Address by the Ambassador of the Republic of Poland in the Netherlands,
Professor Marcin Czepelak,
at the Commemoration of the contribution of the 1st Polish Independent Parachute Brigade to Operation Market Garden, 73 years ago
Driel, 16 September 2017
Ladies and Gentlemen!
There is only one such place in the Kingdom of The Netherlands – right here, where every Pole feels how an enormous pride mixes with bitterness. These emotions do not fade, despite the fact that time goes by.
There is only one such place in the Kingdom of The Netherlands – right here, where every Pole looks at every Dutchman with a deep gratitude.
Delivering the first public speech here is a great honour for the Ambassador of the Republic of Poland. Since my arrival in The Netherlands on Sunday, I have been waiting to stand in the same place where 73 years ago the fate of our world was being decided.
73 years ago at this hour the events could have taken a different course. General Lewis Brereton had been waiting for the weather forecast. Only in the evening, he received a report predicting four sunny days. On the 17th of September 1944, two parallel military operations – ‘Market’ and ‘Garden’ began. Had the Allies’ plan succeeded, they would have been able to conquer Berlin by themselves. Maybe then Poland would not have been given away to the Soviets; the Iron Curtain would not have been created; and Poland would have enjoyed freedom. Then, General Sosabowski and his soldiers would have been able to return to their Homeland. This was their dream – to reach Poland using “the shortest possible route”. After the outbreak of the Warsaw Uprising, they dreamed even more of returning to Poland. They wanted to fight for the freedom of their Capital – the City which had offered them its Standard.
However, 73 years ago General Sosabowski and his soldiers were dropped here, and they fought until the end. They fully devoted themselves to this fight, despite the objections that General Sosabowski had earlier brought to the attention of the Allies. His warnings were the words of reason of a loyal ally and an experienced commander. Unfortunately, these words of the Polish General were disregarded. I am concerned that this is not the first, nor the last time when the Polish warnings are ignored, and the decision-makers stubbornly turn a blind eye on the facts. 73 years ago, such ignorance had been at the expense of the lives of Polish soldiers.
As a result of the failure of the ‘Market-Garden’ operation, the Allies did not arrive first in Berlin. Warsaw, fighting the German occupant, had been entirely destroyed. The Red Army had taken over Poland, and the Soviet authorities began slaughtering the soldiers of the Polish Home Army. The soldiers were often dying at the hands of the Soviet torturers from the Soviet Secret Police, and in the same prisons in which the German secret police called Gestapo had earlier operated. The soldiers of the Polish Armed Forces, fighting – just like the First Independent Parachute Brigade – on the Western Front, met the same fate.
General Sosabowski and his soldiers become inconvenient. Ironically, the ones who had been securing the retreat of others until the end, were later blamed by their allies for the defeat. The communist authorities in Poland had revoked the Polish nationality of General Sosabowski. As a result, he had lost his passport and immediately after the war he was not able to come to Driel and take part in the celebrations commemorating the fight and death of his soldiers. General Sosabowski had shared the fate of his exiled soldiers, having had to find a job to support himself and his family. The brave General became a simple worker in a British factory. And this could have been the sad ending of this story. But it is missing a few more persons.
73 years ago in this place, Ms. Cora Baltussen witnessed the landing of over one thousand Polish soldiers. She also met their commander – General Stanislaw Sosabowski. I believe that both of these personas stood out in terms of courage, determination, as well as sense of honour and justice. Without these traits, I cannot imagine the determination with which Ms. Cora Baltussen had fought for the honour of the Polish paratroopers. Even though she did not get to see the result of her efforts, she had become a spark that warmed up the hearts of many Dutchmen. They have taken up the fight for the honour of General Sosabowski and his Brigade. Queen Beatrix had ended this victorious fight in 2006, when she posthumously gave General Sosabowski the Brown Lion Medal; and gave the highest Dutch military award – King Wilhelm’s Order – to the First Polish Independent Parachute Brigade.
During the war, you took up the fight by serving in many military units, but with one objective – to bring back the lost freedom! I thank you for your devoted service and I assure you that your presence here is the source of a great pride and joy.
Dear Dutch Friends!
Thanks to you, we were able to bring back the honor of General Sosabowski and his soldiers. This success crowns the effort of many Dutchmen. It would not have been possible without the involvement of the Dutch Royal Family, for which I thanked His Majesty King Willem-Alexander on Wednesday. I also extend my gratitude to the Driel-Polen Foundation, founded by Ms. Cora Baltussen. We will never forget what you have done for Poland. On behalf of myself and my compatriots, I would like to thank you today and say how important for us is your presence and your commemoration of the Polish paratroopers from Driel.
Thank you for your attention.