Committee of Ministers Chairmanship – Poland : November 2004 – May 2005 

(To be checked against delivered speech)

Inauguration of the exhibition “Reconstruction of the Memory of Poland”

Speech by Terry Davis, Council of Europe Secretary General

Strasbourg, 10 November 2004

Director General,
Ladies and gentlemen,

I am particularly delighted to be here, at the opening of the exhibition “Reconstruction of the Memory of Poland”. I am delighted because it is our Organisation, the Council of Europe, which approved, in 1998, the pilot programme aimed at finding and bringing together the archive documents on Polish history, which were scattered throughout our continent. It is the result of this work that we see today.

The history of Poland is intricately linked with the turbulent history of the rest of Europe. The history of our continent is like a mosaic. With even one piece missing, one cannot see and appreciate the whole picture.

This mosaic has some dark colours as well. Over centuries, historical archives in Poland, as in many other countries, were hard hit by wars, partitions, occupations, waves of emigration, and changing regimes. Records were destroyed or left the country, either spirited away by the former occupiers or, in a non-physical shape, departing with émigrés who themselves became repositories of history.

The aim of the project before you today was to fill the gaps and provide an opportunity for the Polish nation to become acquainted with the information sources of its own history, over the period from the 18th century up to 1945. The search took Polish archivists to Austria, France, Germany, Italy, Moldova, Russia, Ukraine – a panoply of countries which proves once again the historical interdependence of our continent.

As a result, some missing pieces of the mosaic are now in place, making the picture of our common history more complete. I hope that the knowledge gained, and the techniques applied in carrying out this project will help other countries, in Europe and elsewhere, to reconstruct their own historical memories.

I particularly want to congratulate our Polish friends on the successful completion of this programme, and I also congratulate them on the opening of this exhibition on the very day on which we are celebrating the start of the Polish chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers.