Address by the Chairman of the Foundation Driel-Polen
Mr. A.J.M. Baltussen
at the Commemoration of the contribution of the
1st Polish Independent Parachute Brigade
to Operation Market Garden, 75 years ago
Driel, 21 September 2019
Your Royal Highness,
Dear Polish and British Veterans,
Members of the Sosabowski family,
Ladies and Gentlemen
On behalf of the Driel-Polen Foundation I would like to welcome you all to this commemoration, where we give special attention to the contribution of the 1st Polish Independent Parachute Brigade to Market Garden – 75 years ago.
Mr Kubinski, Mr Staszkiewicz and Mr Cisek a special welcome to you. For you Mr Cisek this is a very special occasion since you have returned for the first time since 1944.
Also a special welcome to the British veterans.
I will continue my introduction in Dutch.
A translation of my text in Polish and in English is included in your programme.
Ladies and Gentlemen, boys and girls
On 23 August 1939 Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union signed a non-aggression treaty. In this agreement both countries arranged the division of Eastern Europe and Poland.
This gave Hitler the certainty of Stalin’s support for the Germans when they invaded Poland on 1st September 1939 which precipitated the beginning of the Second World War.
On 17 September 1939 the Soviet Union attacked from the other side and before the end of September 1939 the Poles were divided.
A third part of Poland, the Generale Gouvernment in the middle of the country came under German control.
The three veterans who are here today are the victims of the tragedy of what Poland as a whole experienced in 1939. Nearly one million Poles were departed to the Soviet Union. This included Tad Cisek and Konstanty Staszkiewicz and their families who were then living in Eastern Poland. Minister Bijleveld and Burgomaster Hoytink will in their speeches give an account of their experiences.
Henryk Kubinski lived in the west of Poland where the occupying force deported Poles to Germany where they would be put to work as forced labourers.
Both in the east and the west many Poles escaped and joined the allied forces.
From his fifteenth birthday in May 1940 till November 1943 Henryk Kubinski was forced to work on a German farm. At the end of November 1943 he felt forced to join the Wehrmacht and he was stationed near the French Belgian border. In August 1944 the opportunity that Kubinski and five other Poles had hoped for: consciously allowed themselves to be taken as military prisoners by British soldiers. And here their involvement in the German war came to an end.
After a week in prison camp they offered themselves as volunteers with the Polish troops. They became soldiers of the allies. Henryk Kubinski was too late to start training in Scotland and to be assigned as a parachutist in Driel. As part of the occupation army he came to Driel several times between May 1945 and the end of 1947.
The ultimate objective of the Polish Government in exile and Polish troops was the liberation of Poland. In total between 250,000 and 300,000 Polish soldiers took part in the liberation of Western Europe.
But it was not in 1945 but in 1989 that Poland was able to escape the power of the Soviet Union.
In Driel we continue to be grateful to the Poles for their contribution to the liberation of our country.
Boys and Girls
Across from you, on this square sit the Polish veterans. In past years I’ve been by your school to tell you something of the history and the commemoration.
I told you then over the long journey that many Polish veterans had to make to finally to be dropped here by Driel in September 1944. After the war many could no longer return to their country and families. Just as there are many refugees in the world today. For them there was then no free society.
During the commemoration try to imagine what this would mean for you and what a free society means for you.
For us all – and certainly for these veterans – it is very special that this afternoon you will sing two songs in Polish. What is also special is that you will be guided by Polish boys and girls.
For now I wish you success!!
Royal Highness, Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen.
For several year a youngster from the Airborne International Youth Conference has helped us with reading the Polish texts. This year Katarzyna Sefarin will read the Polish texts.
The youth choir lead by the orchestra with young people from Krakau – Promyki Krakowa – will now sing for us in Polish “Rozkwitaly paki bialych roz” which translates as “the Buds of the White Roses went open”