Address by the Chairman of the Foundation Driel-Polen Mr. A.J.M. Baltussen
at the opening of the Information Centre: The Poles of Driel
Driel, 18 September 2014
Your Excellency Mr Borkowski
Esteemed Veterans ,
Dear Polish veterans
Mayor van Asseldonk
Pani a Panovi / Ladies and Gentlemen / dames en heren
Welcome this afternoon at the opening of the Information Centre: The Poles of Driel: “Bound by friendship and gratitude”
Exactly 70 years ago on 18 September 1944 the second day of Operation Market Garden the Polish war reporter Marek Swieciciki landed with a glider near Wolfheze.
The good landing had encouraged the reporter but on the way to Oosterbeek his feelings changed because everywhere he saw the results of heavy fighting. It wasn’t long before he was caught up in the middle of the fighting.
After eight days of heavy fighting he was evacuated to Driel. His journey was made possible because his Polish comrades has landed in Driel on 21 September and as a result the south side of the Rijn was now in the hands of the allies.
Immediately after the Battle of Arnhem he was asked by General Sosabowski to put his experiences on paper so that the contributions of the Polish forces during the battle of Arnhem could be clearly described.
The book “With the Red Devils at Arnhem” was one of the first eyewitnesses accounts that was published in the autumn of 1944.
Alas, the book concentrated on what had happened in Oosterbeek and not on the struggle of the Poles in Driel.
A detailed description of what had occurred in Driel only became available in 1989 when the book “De Polen van Driel” (“The Poles of Driel”) by the historian George Cholewczynski was published.
The title of this book is now the name of the Information Centre.
In October 2012 we began with further build on the long held desire to establish an Information Centre in Driel.
We were aware that increasingly tourists visited this lovely village and laid flowers and other items either by one of the monuments on the Polenplein or by the grave of Cora Baltussen.
The Airborne Museum supported us in this initiative and was ready to help think about how it should be established.
Without any preconceptions, without any experience we began to work towards out objective and the themes that would be dealt with in the centre.
How we would present these themes proved to be a real challenge. We were very grateful for the advice we received from Jan Hovers and Paul Tirion who represented the Airborne Museum as well from different conservators, historians and designers.
We received many very different ideas which made it very difficult for us – as inexperienced administrators in this field – to make the most appropriate choice.
Today, the management committee of our Foundation is therefore extremely pleased this afternoon to be able to show you the result of two years work.
Before we begin with part of the program related to the official opening I would like to introduce the burgomaster of the municipality Overbetuwe Mr van Asseldonk.