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, 76 years ago
Driel, 19 September 2020
Your excellencies Generals Ladies and gentlemen
Dear veterans in Poland, Great Britain, Canada and the USA we really hope that modern technique work for you so you are able to stay connected during this commemoration.
Also relatives of veterans, our guests from previous years, all our volunteers and people of Driel welcome all to this commemoration, where we give special attention to the contribution of the 1st Polish Independent Parachute Brigade to Market Garden – 76 years ago.
As from the first commemoration in 1946 members of the 1st Polish Independent Parachute Brigade came together with people from Driel. The burgomaster, representative of the churches, school teachers, musicians, children and members of the Committee Driel-Polen.
To those present today I want to say that we very much appreciate that you accepted our invitation, although after 75 years we feel very much incomplete without the veterans, the choir and orchestra of Dutch and Polish youth, the youngsters from Poland who wrote poems, many volunteers and around a thousand of interested people.
As a part of the funding opportunities offered through Gelderland Herdenkt last year we initiated several projects.
One of them was the restauration of the stained glass window that was a gift of the members of the 1st Polish Independent Parachute Brigade in February 1947.
The bonds of friendship and gratitude of the people from Driel and Poland are visible in this village in several ways.
The local football club, founded in October 1945, decided at that time to choose the colours of the Polish flag as their club colours: white shirt and red shorts. Nowadays, every week 35 teams play their match in this outfit. How visible the relation with Poland can be.
One of the founders of the club was Father Poelman who returned to Driel together with several inhabitants shortly after May 1945. They met with members of the Brigade who were part of the occupying army just across the border in Kleef and further to the north near Overijssel.
They came to Driel in search of the field graves of comrades who had died and the remnants of the materials that they had had to leave behind during their retreat on 26 September 1944.
Together with inhabitants present they reburied around 30 parachutists in the graveyard near the Roman Catholic church.
In September 1946 the first monument was erected, in December that year the schoolchildren of Driel sent around 1,800 Christmas cards to all members of the Brigade who were part of the occupation army.
In 1947 the members of the Brigade donated 6,500 guilders, which in today terms equals to
€ 30,000, and a stained glass window for the temporary boys school.
Related to their 75th anniversary, the local football club contributed to the restauration of the stained glass window which yesterday was unveiled and now finds a permanent place in our Information Centre.
Also yesterday, initiated by the local council, a bust of General Sosabowski was unveiled opposite the house which, in September 1944, was his headquarter.
On our website you will find links to reports of these events.
Dear veterans, all of this and several existing locations make clear that Driel remains grateful and will never forget you.
We will continue to remember, hopefully next year again in your presence!