Address by the Deputy Minister of National Defence of Poland
Under-Secretary of State for International Affairs
Mr. Paweł Woźny,
at the Commemoration of the contribution of the
1st Polish Independent Parachute Brigade
to Operation Market Garden, 75 years ago
Driel, 21 September 2019
LADIES AND GENTLEMEN,
First and foremost, I would like to sincerely welcome the representatives of the Dutch government – hosts of the todays’ event. I would also like to warmly welcome our distinguished guests, His Royal Highness, Prince Charles, Prince of Wales.
This year we are celebrating the 80th anniversary of the outbreak of the World War Two. Poland was the very first country invaded by Germany ruled by the Nazi regime at that time. Polish soldiers stood up to the German and Soviet aggression trying to protect independence of their fatherland. In the following years of this bloody conflict, Polish soldiers fought shoulder to shoulder with Allied forces to protect freedom of other states. They also contributed to the liberation of European nations from German occupation.
Memorials that commemorate heroic actions of Polish troops can be found not only in Poland, but also across Europe and even on other continents. To name a few: Narvik in Norway, Tobruk in Libya, Monte Cassino in Italy, Falaise in France, Breda and Driel in the Netherlands, where we are today, are the symbols of glory of the Polish Armed Forces. It is a great source of pride which reflects our loyalty to the Allies and the struggle of our ancestors for our freedom and yours.
75 years ago, on 21st of September 1944, people from Driel who looked up in the sky enjoyed an unusual view of the hundreds of parachute canopies and airplanes. This is the place where soldiers from the 1st Independent Parachute Brigade from Poland were landing and took part in the biggest airborne operation in history. They came under heavy German attacks during both landing and fights on the ground and sustained heavy losses. They fought with courage facing overwhelming forces of the enemy and they were determined to bring support to the British troops on the other side of the Rhine.
I am proud and thrilled when I look up in the sky over Driel today, seeing Polish paratroopers, just as local residents did 75 years ago. Today, soldiers from the 6th Airborne Brigade are landing on the Dutch soil again. They are the successors of those honourable traditions of the heroes who landed in Driel in September 1944. This is how they pay tribute to their predecessors, showing continuity of the airborne traditions.
Standing here, in front of the memorial to the Commander of the 1st Independent Parachute Brigade, I’m looking at all those who gathered here. Representatives of Poland and the Netherlands as well as combatants and residents of Driel and Arnhem are here together. Today’s ceremony is a great opportunity to pay tribute to the Polish soldiers and to commemorate those who fell. We remember General Stanisław Sosabowski whose honour was restored and whose merits were recognized many years later. It is worth remembering that many Dutch citizens participated in this struggle to appropriately commemorate Polish paratroopers and their commander. One has to mention here Cora Baltussen, whose grave the Polish delegation visited. In 1944 a sentence in Polish “Thank You Poles” was displayed in streets of many Dutch towns. Many Dutch people kept it in their hearts and remembered it. Cora Baltussen is a symbol of the Dutch gratitude to the Polish soldiers for which I would like to thank on behalf of Poland and its Armed Forces.
Let me also thank Dutch authorities, and especially the residents of Driel for keeping the memory of Gen. Stanisław Sosabowski and his military achievements alive and for taking good care of the memorial sites where Polish soldiers remain interred here in multiple cemeteries here in Netherlands.
I am convinced that today’s ceremony, which commemorates our common history, will strengthen cooperation between the Kingdom of the Netherlands and the Republic of Poland and will deepen friendship and cooperation between our soldiers, soldiers who today operate in one Alliance.
I am convinced that today’s ceremony, which commemorates our common history, will strengthen the cooperation between the Kingdom of the Netherlands and the Republic of Poland and will deepen friendship and cooperation between our soldiers. The exercises such as NATO Tiger Meet in 2018 and Noble Jump in 2019 carried out in Poland can serve as an example of our partnership/alliance. Let me add that recently the official opening of the office of the Netherlands attaché to Poland is also a perfect example of deepening this cooperation. I am more than happy that finally we work together in one Alliance.