Speech during unveiling of General Sosabowski’s bust
Mayor P. Hoytink-Roubos
18 September 2020
Dear attendees, welcome,
A special word of welcome for Brigadier General Grzegorz Grodzki and the bust artist, Mr Martin Abspoel.
What do 23rd September 2017 and 18th September 2020 have in common?
From today these dates will be entering the history books together as the moments when this bust of Major General Sosabowski was unveiled. Both of the sculptures are identical. One can be found in Warsaw and the other in Driel.
Today’s unveiling of this bust will be adding a brand new chapter to the very warm connection between Driel, the Driel-Polen Foundation and the Municipality of Overbetuwe on the one hand and Poland on the other. ‘The Poles from Driel’ have been a household name since September 1944 and this will continue to be the case for many years to come, partly thanks to the Driel-Polen foundation’s efforts, which I am naturally very grateful for.
Cora Baltussen and Major General Sosabowski are right in the midst of this connection between Driel’s inhabitants and the soldiers from the 1st Polish Independent Parachute Brigade.
He was a man who didn’t mince his words and clearly expressed his opinion about Operation Market Garden’s success. He lost many good soldiers and eventually also his position as commander. It took many years for both the brigade and the general to be rehabilitated. The flag with the Military Order of William is present at this ceremony and the General’s bust has been decorated with the Bronze Lion, which was awarded by Queen Beatrix in 2006 together with the Military Order of William.
British veterans had previously already honoured Major General Sosabowski with the creation of the Sosabowski Memorial Appeal, which can be found on the Polenplein. The Overbetuwe municipal council decided to realise and place this bust in Driel on the occasion of the 75th commemoration of Operation Market Garden on 2nd July 2019. It was decided to move to unveiling to the 76th commemoration in 2020 as a result of that year’s busy schedule. This would ensure both the unveiling and the general would get all the attention they so richly deserve.
We unfortunately couldn’t have predicted what was to unfold during the course of this year: COVID-19. An adapted version of the Poles commemoration, with just a few people present, no audiences and, most noticeably, no veterans, for the first time in 76 years.
That’s why today’s unveiling will also only have a few people present and without the Sosabowski family. I hope, next year, we can once again commemorate the Poles as we have been used to for many years. Hopefully than there will be an opportunity for the municipal council and the Sosabowski family to visit this bust, which is proudly overlooking the General’s former headquarters during Operation Market Garden: Molenstraat 12 in Driel.
The placing of a sculpture of General Stanislaw Sosabowski has given ‘Commemorating, Realising and Experiencing’ its own, tangible face. It’s an expression of the Overbetuwe residents’ gratitude for the extraordinary efforts for our freedom by the 1st Polish Independent Parachute Brigade and their very brave general. A bond we cherished then, now and will continue to do so in the future.
Thank you very much!