For the first time in history, the sculpture of the Polish commander was accepted for permanent display in the central Museum of the British Army. Since Friday last week, we can admire the bronze bust of General Wladyslaw Anders, one of the greatest Polish heroes of World War II, at The National Army Museum in London. All this came to be thanks to the UK Polish community campaigning initiated by the British Poles portal.
The museum is located in the prestigious Chelsea district of the Royal Borough of Chelsea and Kensington in London and was opened by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II in 1971.
On June 25th this year, the General’s daughter and the Ambassador of the Republic of Poland to Italy, Anna Maria Anders unveiled the bust of General Władysław Anders, the last work of the famous Polish sculptor Andrzej Pityński.
Many guests were invited to the ceremony, including MPs, politicians, diplomats, militaries, artists, journalists and Polish community activists. Among the most notable guests were Arkady Rzegocki, the Ambassador of the Republic of Poland to the UK, Justin Maciejewski, director of the National Army Museum, Greg Hands, the Minister of State for Trade Policy and Conservative MP for Chelsea and Fulham, Felicity Buchan, the Member of Parliament for Kensington, Julian Lewis, MP and Chairperson of the Intelligence and Security Committee, historians Roger Moorhouse and Andrew Roberts, and many other distinguished guests.
The centenarian Col Otton Hulacki arrived for the ceremony from the Isle of Wight, and he was greeted with applause by all those present. He was General Anders’ soldier and fought along with him at Monte Cassino Battle. 96-year-old lieutenant Marzenna Schejbal from London, the 1944 Warsaw Uprising participant, joined the group of Polish WW2 veterans in attendance.
The donors who distinguished themselves with generosity and commitment to the project fundraising were all included in the guest list. Without them, the whole idea would not have come to fruition. The master sculptor Andrzej Pityński, waived his remuneration for the artwork. The deep respect for General Anders inspired him to make this patriotic gesture and contribute financially in this way to the project implementation. Only the cost of casting, material and transportation remained due to pay. The transport was arranged by the 2. District of the Polish Army Veterans Association in New York and thanks to their support the bronze sculpture was safely delivered to its final destination.
The donors were primarily the British Polish diaspora, but donations also came from Poland and the USA. As many as 308 people contributed financially to the creation of the bust, to its temporary storage, to the making a marble platform and fixing the bust on it and for final transportation from the New York studio to the museum. We are planning to write a separate report about members of the Polish community who committed so much time and resources to the project completion.
After the unveiling, a discussion panel on the legacy of General Władysław Anders took place, with the participation of the General’s daughter, Anna Maria Anders who is also the Polish ambassador in Italy; Roger Moorhouse, historian and author of the book “Poland: First to fight” about the September Campaign; Karol Nawrocki, director of the Museum of the Second World War in Gdańsk and George Byczynski, editor-in-chief of the British Poles website. The moderator was Justin Maciejewski, director of the Museum.
The entire event was broadcasted via the Crowdcast platform and is available to watch online on the museum’s website.
After the ceremony, ambassador Anna Maria Anders shared her thoughts with British Poles: “I am so happy and touched. It’s almost like yesterday when the commemorative plaque to honour my father was installed in the ‘Polish Hearth’ club, and today we have his bronze bust unveiled at the Museum. My dear father was finally honoured in the country, he spent the rest of his life after the war! The National Army Museum is a very prestigious public place. Everyone who comes here to admire him will have a chance to learn more about the heroism of Polish soldiers. My dreams came true”.
The ceremony was paralleled by the exhibition “Anders’ Army. The Trail of Hope” consisting of nineteen panels each translated into Polish and English. The exhibition was made available by Iwona Galinska from the Polish branch of the Sue Ryder Foundation. The author of the exhibition was Arkadiusz Urban, a historian, who could not attend the ceremony due to restrictions. Needless to say, the exhibition enjoyed the great interest of the public.
A very patriotic and touching moment has come when Konrad Jaromin sang ‘Red Poppies on Monte Casino/Czerwone maki na Monte Cassino’. Konrad is a Polish baritone originally from Łódź who lives in the UK. He is a graduate of Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance and obtained his Artist Diploma just a week ago. Konrad’s performance, although in Polish, was so expressive that it reached the hearts of our British guests who could not even try to hide emotions.
The director-general of the museum is Justin Maciejewski, who is of Polish descent, said: “As a director of the National Army Museum in London, I am honoured to receive and include in the National Collection this magnificent bronze bust of General Władysław Anders by Andrzej Pityński. The fact that this bust was donated by the Polish community and friends of Poland makes it a powerful symbol of the deep friendship between our two countries and shared history of freedom fighting. As the son of a Polish soldier who served in Italy under General Anders command, this ceremony touches me more deeply than I would be able to express in words” said Justin Maciejewski. Polish blood flows in his veins and that is why he added: “Although I cannot use the Polish language fluently, I am proud of my heritage and my heart is beating for Poland.”
George Byczynski, the editor-in-chief of the British Poles website said: “We are proud that on the map of London is now added another important Polish memorabilia – the bust of General Anders in the National Army Museum. Thanks to the British Polish community and hundreds of other people, who supported fundraising, we were able to find a worthy place to commemorate one of the most important and distinguished generals in Polish history. Poles in the UK will have a good reason now to take their children to the British Army Museum and tell the story of the II Corps and Polish-British military cooperation. The permanent display of General Anders’ bust at this prestigious London museum will also be a powerful symbol of the close friendship between Poland and Great Britain”.
“The bust of this legendary Polish commander and national hero now on display in the National Army Museum in London is a wonderful tribute to one of the most outstanding figures in Polish history, whose courage, endurance and command contributed to the Allied victory during World War II. I am glad that the figure of the general is considered important not only by Poles, but also by the British, and I am grateful to director Justin Maciejewski for accepting the bust into the museum’s collection” – said ambassador Arkady Rzegocki during the ceremony.
British Poles portal presented every guest with the English edition of the book “War Bear. Fearless War Hero” about Wojtek, the bear, who was raised by Polish soldiers since it was a cub and became a very popular mascot of the II Corps. The book was written by Wojciech Filaber, a Polish writer living in the UK. The author signed every copy with a commemorative dedication to each of the guests in attendance.
The unveiling ceremony was a joint venture of ambassador Anna Maria Anders, ambassador Arkady Rzegocki and the British Poles portal. The fundraising was supported by the Anders Institute and John Paul II Thresaury Foundation. The Anders Institute representatives could not attend the ceremony due to the restrictions, but technology allowed them to participate in the whole event online.
Visiting the National Army Museum, where you can admire the bust of General Anders, is free. Due to the restrictions, however, tickets must be booked online here.
Translation: Jolanta Pitera
Photos: British Poles, Embassy of the Republic of Poland in London, National Army Museum, Radio Wnet, National Army Museum.
Bez kategorii Poles in UK