Sunday, 8 September 2013

Polish War Memorial

A stone and marble memorial stands quiet, dignified and unassuming by the side of a roundabout just off the A40 Ruislip turn-off, about 10 minutes drive from the Bush. Flanked by the British and Polish flags the monument proclaims the various campaigns fought by the Polish airmen who volunteered to fight for the allies during the second world war after having escaped the joint Nazi-Soviet invasion of their country. Behind that obelisk a marble walkway winds around in a semi circle with the names of the thousands who paid for that decision with their lives. What is not recorded is that, during the later stages of the war, Britain sold Stalin their country in a secret deal that marked one of the most shameful episodes in our history. Decades later Polish President Lech Walesa visited this monument in 1991, after having fought for decades to right that wrong.

I’ve written before about the corners of history that mark our part of the world, and it’s one of the great things about living in London that you can find amazing windows onto our past. And having passed the polish war memorial roundabout loads of times on the A40 I’ve always wondered what sort of memorial it was, so this was the time the curiosity won and I pulled off the road on the way home from a trip to the well worth visiting Colne Valley Park.

If you have a chance to see it please do, it’s a very thought provoking little place and reminds us of the sacrifices these men made. One of my first jobs was working for the Royal British Legion back in 1997 and I remember well reading about the individual cases that the charity were supporting at the time, of men who had suffered horrendous injuries but who kept returning to try to liberate their country.

In our part of West London we have something of a special link to Poland too, of course. The crest of Hammersmith is a Polish eagle and the numerous “Polski Skleps” on our streets are evidence of the thriving population. One of whom was another Pole who recently exhibited the same commitment to fighting for what was right, and like his countrymen 70 years ago paid with his life. It’s with that sort of heritage in mind you begin to understand the contribution and the dedication that our friends from Poland have brought to this part of the world for generations.

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