Never has any Polish commander’s sculpture made it into a British museum. Thanks to the UK Polish community campaigning initiated by the British Poles portal, a historic event is going to take place on June 25 at the National Army Museum in London – the unveiling ceremony of the bust of one of the greatest Polish heroes, General Władysław Anders.
The National Army Museum is the central museum of the British Army. It is located in the prestigious London district of Chelsea and was opened by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II in July 1960.
Since 2018, the director-general of the museum is Justin Maciejewski, who is of Polish descent. British Poles interviewed him and he told us that although he does not speak polish very well he is proud of his heritage and his heart ‘beats for Poland’. He also said: “the history and heritage of Polish soldiers who fought in Italy is the most valuable military legacy shared by Great Britain and Poland. Many soldiers of the 2nd Polish Corps had to build their future in Great Britain for reasons beyond their control. As a son of one of these soldiers, I believe that having a sculpture of General Anders on a museum’s permanent exhibition is something truly special and remarkable”.
The author of the bust sculpture is a well-known Polish sculptor Andrzej Pityński from New Jersey. He is also the author of the famous Katyń Monument for which the American Polish diaspora recently successfully fought against relocation plans from its original iconic place overlooking the Hudson River in Jersey City.
As a patriotic gesture and out of respect for General W. Anders, the artist decided to waive his remuneration for the work which he donated instead as his contribution for the implementation of the whole project apart from the cost of bronze casting, material and transport that should be reimbursed to the New York workshop.
Sadly, the General Anders bust was the last work of Andrzej Pityński, who died in September last year. Thanks to the support of the New York’s Second District Veterans Association, the bronze sculpture made its way to London. The remaining costs were covered by several hundred people who took part in the fundraising and donations came from the UK Polish diaspora, Poland and the USA.
The unveiling ceremony of the sculpture is planned for June 25, 2021. From June 26, the bust will be available for public viewing. For this occasion, the general’s daughter, Ambassador Anna Maria Anders, will come to London from Rome. “I am happy that my father will soon be honoured in the country where he spent the rest of his life! The National Army Museum is a very prestigious public place. Everyone who comes to see his sculpture will be able to learn something about the heroism of Polish soldiers” – she told British Poles.
After the unveiled ceremony, a discussion panel on the legacy of General Władysław Anders is planned, 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 will be Justin Maciejewski, director of the Museum.
The Earl of St Andrews, said to the British Poles portal: “I have the greatest admiration for the General Anders as one of the great figures of twentieth-century history, and as someone of whom all Poles should be proud, and I am delighted that he is to receive public recognition in this country where he lived for so many years (…) I hope to have the occasion to visit the Museum soon to see the statue. With best wishes for your good work promoting the interests of our much valued Polish community in Britain”.
The entire event will be broadcasted via the Crowdcast platform and will be available to watch online on the museum’s website. Thanks to this event, many tourists from all over the world visiting the London Museum will have the opportunity to learn more about the heroic figure and heroic attitude of General Władysław Anders and his soldiers of the Polish II Corps during World War II. General Anders sculpture exhibited at the National Army Museum will be a powerful symbol of the close friendship between Poland and Great Britain. A friendship formed during the battle for Britain, on the battlefields of Italy and northwest Europe, a friendship still vibrant today.
The bust sculpture of General Anders was a joint initiative of Ambassador Anna Maria Anders, Ambassador Arkady Rzegocki and the British Poles portal. The fundraising effort was provided by the Institute of Gen. W. Anders and John Paul’s II Treasury Foundation.
Visits to the National Army Museum, where from June 26 you will be able to admire the bust of General Anders, are free. Due to the restrictions, tickets must be booked online on the museum’s website.
Translation: Jolanta Pitera
Photos: private collections of Ambassador Anna Maria Anders, Teofil Lachowicz SWAP, Embassy of the Republic of Poland in Rome, Caroline Byczynski, Sławomir Platta, British Poles
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