Tuesday, April 23, 2024 Apr 23, 2024
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Secret Garden

For more than 10 years, Grapevine resident Tie Sosnowski has procured statues of deposed dictators for real estate mogul Harlan Crow’s private garden. The sanctuary has become a sort of elephant graveyard of 20th-century tyrants, and, as of press time, So

One man’s backyard has become a gathering place for deposed despots. Saddam Hussein may soon join them.

AS OF PRESS TIME, GRAPEVINE RESIDENT TIE SOSNOWSKI WAS STILL trying to get into Iraq, where he hoped to secure a statue of Saddam Hussein—one that hadn’t yet been destroyed by jubilant, liberated Iraqis. For Sosnowski, finding statues of fallen leaders is often the easy part of his job. It’s getting them back to Turtle Creek that’s hard.

For more than 10 years, Sosnowski has bid on, bought, or otherwise procured similar relics of history for Harlan Crow’s private garden, tucked behind his Turtle Creek estate. The real estate mogul first retained Sosnowski’s services back in 1991. The erstwhile history student traveled to Georgia, in the former Soviet Union, to retrieve a statue of Vladimir Lenin. Crow, a history buff, had bought it from the artist. But the 18-foot bronze did not get stateside easily. Georgia was in the thrall of a civil war, and roadblocks and gunfire thwarted Sosnowski’s initial attempts to remove the statue via truck. At 6 tons, it was too heavy for a military helicopter to airlift. Finally, in 1992, he was able to load the Lenin on a truck and spirit it away to Istanbul, where he found a ship to Houston, and, finally, six months later, hoisted it into place in Crow’s backyard.

Other statues and relics followed. Crow’s quiet, beautiful garden is now a sort of elephant graveyard of 20th-century tyrants, preserving statuary that otherwise would have been destroyed or stuck away in forgotten warehouses. Crow, an investor in D Magazine, is a private man, so we were delighted when he gave us permission to share his collection with our readers.

It is a collection of history’s felons. Felix Dzerzhinsky, the first commissar of the Soviet secret police, looks smug. Fidel Castro seems crestfallen, Joseph Stalin resolute. The bust of Nicolae Ceausescu captures him in his youthfulness, the towering Lenin at his most powerful. Like Hussein’s in Iraq, these icons once dominated town squares and marketplaces. Now, removed from their high places and their home countries, they overlook pathways, greenery, and a man-made brook. The only people left to intimidate are each other.


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