Agata Olek Olesiak and #KarskiNYC

Agata Olek Olesiak, known professionally as Olek, is a Polish artist who creates her work entirely from fiber. She’s dressed the iconic Charging Bull of Wall Street; 'yarn bombed’ a locomotive in Łódź; and even crocheted for British Royal Family. Now, she’s set her sights on Jan Karski’s bench. “As an artist, I have made it my duty and mission to draw attention to various issues around the world that are crucial to me: humanitarian causes, women’s rights, sexual equality, [and] freedom of expression,” Olek explained. „My general practice is to highlight everyday objects and give them new and profound meanings by dressing them in colorful, intricate crochet.”


The project is intended to honor the memory of the Polish hero on the fifteenth anniversary of his death.

„With every piece I create, I aim to display my solidarity with those who are oppressed worldwide. My art tends to trigger dialogue, as well as to encourage a deeper awareness of people’s everyday struggles,” Olek said. „The broad appeal of my work invariably sparks a second thought, even awe, by being accessible and playful.” In just a few days, the whole monument will be covered in golden-colored yarn.

During the Second World War, Jan Karski was a courier and a political emissary who witnessed the horrors of the Holocaust first-hand. His reports were shown to the leaders of the United Kingdom and the United States, as well as politicians, bishops, artists, and representatives of the media and the film industry in Hollywood, among others, asking for help for occupied Poland. Unfortunately, many did not believe Karski’s reports, which included descriptions of the destruction of the Warsaw Ghetto and the secretive German-Nazi extermination camps.

Instead, the reports were labeled as propaganda for the Polish government in exile and disregarded. To bring the truth directly to the public, Karski wrote a book titled, Story of a Secret State, which was published in Boston in 1944. It created a furor in the United States, as the American public finally learned about the struggle and suffering of the Poles, the on-going extermination of the Jews, and the role of the Polish underground state. Karski managed to survive the war despite many threats to his life, and later became a professor at Georgetown University.

“I accepted the invitation from the Consulate General of the Republic of Poland in New York to transform the 'Jan Karski bench’ because I felt that Mr. Karski’s life and accomplishments should be revisited,” says Olek. „By dressing this important piece of public art in a new skin, which will be crocheted on location, I hope to spark people’s curiosity as to who the 'crocheted’ man was and to highlight the heroic actions of this great Pole who risked his life to, among other things, tell the world about the atrocities of World War II.”

Apart from being a charming place to rest from the city’s hustle and bustle, now more than ever—thanks to the skillful work of Olek—the bench will be a place to think about The Great Pole, who risked his life to show the world the atrocities of World War II. „I am honored to be part of this large-scale promotion of Jan Karski, a man whose actions and achievements should never be forgotten,” said Olek.

Her work will be completed on Thursday, July 23 in front of the Consulate General of the Republic of Poland in New York.

Consulate General of the Republic of Poland in New York
233 Madison Ave (Jan Karski Corner), New York, NY 10016