Ambassador Piotr Wilczek’s speech at the unveiling of the exhibition „Polish losses during WW2” in the UK Parliament

The Polish Ambassador to the UK, Piotr Wilczek, spoke at the unveiling of the exhibition The price of freedom: Polish losses during WW2″. The event took place in the United Kingdom Parliament on 14 September 2023.

Below is the entire text of the speech.

„Minister, My Lords, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Today, as we reflect upon the deep and enduring ties between Poland and the UK, we are reminded of our shared history, mutual respect, and collaborative ventures. We fondly remember the valiant men of the Polish RAF Squadrons from the Second World War who bravely defended the skies during some of Britain’s most challenging times. Their sacrifice will forever remain a significant chapter in our shared history. Yet, our bond isn’t solely anchored in the past. Today’s scholars, artists, entrepreneurs, and many others from both Poland and the UK continue to enrich and strengthen our relationship. Their efforts and mutual exchanges exemplify the depth and vitality of our enduring connection.

Poland has come a long way in the past few decades. After the devastation of the Second World War and the decades of communist rule that followed, my country has undergone a remarkable transformation. Since 1989, Poland’s GDP per capita has tripled. It is now the sixth largest economy in the European Union and the 22nd largest economy in the world. Poland is also a member of NATO and the European Union, making it an important player on the international stage.

From the left: Eliasz Grubiński, Prof. Piotr Wilczek, the Polish Ambassador, Paweł Pawłowski, Liliana Śmiech. Photo: Piotr Apolinarski

Poland’s economic success stands as a testament to the hard work and determination of its people. This achievement also reminds us that even after great adversity, rebuilding and prospering remain possible.

The recent challenges faced by Ukraine have not only tested the strength and resilience of the Ukrainian people but have also revealed the character and commitment of Poland and its people. Our country, understanding the depth of human suffering and the grave implications of unchecked aggression, has been at the forefront in assisting Ukraine during its time of need.

As we observe this compelling exhibition on Polish war losses in the British Parliament today, I must emphasize that Poland’s journey is far from over. We have much to do to heal the wounds of our past. Foremost among our challenges is the unresolved matter of wartime compensations.

Poland suffered immense losses during the Second World War. Our population was decimated, our infrastructure was ravaged, and our economy was in ruins. Yet, despite these staggering losses, we did not receive any redress in the aftermath of the war. Although the Potsdam Agreement acknowledged the obligations owed to Poland, the decision to channel them through the Soviet Union, which held a dominating influence over us, was grossly unjust. Consequently, my country never received the compensations it was rightfully entitled to. The 'Iron Curtain’ not only physically separated nations but also stifled our voice, denying Poland’s right to self-determination and equitable negotiation.

Ambassador’s Piotr Wilczek speech. Photo: British Poles

In a painstaking effort to quantify our losses, my government has compiled the “Report on the Losses Sustained by Poland as a Result of German Aggression and Occupation during the Second World War, 1939-1945”. This comprehensive three-volume work values our wartime damages at an estimated USD 1.53 trillion. Beyond mere numbers, it encapsulates the heart-wrenching tales of every Polish citizen who endured pain, loss, and sacrifice. This report is an instrument for open dialogue, a foundation for public debate, and a testament for the global community.

Nevertheless, our efforts for acknowledgment and compensation face challenges. Despite presenting our claims, Berlin maintains the stance that the issue of wartime compensation is ‘closed’. Yet, can justice ever truly have an expiration date? Can the profound pain and loss of a nation be simply archived as a chapter of the past?

Minister Arkadiusz Mularczyk and Justin Maciejewski, the Director of the National Army Museum. Photo: British Poles

The Polish government remains resolute: the matter of compensation is far from being resolved. We firmly believe it is crucial for this issue to be addressed with the seriousness and attention it deserves.

To this end, we are redoubling our efforts on international platforms and intensifying bilateral engagements. Our goal is clear: to illuminate Poland’s plight and to gather the necessary support for our cause.

Just recently, we heard the first official statement from a member of the U.S. Congress regarding this issue. Representative Chris Smith called on the German government to engage in discussions with Poland about the losses suffered during the Second World War. This serves as an example of the international support that we are seeking to initiate conversations about potential compensation for Poland and its citizens for the losses endured during the wartime period.

We believe that a just and fair settlement for the issue of war damages is essential for healing the wounds of the past and building lasting peace in Europe.

Ambassador Piotr Wilczek and Kasia Madera, the BBC presenter. Photo: British Poles

Ladies and Gentlemen,

As we gather here today amidst the hallowed walls of the British Parliament, we are reminded that the threads of history binding Poland and the UK are not mere passages in textbooks but living testimonies to our shared resilience and mutual admiration. Poland’s journey, replete with challenges and triumphs, underscores the undying spirit of its people and the value of understanding and collaboration. We hope to foster an environment where past sacrifices are acknowledged, shared stories are celebrated, and our collective futures intertwine. May our endeavours strengthen the ties between Poland and the UK, leading us to a brighter, united tomorrow.

Thank you.”

Photos: British Poles

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