The mayor of a Dutch town has condemned vandals who defaced an image of Our Lady of Częstochowa and daubed the letters "BLM" beneath it.

Paul Depla, the mayor of Breda, a city in the southern Netherlands, said the incident was "particularly sad for the Polish community, for which the monument is of great value," the Dutch regional newspaper BN DeStem reported June 22.

The image of Our Lady, which is revered by Poles and also known as the Black Madonna, was erected in a park in Breda in 1954 in thanksgiving for the city's liberation from the Nazis. 

The Polish 1st Armored Division, commanded by General Stanisław Maczek, freed the city on October 29, 1944. After the war, 40,000 inhabitants of Breda signed a petition to award Maczek honorary Dutch citizenship. When Maczek died in 1994, he was buried alongside his fallen soldiers at a cemetery in the city.

The organizers of a recent protest for racial justice in the city also deplored the vandalism. 

Spokesman Patrick van Lunteren told BN DeStem that the organizers did not know who had carried out the act.

He said: "This hurts the Polish community and that is not the intention [of the demonstration]. People are now open to dialogue, but with these kinds of actions you lose sympathy."

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BN DeStem also reported comments by Frans Ruczynski, a former chairman of the General Maczek Museum, which commemorates the city's liberators.

"This is very insulting to the Polish community," the newspaper quoted him as saying.

"Polish people are very religious. Every Sunday they go to church, with hundreds in Breda. Why would you want to hurt them? We don't know if it comes from the left or right corner. But when it comes to Black Lives Matter, I don't understand it. The Black Madonna has nothing to do with oppression at all."

The original image of the Black Madonna is housed at the Jasna Góra Monastery in Częstochowa, Poland's most popular place of pilgrimage. 

The authorities in Breda promised to remove the graffiti swiftly, but said initially that it would be difficult as the Marian image is made of mosaic tiles.

"This will involve specialist work for which the first steps will be taken tomorrow morning by the cleaning department of the municipality of Breda," a spokesperson for the municipality told BN DeStem June 22.

The newspaper reported June 23 that the municipality had removed the graffiti successfully.

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