Address by the Ambassador of the Republic of Poland in the Netherlands, Dr. Marcin Czepelak, at the Commemoration of the contribution of the 1st Polish Independent Parachute Brigade to Operation Market Garden, 76 years ago

Driel, 19 September 2020

I was told that once all the children in Driel could sing the Polish national anthem. I wonder what it looks like today. Maybe you would like to try learning the chorus itself:

March, March Dąbrowski
From Italy’s land to Poland,
Under your command
We will unite with the Nation.

Who was Dąbrowski and what was he doing in Italy?

Jan Henryk Dąbrowski was born in 1755. He was an officer – first in the Saxon, then in the Polish army. In 1794, he defended Warsaw against Russian troops. After many adventures he found himself in Milan, where, alongside Napoleon Bonaparte, he founded a new Polish formation – the Legions. Their soldiers had the inscription on their poles: “All free people are brothers”
and they wanted – as they sang – to liberate first Italy and then Poland. Why Italy? Because only this was possible then, but it was only supposed to be a step on the way to a free Poland.

You know another Polish General.

Stanisław Franciszek Sosabowski was born in 1892. He was an officer – first in the Austrian, then in the Polish army. In 1939, he defended Warsaw against the German troops. After many adventures, he found himself in Scotland, where, alongside the Allies, he founded the 1st Polish Independent Parachute Brigade. Its soldiers were to reach Poland “the shortest way” and so they ended up in the Kingdom of the Netherlands. Why the Netherlands? Because only this was possible then, but it was only supposed to be a step on the way to a free Poland.

Neither Dąbrowski nor Sosabowski lived to see free Poland. They were both brilliant commanders. Both enjoyed the devotion of their soldiers. They both rose from their wounds. Bellona chose them. Politics did not choose them. She likes other generals, and therefore they both had to endure many disappointments.

The famous commanders leave lists of their battles. They are statistics of their valor. However, only some of them had such strong characters and charismatic personalities that they were able to shape not only their soldiers, but also inspire those who did not get to know them personally, even many years later. Because what kind of strength you need to have to survive what General Sosabowski went through – as a boy, as a man, as a soldier, as a father, as a general and as a Pole? You really need to be steadfast in spirit.

This spirit is heard in our national anthem – as long as it is played at the right pace: allegro. It has to be played in a fast and energetic way (forte). We will hear it in the moment.

This hymn is a song of the Legions of General Dąbrowski, which they sang in Italy – for the first time in 1797. More than 120 years later, when Poland regained independence in 1918, this song – called the “Mazurka of Dąbrowski” became the Polish national anthem. Let this melody today unite all of us who are here and those who today are commemorating General Sosabowski and his Brigade from afar.