Members of a Vancouver Polish Catholic church expressed shock Sunday morning, after arriving to find their property marred by angry graffiti.
Splashed across the daycare at St. Casimir’s Polish Parish at 27th Avenue and Inverness Street was painted with the word “AntiFa” a term meaning “anti-fascist” and used by a loose umbrella of left-wing and anarchist groups.
Also painted on the building was the symbol used by the the far-right National Radical Camp and National Rebirth of Poland party with a circle and strike through it, and the messages “refugees welcome” and “Nazi Raus,” which translates to “Nazis out” in German.
In addition to being Remembrance Day, Sunday is a particularly special day for the Polish community.
“It’s something shocking for us,” one of the churchgoers gathered outside told Global News.
“It’s a huge disappointment because it’s also our 100th anniversary of independence.”
On Monday, Vancouver police said in a statement they have met with representatives from the church and are continuing to search for evidence in the area.
They also said a number of specialty units are working together to try and determine who is responsible for the graffiti.
It’s unclear when the graffiti was painted, however it may have come after an estimated 200,000 people marched in Warsaw to mark the independence day centennial.
In that march, nationalist groups and far-right groups marched along with mainstream Polish politicians.
Over the past decade, nationalist organizations have held Independence Day marches in Warsaw on Nov. 11 that have included racist slogans, flares and in some years, acts of aggression.
In Vancouver, however, parishioners told Global News they felt they were being unfairly lumped in with fringe groups.
“For people to call us fascists, there’s just something really, really wrong,” one parishioner said.
“Lots of people all around the world use ‘fascist’ for Polish people. We are not fascists. We are Polish people that fight with the fascists… we are refugees, we came from the communist country over there for freedom. Not Nazis.”
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Another parishioner pointed to the fact that a staggering number of Polish Jews were killed in Nazi concentration camps. Estimates by historians suggest three million polish Jews were murdered, while the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum estimates another 1.5 million Polish citizens were taken and used as forced labour during the Second World War.
“We are the victims of Nazi Germany, and now we are called the Nazis? It’s absolutely crazy,” she said.
“It’s pure hatred against Polish people. How can you justify it?”