Monday 1 May 2023

The Polish Connection

Newark, the home of the Irregulars and the Partizan shows, has a long and much treasured connection with Poland. This began in the Second World War when hundreds of Polish airmen flew from many of the airfields around Newark, and the 1st Polish Independent Parachute Brigade was based a little to the south around Stamford. 

Sadly, many of these men did not survive the war and Newark became home to the largest Polish War cemetery in Britain. Over 400 Polish servicemen were laid to rest in the cemetery and are still remembered in services every November 2nd - All Souls Day - both by the large ex-patriot Polish community in Newark and by their many non-Polish friends and neighbours. 

Most notably, General Władysław Sikorski, the Polish Prime Minister in Exile and Commander of the Polish Armed Forces, was buried at Newark after he died in a plane crash in 1943. Sikorski had always made clear his desire not to return to Poland until it was a free country and, as a result, he was laid to rest in Newark. His body was only returned to his native land after the restoration of Poland as a free and independent nation following the end of Soviet control in 1990. 

The repatriation of Sikorski's remains in 1993 was a major event, attended by Prince Philip along with senior political figures from both the UK and Poland. In addition, last November, three further Polish Presidents who had served their country in exile during the war and subsequent communist era who had been buried in Newark were returned with honours to their homeland. 

The large Polish community and the close links between Newark and Poland meant that it seemed natural that the town should also honour another notable Polish figure from the Second World War. This time it was not a military figure, but a nurse - Irena Sendlerowa - who was responsible for saving hundreds of Jewish children by smuggling them out of the Warsaw ghetto during the Nazi occupation. Captured and tortured by the Gestapo, she nevertheless refused to reveal the location of any of the children she had saved, and was eventually able to escape and survive the war. She finally passed away in 2008. Amongst the many honours bestowed upon her over the decades was a statue of that was unveiled in Newark in 2021.

If you have the time whilst visiting Newark, either for the show or for any other reason, then perhaps you might consider visiting the cemetery on London Road and the nearby statue of Irena Sendlerowa to pay your respects to two important but largely forgotten figures of the war.  

In honour of the Polish connection with Newark, this year's Partizan figures, created for us as always by Martin Baker, will be representations of General Władysław Sikorski and Irena Sendlerowa.



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