Dear veterans, widows, family members of veterans, and friends of our Foundation,
The year 2022 began still with a lockdown in the Netherlands due to the Covid pandemic.
At the very moment of writing this newsletter, the virus is still present, but thankfully we are able to continue our “normal” lives and are not confined to our homes.
Unfortunately, Europe was shaken this year by another disaster: the beginning of the war in Ukraine on 24 February 2022. It is terrible that this war knows no end to this day and is causing so much human suffering. The war in Ukraine meant that this year’s Commemoration was experienced differently and the value of freedom, as we experience it in the Netherlands, became even more meaningful. The commemoration in September was fortunately able to take place as usual, with guests from home and abroad. Interested parties were welcomed too.
Many activities have taken place the past year, and this newsletter presents you an overview of what we have been doing or have been closely involved with.
Musical Cora Baltussen – Bring my Love to Poland
On Thursday, 21 April, the Board, together with a delegation from the Polish Embassy, were guests in Herveld for the premiere of the musical “Bring my Love to Poland”. The show is a musical tribute to three characters from a true Driel war story that was impressively performed by the music theatre group, Foundation Music from Herveld. In the performance, we follow the story of two Polish brothers, one of whom ultimately dies in the arms of Cora Baltussen, saying the historic words before he dies: “Bring my love to Poland”. We see Driel struggling under German resistance and rising again to endorse “their Poles” when they are blamed for the failure of Operation Market Garden. The small Driel becomes big in her deeds through the eventual rehabilitation of Major General Sosabowski and his men in December 2005. The musical made a big impression on us all.
Celebration of the 130th birthday of General Stanisław Sosabowski
On Saturday, 14 May we celebrated the 130th birthday of General Stanisław Sosabowski.
General Stanisław Sosabowski was born on 8 May 1892 in Stanisławow, which nowadays belongs to Ukraine. He was the Commander of the 1st Polish Independent Parachute Brigade.
In September 1944, he led his paratroopers to Driel, where their support was crucial to the troops fighting on the north bank of the Rhine. The birthday of the General was commemorated with a wreath-laying ceremony at his bust and speeches by Mr. Piotr Samerek representing the Polish Embassy and Mr. Wijnte Hol, Alderman of the municipality of Overbetuwe. Not only Sosabowski, but also General Anders and General Maczek were born in 1892. Each of them was a hero and a commander of Polish units who fought for the liberation of Western Europe during World War II.
After the wreath-laying ceremony at the bust of Sosabowski, many of the attending students and hikers followed the footsteps of the 1st Polish Independent Parachute Brigade by walking the newly opened “The Poles of Driel” trail. This sixkilometrelong walking route leads along the most important landmarks of Driel.
After the commemoration at the bust of Sosabowski, at the Information Centre, Chairman Arno Baltussen drew attention to three completed projects for which subsidies were granted in 2018 within the project Gelderland Herdenkt.
The projects involved were:
- The restoration of the stained glass window that was donated by the members of the 1st Polish Independent Parachute Brigade to the provisional boys’ school in 1947.
- A presentation on the contribution of Polish units to the liberation of the Netherlands
displayed on canvases that will be exhibited around the monument on the Polenplein in Driel until October.
Inauguration of the project “Beeldschermen ooggetuigen verslagen” on 14 May by Alderman Wijnte Hol of the municipality of Overbetuwe and Piotr Samerek of the Polish Embassy. By pressing the start button, the first screen was activated.
Among the many attendees there were Mrs. Johanna Braakman (92) and Mrs. Gerritsen-Martens (93), who both shared their stories of the combat operations in Driel in 1944. Now they could admire, for the first time, their own interviews given on screen. On the video screens, visitors can also read the interviews given by veterans of the 1st Polish Independent Parachute Brigade. Choosing the menu option gives one the possibility of reading the interviews in Polish, English and Dutch.
