Address by the Burgomaster of the municipality Overbetuwe Mr. A.S.F. van Asseldonk
at the opening of the Information Centre: The Poles of Driel
Driel, 18 September 2014
Dear Ladies and Gentlemen,
“The blood of the Polish soldiers has fertilised the Dutch soil, stories and songs have forged a bond, which I hope will prove to be as close as our friendship.”
These are Major General Stanislaw Sosabowski’s words, which have been put on display in this information centre. The special bond between Driel and Poland has been evident time and time again during the past 70 years. This friendship eventually also led to rehabilitation for the 1st Polish Independent Parachutists Brigade and to rehabilitation for Major General Sosabowski. Something we can certainly all be very proud of.
There is no better way to portray the close friendship built up between the Driel population and the veterans and surviving Polish soldiers who fought here in 1944 than through the information centre which has been set up in the church behind me. Right in the core of where it all started at the time, here in Driel.
As the Mayor of Overbetuwe, and therefore also of Driel, I am incredibly proud of the large group of volunteers who have been working towards today, tomorrow and, of course, the commemoration service to be held next Saturday, for many months. They have selflessly been working on making sure this can all be made possible for a very long time. They are thereby expressly emphasising Sosabowski’s words, the close friendship between Driel and Poland. But all this certainly wouldn’t have been possible without their hard work.
The volunteers aren’t the only ones who have been selflessly dedicated. In the run up to this commemoration, I have heard some wonderful stories about how the Driel population, the associations and companies, have all been working very hard at turning this commemoration in something truly extraordinary. Without any self-interest, without gaining anything themselves. Because they, just like me, attach great value to this friendship with Poland and want to ensure we continue to remember. I would like to extend my heartfelt thanks to them for this.
Oosterbeek is home to a beautiful museum, the Airborne Museum. You will find a fantastic information centre underneath the John Frostbrug (bridge) in Arnhem.
And now Driel has its own information centre which does justice to the Polish soldiers’ extraordinary efforts in 1944. As a municipality, we have certainly all enjoyed providing a modest contribution to the realisation of this fantastic initiative. But we wouldn’t have been able to achieve as much without the contributions from others. Thank you to all the partners who have made this extraordinary project here in the Driel church possible!!
The exhibition illustrates the unfair fight Sosabowski and his men had to endure. It also shows the failed attempts to reach the other side of the Rhine in order to help the English. 98 Polish parachutists lost their lives here and their sacrifice is still being commemorated here on the Polenplein every year.
This commemoration takes place in September every year. Partly as a result of the realisation of this information centre, we will now also be able keep the memory of everything that happened here alive throughout the entire year.
I would like to wish the Stichting Driel-Polen and all Driel and Overbetuwe inhabitants all the very best of luck with this wonderful information centre.