Speech by H. E. the Ambassador of the Republic of Poland Margareta Kassangana during the 79th Commemoration of the contribution of the 1st Polish Independent Parachute Brigade to Operation Market Garden

Driel, September 16, 2023

Esteemed Representative of the Gelderland Province,
Honourable Mayors,
Distinguished Ambassadors and members of the Diplomatic Corps,
Respected Generals and representatives of the armed forces,
Esteemed Representatives of the Driel-Polen Foundation (Stichting Driel-Polen),

Ladies and Gentlemen, Dear Friends!!!
It is a great honour and a deeply moving moment for me to be here with you today on Polenplein, the place where the residents of Driel and the surrounding places gather every year to pay tribute to the Polish paratroopers, who took part in Operation Market-Garden under the command of General Stanisław Sosabowski.

As every year, this is also a special occasion to reflect on the significance of the events that unfolded here in September 1944 and its impact on the present day.

As we gather here today, there are no more veterans with us, no witnesses of those events. The last of them, Bolesław Ostrowski, resides in Canada. He, along with his departed comrades, bore witness to great sacrifice made by the Polish soldiers who gave their lives in the battles, here on the Dutch soil. Seventy-nine years ago, when they parachuted onto the fields around Driel along with their British colleagues in the spirit of solidarity and joined efforts, they carried the message of fighting “for our and your freedom.”

This brotherhood in arms is visible even today. Descendants of the 1st British Airborne Division and the 1st Independent Parachute Brigade continue to gather annually on the former battlefields, paying tribute to the soldiers who fought in Oosterbeek, Arnhem, the heaths of Ede, and here in Driel. The shared experience of fate binds us, creating bonds that are often elusive to external observers. It was here that the destinies of soldiers from many nations and civilian inhabitants converged. Out of the heroic actions of Allied soldiers and the Dutch local residents arose a transnational community of memory that is more enduring than treaties.

Today, we especially remember the life story of the mentioned already last living veteran of the 1st Independent Parachute Brigade, Mr. Bolesław Ostrowski, about whom spoke Honorary Consul Arno Baltussen.

His life is a typical story of many Poles who fought alongside the Allies, sparing no effort and often sacrificing their lives in the struggle against the German aggressors, practically on all fronts of World War II. They believed that their sacrifice and personal engagement would not be in vain, but would contribute to the liberation and freedom of Poland, their beloved homeland.

Unfortunately, this did not come to pass. Due to the decisions of great powers, Poland remained in the Soviet sphere of influence. Those who survived had to wait a long time before Poland fully regained its sovereignty and independence. Many did not live to see those moments.

Ladies and Gentlemen, Dear Friends of Poland,
Nearly 80 years after the end of World War II, which began with the attack of the fascist Germany on Poland on September 1, 1939, and was followed 17 days later by the occupation of the eastern territories of Poland by the Red Army, Europe once again faces a great threat to peace, security and stability.

While the world unequivocally condemned the Nazi regime and the consequences of its actions, the perpetrators of horrible Soviet crimes from the Second World War were never prosecuted. Their crimes remained unaccountable and unpunished and often even pushed out of the collective memory.

Perhaps that is why, in February 2023, Russian imperialism, feeling impunity, raised its head again and initiated another barbaric war by attacking neighbouring Ukraine.

Fortunately, the world did not remain passive in the face of this aggression, demonstrating solidarity with the Ukrainian people who are also fighting “for our and your freedom.”

Poland and the Netherlands are among the countries that have been providing all possible assistance to Ukraine from the very beginning: military, financial, and humanitarian. Over a million refugees have found shelter in Poland, and 90 thousand in the Netherlands. In both countries, there is a strong public support for aiding Ukraine.

One of the lessons we have learned from Operation Market-Garden is that one cannot remain indifferent to barbaric evil and to states that disregard any principles of peaceful coexistence.

Bolesław Ostrowski and his comrades in arms should serve as an inspiration to all of us in our determination to continue to defend freedom in solidarity with those who resist imperial aggression. Their example is relevant for today and for the future. We must make sure that their efforts and sacrifice during Operation Market-Garden were not in vain.

Thank you for your attention.