Promo film Polish traces in Driel
In collaboration with the Polish Embassy in April, a short documentary entitled “Polish traces in Driel” was made. A six-minute film explains in what way Driel will be always connected to Poland. Our Board members and a representative of the local football club tell the story of the Poles of Driel in front of the camera that was set up in the Information Centre. See the attached link for the video on https://bit.ly/3V9giWU
The Information Centre after the Covid period
Since May, visits to the Information Centre have increased again. Visitors from various countries have left their reactions in the guest book. At the beginning of June, Chief Commissioner of the Police in The Hague, Paul van Musscher, along with the Provincial Commander of the Police in the Krakow region, Michal Ledzion, visited the Information Centre and laid a wreath at the monument. By invitation of Defense Attache, Dariusz Poczekalewicz of the Polish Embassy and defence attaches from 15 NATO countries visited the Information Centre on 27 June. The Foundation provided a short presentation, after which all the participants walked the Polish Tour.
Football match of 6th Polish brigade against first team RKSV
On Wednesday, 14 September, a special match was scheduled at RKSV Driel. RKSV Driel’s 1st team played against a delegation of the 6th Polish Brigade as part of the Airborne commemorations. This match was initially planned in 2020 as a part of the anniversary celebration of RKSV Driel and was postponed to 2022 due to Covid. RKSV Driel proved to be much too strong for the soldiers of the 6th Brigade. The outcome of the match was 8 to 3 in favor of RKSV Driel. It gave everyone a taste for more. The plans are to meet each other on the football field again next year.
Concert of the Polish Ensemble Promyki Krakowa
On Thursday evening, 15 September, Polish music group Promyki Krakowa gave a concert in the Roman Catholic Church in Driel within the series of the Blije Kerk concerts. Led by Roma Krzemień, Promyki entertained approximately 200 attendees with heart-warming music, ranging from classical highlights to polkas and mazurkas, as well as powerful soldier songs well known to the parachutists.
Due to the COVID pandemic, the Promyki Ensemble was smaller than usual. Fortunately, the concert of Promyki Krakowa was enriched by two special soloists: a guitarist Kornel Klamut, who played Johann Kaspar Mertz’s Elegy, and Marcin Bolisęga on accordion, who shone in a Bach fugue and an Italian polka. The images of the paratrooper brigade and their General, Stanislaw Sosabowski appeared in front of the eyes of everyone while listening to Joop van Dijk’s The Sosabowski Men. Finally, the attendees sang along the Market Garden song, “A bridge to the future”, so characteristic of the warm atmosphere of the concert.
See the attached link for the video on https://bit.ly/3BSEDJO
On Saturday, 17 September, we celebrated the annual Polish Commemoration Day.
Thankfully, we could welcome guests from home and abroad. The celebration of 2022 was, however, different from all the previous ones. There were no veterans present anymore.
The survivors have reached an age which prevents them from taking a long journey to Driel.
We, the Board of the annual commemorations, must find a new form of remembrance, involving and engaging the children and grandchildren of the veterans.
See the attached link for the video on https://bit.ly/3WCuZ5M
After the commemoration, there was a Polish picnic on the grass field next to the church in Driel. The 6th brigade, Polish Embassy and the Overbetuwe Municipality treated the guests to soup and drinks. Guests received tulip bulbs as a souvenir.
World Championship Volleyball Ladies
In September, the Overbetuwe Municipality was host to the Polish women’s team. In cooperation with the volleyball clubs in our municipality, interesting activities were organised during the week of 19 September. On Wednesday morning, 21 September, the Polish women’s team was welcomed in Driel by Alderman Wijnte Hol and the chairman of the Driel-Poland Foundation, Arno Baltussen. A short presentation explaining the important role of the Poles during Operation Market Garden at the time of World War II was given in the Information Centre. Afterwards, each player received a gift: a basket filled with two Elstar apples, an Airborne Driel flag and some promotional material. On Friday evening, 23 September, a large number of volunteers enjoyed the volleyball match: Poland against Croatia in a seething stadium Gelredome in Arnhem. The Polish team won.
