A Polish general whose troops helped watch over Scotland during the Second World War has been honoured in the city he made his home in exile.
General Stanislaw Maczek could not return to Communist Poland after the war, and, denied a pension, made a living for his family working as a barman in Edinburgh.
Now, a campaign for a permanent memorial to the commander of the 1st Polish Armoured Division and hero of the Battle of Falaise in Normandy has reached its conclusion.
A striking bronze statue of the general sitting on a bench was earlier put in place outside Edinburgh City Chambers and a walkway in the Meadows named after General Maczek has now been unveiled and a plaque erected on the wall of the capital’s chambers, cementing his place in Scottish, Polish and world history.
Many of the 20,000 Polish troops stationed in Scotland during the war could never return to a Poland under Communist oppression and settled all over Scotland.
The General was known to his soldiers as “Baca”, Polish for good shepherd, and watched over his former number for as long as he was able to until his death, aged 102, in 1994.
After hearing General Maczek’s story, the late Lord Fraser of Carmyllie launched a public appeal that was continued by his family and friends, including his wife Lady Fiona Fraser and daughter Katie, after his death in 2013 and who raised £85,000 for the memorial.
Lord Fraser was posthumously honoured by the Polish government for his efforts.
The Friends of Edinburgh Meadows and Bruntsfield Links – where the bench had been planned to sit originally – also helped the push and the naming of General Maczek Walk, now signposted.
General Maczek, dedicated to his wife Zofia, son Andrew and daughters Renata and Magda, would walk and spend time in the Meadows with them.
Archie Mackay, a trustee of the General Maczek Memorial Trust and friend of Lord Fraser, said: “The plaque has now been installed and brings a conclusion to the work of our memorial trust.”
“The plaque acknowledges that fact and provides enough information for visitors to search the internet to learn more about General Maczek and his remarkable achievements.
“He was a quiet hero who lived longer in Edinburgh than anywhere else, including his native Poland”.
“General Maczek Walk is a further recognition thanks to the Friends of the Edinburgh Meadows and Bruntsfield Links and City of Edinburgh Council.”
It was said the steely General Maczek never lost a battle. On one occasion he bluffed a German commander into surrendering, even though the guns his battalion had trained on the enemy had no ammunition.
One of the general’s troops, Zenon Sliwinski, a tank scout who made his home in Glasgow after the war, was among the soldiers who stayed who would often visit the general and his family with gifts – flowers for his wife and, in the early years, chocolate treats for the children.
Mr Sliwinski, who died last year aged 95, said in an interview with The Herald in 2013: “He was a great leader. He cared for his soldiers as a good Baca.”
Consul General Ireneusz Truszkowski, who is based at the Polish Consulate in Edinburgh, said: “The memorial bench and the walk that commemorate General Maczek and the Polish soldiers who fought alongside him during the Second World War are valuable reminders to all of us of their efforts and have been especially appreciated by the soldiers and their descendants who settled in Scotland after the war.
“We hope to be able to use the sites to organise events annually to further encourage the awareness of the Polish- Scottish relations and the memory of General Maczek and his soldiers.”
General Maczek’s brigade liberated towns in France and Belgium and also Breda in the Netherlands, where people voted for the general to be made a Dutch citizen, and where he is buried, alongside some of his soldiers.
When the general died Lord Fraser represented the UK Government at his funeral and learned of his achievements.
Lord Fraser, the former Lord Advocate and architect of the Lockerbie bombing indictment, found it incredible Poles were excluded from victory celebration marches in London.
Scots, in contrast, welcomed them on parades in towns and cities across the country.
The Poles were also tasked by Sir Winston Churchill to defend Scotland’s east coast from potential invasion, and it has been said that had it not been for the general’s victories, the war could have lasted another year.
An extract from the plaque reads: “In honour of General Stanislaw Maczek (1892-1994) – ‘Baca’. Commander of the 1st Polish Armoured Division and his troops. A hero of the Falaise Pocket, Breda and other World War Two battlefields who made Edinburgh his home.”
Author: Brian Donnelly
The article was firstly published on Heraldscotland.com