Officials Break Ground at D.C. Site

By Sue Anne Pressley Montes
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, September 28, 2006

In China's Tiananmen Square, the "Goddess of Democracy" created by student activists was demolished by communist tanks during the historic uprising in 1989. Now a 10-foot bronze copy of the statue is being erected in downtown Washington as a permanent tribute to the estimated 100 million people killed by various communist regimes.

A groundbreaking ceremony for the Victims of Communism Memorial was held yesterday at the site, a wedge of federal land where G Street NW meets Massachusetts and New Jersey avenues, near Union Station. The event drew about 100 people, including ambassadors and other officials from Poland, the Czech Republic, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia and the Republic of China (Taiwan).

"There is no memorial to all the victims of communism," said Lee Edwards, a conservative historian and Heritage Foundation fellow who chairs the memorial foundation. "We want to focus attention on the crimes of communism and therefore educate people about why we fought and won the Cold War."

The memorial, expected to be dedicated in June around the 20th anniversary of President Ronald Reagan's famous tear-down-the-Berlin-Wall speech at Brandenburg Gate, was more than a decade in the making. Formed in 1994, the foundation originally had hoped to build a $100 million museum and later scaled back plans to focus on the memorial, Edwards said. About $800,000 has been raised in private and corporate donations, he said. Although no federal funds can be used on the project, several foreign governments have contributed.

"I can't believe we actually got to this day after all these years," said Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.), who was credited with helping pass the law that created the memorial.

"During the Cold War, there were so many people who did not want to recognize the evil nature of communism," Rohrabacher said. "There were so many people who did not want to fight the Cold War. . . . They always seemed to be nitpicking us as we made our stand against communist aggression."

The Democracy statue destroyed in Tiananmen Square was fashioned from plaster of Paris and based on the Statue of Liberty; it has become an international symbol of freedom. Thomas Marsh of Orange, Va., the sculptor who will create the bronze memorial for the quarter-acre site in the District, is donating his work, Edwards said.

The groundbreaking "signifies in many ways the end of the Cold War," said Paula J. Dobriansky, undersecretary of state for democracy and global affairs whose father, former ambassador Lev Dobriansky, was the first chairman of the memorial foundation. She spoke of the men and women "for whom the Cold War was the central reality for most of their lives."

"The memorial built here will stand after we no longer do," Dobriansky said.

David Lee, Taiwan's representative in Washington, said the memorial will also remind people that the fight against communism is not over.

"We are still in a confrontational situation with communist China," Lee said, as he waited his turn yesterday to help shovel a bit of the earth. "That's the reason we think we need to be here."

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