10 years ago, on the 19th September 2009 the largest Polish Monument in the UK was officially unveiled by HRH the Duke of Kent and HE the Ambassador of Poland, Mrs Barbara Tuge Erecińska.
The event was attended by Military Commanders, the Diplomatic Corps and Government Ministers of both countries. The Polish diaspora, leaders of major Polish émigré organisations were also in attendance. Close to 4000 people visited NMA in 2 days. The RAF military band performed and representatives of the Polish and British Armed Forces were present. There was a flypast of both a Spitfire and a Hurricane, albeit preceded by the unique flypast of a ……skein of wild geese!
The story started with a question ‘Why is there no Polish Memorial amongst the 150 war memorials in the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire?’ Two people heard this and ran with the idea – Dr Marek Stella Sawicki and Dr Andrew Meeson Kielanowski; both were Knights of the Sovereign and Military Order of Malta (SMOM) and Members of SPK (The Polish Ex Combatant Association).
They had to convince the Polish community to get financially behind the project and when the Chairman of the SPK Board, Mr Czesław Maryszczak decided to support the idea, they were on their way. A Committee was formed to turn the idea into reality. The last President-in-Exile of Poland, HE Ryszard Kaczorowski, headed the Honorary Committee.
The Polish Sculptor Robert Sobociński was chosen. Based in Poland, he had his own foundry and was able to deliver the finished monument from Poznań to Alrewas. The work in progress was reported back through photographs to an eager diaspora in the pages of The Dziennik Polski, (The Polish Daily). Historians and historical researchers contributed to the enormous task of explaining the WWII Battles where Polish Forces fought. Architects pondered how to create the monument’s entourage and walls, ground engineering specialists examined the terrain and technicians measured and chose the materials. The completed bronze placed in the ruins of Warsaw in 1944, included a pilot, a soldier, a seaman and a female home army AK soldier.
There was a ceremony for the foundation stone, an authentic brick from the ruins of the Warsaw Rising 1944, being buried under the memorial plinth. The unveiling ceremony for thousands of Poles and British people was an emotional experience for the Polish WWII veterans who attended and who could at last could come to a place of memory to remember their friends, heroes who died for their country. Some, in wheelchairs yet still determined to lay their wreaths. The statue was soon clothed in a burst of red and white flowers. The Choir singing heart wrenching songs to thousands of guests was a memory to treasure.
So, few Polish WWII veterans are left now; the 19th September 2009 was their moment.
Today we celebrate the 10th anniversary of this event.
The exhibition will be held at the POSK Gallery at The Polish Cultural Centre between 8th and 12th September from 10am to 9pm.
All our readers are warmly invited to visit the exhibition.
Poles in UK