Zl Jerzy Popieluszko Gold Proof

Jerzy Popieluszko was born September 14, 1947 in the north-eastern town of Okopy. He began his path against Communist rule in Poland when sent to speak with strikers in the Warsaw Steelworks, associating himself with members of the anti-communist Solidarity movement. Popieluszko would often intertwine both spiritual and political messages into his sermons, criticizing the Communist system and motivating people to protest. During the period of martial law in Poland between 1981 and 1983, the church was one of the few places that people were allowed to gather openly, allowing Popieluszko to continue spreading his message of freedom.

Popieluszko's sermons began to be broadcast on Radio Free Europe, and as his popularity grew he invoked the ire of the Służba Bezpieczeństwa, (Security Service of the Ministry of Internal Affairs) who made attempts to silence him with intimidation. When Popieluszko refused to back down they fabricated evidence against him and he was arrested, however he was soon pardoned by the clergy and given amnesty. Frustrated with their lack of ability the Służba Bezpieczeństwa orchestrated a car accident meant to kill Popieluszko. He escaped this but was subsequently kidnapped and murdered by agents of the department.

News of Popieluszko's death created a huge uproar throughout Poland, with some 250,000 people arriving for his funeral in November 1984. He was just 37 years of age.

Poland 2009 10Zl Jerzy Popieluszko Silver Proof

Each coin in this poignant series features imagery inspired by Jerzy Popieluszko's life and death. The 16mm gold proof coin, struck from 1.75 grams of 90% gold shows a crowd of funeral attendees, all raising crosses in the air. Below is the motto most associated with Popieluszko, "Overcome evil with good", while on the obverse is the special 37 zloty denomination. No other coin issued from Poland has made a commemoration in this way.

The silver proof coin, struck from 14.14 grams of sterling silver (92.5%) on a 32mm flan has the image of Popieluszko deep in thought against a background of a cracked Poland. Embedded in the coin is a red teardrop-shaped zircon crystal. The obverse shows a partial image of Popieluszko's gravestone, with a single rose laid upon it.

Finally, the 2 zloty nordic gold issue has a striking portrait of Popieluszko on the reverse, together with the image of thousands of mourners and candles upheld at his funeral service. The coin measures 27mm and weighs 8 grams.

Poland 2009 2Zl Jerzy Popieluszko Nordic Gold BU

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