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, 73 years ago
Driel, 16 September 2017
Panie i Panowie,
Ladies & Gentlemen,
Dames & Heren
On behalf of the Driel-Polen Foundation I would like to welcome you all to this commemoration, where we give special attention to the contribution of the 1st Polish Independent Parachute Brigade to Operation Market Garden – 73 years ago.
A special word of welcome to
The 5 Polish Veterans, who could make the way to Driel from their home in Great Britain, Canada and the USA Mr. Kubiński,
Mr Opalacz, Mr. Staszkiewicz , Mr. Wojciechowski and
And Mrs. Nawrocka a previous member of the Armia Krakowia and widow of a member of the Brigade.
Also to the other widows of Polish veterans living in the UK and the Netherlands.
The Ambassador of the Republic of Poland in the Kingdom of the Netherlands His Excellency Professor Czepelak and Mrs. Czepelak
The Ambassadors of Great Britain His Excellency Mr. Wilson and from Canada Her Excellency Mrs. Nölke and the chargé d’áffaires from the United States of America Mr. Crowley.
The King’s Commissioner of our province Mr. Cornielje
Commander of the 6th Airborne Brigade, Brigade General Hałupka and other members from this Brigade
Lt. Gen. Sir Lorimer, Lady Lorimer and other members of the Para Regiment and
Brigade General Smits and Mrs. Smits on behalf of the Commander of the Dutch Armed Forces
The Burgomaster of this municipality Mr. Van Asseldonk and his partner Mr. Diepeveen
The representatives of the Sosabowski family Mr. Jeremy Sosabowski and his partner Bettina Beinhoff and Mrs. Tomczyk Sosabowska
The representative of the British veterans Staff Sgt. Laurie Weeden
The Burgomasters of the partner municipalities of Overbetuwe
From Germany Mr. Wernard representing Usingen and Mr. Hürtgen representing Zülpich
From Poland the representative of the burgomaster from Boleszkowice Mr. Bukiel.
The marshal of Lubielski, Mr. Sosnowski and the members of his delegation.
Professor Wawer, historian specialised in the history of the Polish Armed Forces in the West during WW2 and director of the Royal Łazienki Museum in Warsaw
the director of the Polish Army Museum Mr. Adam Buława and his colleague Mrs. Anna Popielarczyk-Pałęga
All the British veterans present this afternoon
Ladies and Gentlemen,
We wish you a warm welcome this afternoon when we remember the contribution of the 1st Polish Independent Parachute Brigade to Operation Market Garden 73 years ago.
A year ago we had contact with nearly 50 veterans worldwide who were members of the 1st Polish Independent Parachute Brigade and who had taken part in Operation Market Garden. Now there are just 40 veterans who are still alive. Given the fact that they are over 90 years old this is to be expected.
I would like to mention one of the veterans who passed away this year. On 31 January 2017 Alfons Victor Mackowiak – also well known as Alan Mack – passed away. He was 100 years old. On 18 September 1944 he landed in a glider near Wolfheze, was active in the struggle in and around Oosterbeek, was wounded by the Oude Kerk – Old Church and brought the last months of the war as a prisoner of war in Camp Spangenberg. During the war he held the rank of Captain.
After 1947, in England, he contributed as a highly respected and valued sports instructor to amongst others the skills of Olympic athletes. In the course of his life he was promoted to Colonel. After his death President Andrzej Duda promoted him to the rank of Brigadier General. Next week Saturday the urn with his ashes will be laid to rest in Warsaw’s military graveyard.
He will be in our thoughts this afternoon together with the other veterans who passed away since last year’s commemoration.
Because this year is not a quinquennium you might think that in addition to the 2017 remembrance ceremony and a visit to our information centre there are no other special activities. Nothing could be further from the truth.
One hundred and twenty five years ago on 8 May 1892 General Stanislaw Sosabowski was born. On 8 May, Poland celebrates the name day of Saint Stanislaw. Every reason not to let this day go unrecognized. Therefore, on 8 May here on this square the General Stanislaw Sosabowski tulip was christened.
Another special event that I would like to draw your attention to is the unveiling of a bust of General Sosabowski in Warsaw next week Saturday. The statue has been created by the Dutch sculptor Martin Abspoel and was acquired by the Dutch Embassy in Poland in 2014. It will come to stand in a square in Warsaw where – in 2018 – the new Polish Army museum will be established.
Next week Thursday in Krakow the annual commemoration of the setting up of the 1st Polish Independent Parachute Brigade on 23 September 1941 will be celebrated. On Friday the board of Stichting Driel-Polen will also attend the celebrations of the 60th anniversary of the Polish Army Parachutists and that 80 years ago for the first time Polish soldiers used parachutes.
Girls and boys in the choir. It is fantastic that you – as a group – are here today to sing and together with the members of the Promyki Krakowa orchestra lay flowers. We also offer a warm welcome to the young members of the football club who are dressed in their team’s colours – colours representative of the Polish flag – and which carry the emblem of a parachutist. We very much appreciate that later this afternoon you will also be involved in the wreath laying ceremony.
We remember we know it was Polish parachutists who – 73 years ago – in Driel not far from here landed with their parachutes to fight for our parents, grand-parents and great grand-parents against the enemy that had captured our country. By doing so they contributed to the freedom that we experience today.
Remembrance is important to ensure that we continue to be aware that freedom didn’t just come to us. We should be aware that others committed themselves and continue to commit themselves to our freedom even at the risk of their own lives. In the past but also today.
At the beginning of the war Polish parachutist together with others fled or was driven out of their country. Via complex routes they eventually came together in Scotland. There on 23 September 1941 they set up their Brigade.
For us all – but certainly for these five veterans – it is very significant and special that you, accompanied by peers from Poland, will sing two songs in Polish. Also the contribution of the football club is very much appreciated.
Wishing you success this afternoon!!