Screening of the film Warsaw Uprising
On Friday evening, 7 October, our Foundation, together with the portal Polen in Beeld, organised the first screening of the film “Warsaw Uprising” in the Netherlands. The film tells a story, barely known in the Netherlands, about a crucial moment in World War II, the Warsaw Uprising. During the introduction, it was explained how Poland was captured by the geopolitical situation from the very first day of World War II, 1 September 1939. The lecture concluded with a link to local history. General Sosabowski led his paratroopers to be transported by air directly to Poland, to fight for their own freedom. The film displays historical images of the uprising in Warsaw. The uprising began on 1 August 1944 as part of a national uprising. For 63 days, until 2 October 1944, the insurgents fought against Germans and German-led troops. One of the visitors commended on the lecture “I was pleasantly surprised by the lecture. Such a clear overview was a good introduction that helps you better
understand the film.” We are planning to repeat this event in 2023. The information about the exact date and time will be placed on the website. You will also be informed about the event via mail.
Lecture about General Stanisław Sosabowski by his great-grandson professor Hal Sosabowski
In cooperation with the Airborne Museum, the Polish Embassy, and our Foundation, Professor Hal Sosabowski gave three lectures consequently on 9,10 and 11 December.
Hal is a great-grandson of General Stanisław Sosabowski and acted as the Ambassador of the family, telling the story of his great-grandfather. In these lectures, he presented to the audience the life of the General, the operation of the Polish Parachute Brigade, and their contribution to Operation Market Garden. He also focused on the formation of the Brigade and their training in Scotland, as well as the postwar years and the rehabilitation of the Poles. Hal also told the story of his grandfather, the General’s son, Dr. Stan Sosabowski, who also had a remarkable military career and was injured during the Warsaw Uprising. All the stories were told from a unique family perspective, enriched with personal photos and remarkable anecdotes.
Progress of archive digitalization
From previous letters, you are already familiar with our project of digitising the Foundation’s archive. Last spring, we took the first step and we managed to digitise various documents with the help of volunteers and students. We evaluated the first step and also sought an advice from an archivist. He advised us to distinguish between two types of documents in the archive:
- The actual Foundation documents that provide a good picture of the Foundation’s
activities over the years.
Other documents that are historically relevant and support the image of the Foundation, its work and of course our Polish liberators.
We were also advised to look very critically at what actually needs to be preserved. Based on the advice, we want to adjust our approach. The first step would be to sort out all the available materials. We will continue our work in the new year.
Polish award Pro Patria ‘Standing up for freedom is topical every day’
In 2018, General Sosabowski was posthumously awarded the White Eagle by the President of Poland. Hal Sosabowski received this high honor at the time in the presence of 3 of his children and nephew Jeremy Sosabowski.
- Order of the White Eagle (Poland) – See the attached link: https://bit.ly/3HOh8W5
- Generaal Sosabowski ontvangt postuum de hoogste Poolse onderscheiding – Stichting Driel-Polen See the attached link: https://bit.ly/3v98utA
The Sosabowski family decided earlier this year to give the White Eagle on loan to the Museum of 6 Airborne Brigade in Krakow.
The official handover took place on Friday 16 December at the museum on the grounds of 6 Airborne Brigade in Krakow. At the same time, the Bronze Lion the family owned was also loaned to the museum.Both awards highlight the connection between 6 Airborne Brigade and their patron General Sosabowski.
The Driel-Polen Foundation was invited to attend. Following the handover, an award was presented to the Driel-Polen Foundation on the initiative of the Commander of 6 Airborne Brigade, Colonel M. Strzelecki.
Colonel Strzelecki, commander of 6 Airborne Brigade since July 2022, attended this year’s commemoration in Driel for the first time. He was impressed by the many features of Driel’s relationship with Poland.
The “Pro-Patria” award Pro-Patria Medal (Poland) – Wikipedia See attached link: https://bit.ly/3hLeXYH was presented by Minister J.J. Kasprzyk, Head of the Office for War Veterans and Victims of Oppression, to Driel-Poland Foundation chairman Arno Baltussen. In his acceptance speech, he stressed that this award is not only a recognition of the foundation’s work but also for all the volunteers who support the foundation every year.
The commemoration in Driel is planned to take a place on Saturday 16 September 2023 at 3:00 p.m.
We wish you a Merry Christmas and a prosperous and healthy 2023!
December 2022 Foundation Driel – Polen