Central and Eastern Europe

”It was the most beautiful, emotional and symbolic moment to witness in 2006 in the Binnenhof the recognition of General Sosabowski’s and his brigade bravery”

By Beata Bruggeman-Sekowska

On 25 September in 1967 general Sosabowski died. And on this day I have to think about Hans van Baalen, a well-known Dutch politician for whom Poland was very special.

General Sosabowski and his Polish 1st Independent Parachute Brigade fought bravely in September 1944 in Arnhem and liberated Driel. General Sosabowski despite his bravery became a scapegoat and blamed for the failure of the Battle of Arnhem by among others the British general and Field Marshal Bernard Law Montgomery. After World War II General Sosabowski could not return to Poland, which was occupied by the Soviet Union and communists. He had no retirement fund, so he was forced to work in the factory till his 75th birthday.

Thanks to the documentary ”GOD BLESS MONTGOMERY De vergeten Polen in de Slag om Arnhem” about Polish heroes by Geertjan Lassche the process of recognition of their heroism started. Prins Bernhard called Hans van Baalen who started with Frans Timmermans and Mat Herben the procedures in Dutch parliament. In 2005 the Dutch parliament decided about the recognition of Polish heroes. The whole parliament, all members of parliament supported the notion and the special advisory committee supported it, too.

The dream of Cora Baltussen whose life work was to make sure that the Polish heroes will be recognized came true two weeks after she died. During the Battle of Arnhem on September 21, 1944, in Driel, she met the Polish 1st Independent Parachute Brigade, led by the Polish general Stanislaw Sosabowski. As an employee of the Red Cross, she cared for the wounded. She was one of the founders of the Driel-Polen Foundation, which was established in 1945. Thanks to Baltussen, the village square of Driel was renamed Sosabowskiplein in 1949. She was also one of the initiators of the Surge Polonia monument. Balussen kept in touch with the Polish liberators throughout her life and, from 1961, campaigned for the award of military decorations for them . She spoke on September 14, 2004 in the television program Netwerk about Sosabowski. In the same program Prince Bernhard also spoke about the rehabilitation of the Poles.

As a result of the decision of the Dutch parliament in 2006 Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands awarded the Military Order of William to the 1st Independent Polish Parachute Brigade. The brigade’s commander, Sosabowski was posthumously awarded the “Bronze Lion”.

Hans told me ”It was the most beautiful, emotional and symbolic moment to witness in 2006 in the Binnenhof the recognition of General Sosabowski’s and his brigade bravery. There was this old gentleman, hero from Sosabowski’s Brigade and he witnessed awarding his Brigade the highest military award: the Military Order of William from the hands of Her Majesty Queen Beatrix. The grandchildren of General Sosabowski witnessed posthumously awarding his grandfather the highest award Bronze Lion, award intended for servicemen who have shown extreme bravery and leadership.”

Hans van Baalen died in April this year and his devotion for Poland was fascinating. His actions are immortal.

Image: wikipedia, public domain

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