With less than two weeks to go until a weekend packed full of events across Leven to mark the special relationship between the Scots and the Poles, and one historic battle, the East Fife Mail has spoken to the people behind the event and who’ve made it all possible.
Leven Community Council
It was over a year ago that Leven Community Council first discussed the possibility of holding an event to mark the 70th anniversary of the Battle of Arnhem and the strong link between the Scottish and Polish communities.
Now, with just two weeks to go, the plans are firmly in place, with a David Mach artwork to boot.
Alistair Suttie, chairman, said: “The 70th Anniversary of the Battle of Arnhem gave Leven Community Council an opportunity to highlight the story of how Leven came to be the home of 1st Independent Polish Parachute Brigade. Many of the men, who trained at Largo House and surrounding areas, were dropped into battle at Arnhem.
“The Council were keen to mark the occasion by creating a new memorial with the help of artist David Mach, whose father served in the Brigade. Our area has many families with Polish connections whose forebears originally came to serve. It is those connections we want to celebrate.”
World-renowned artist and local boy David Mach has been hard at work on a memorial scultpure for the past few months, after being asked to get involved in the project by Leven Community Council. The work, made from stone and bronze, will be unveiled in Leven’s Festival Gardens during a special ceremony on Sunday, September 28.
David said it was easy to agree to be involved in the event, given that his own father, Joseph, was one of the 1st Polish Parachute Brigade paratroopers to be involved in Arnhem.
“This memorial is an unsual thing for me to do, but it’s a serious thing. Thousands of Poles were here in the 40s, training to fight, and they all made one hell of a difference. This world might have been a different place if it weren’t for them, and all the freedoms we have now, it’s not because of what we’ve done, they did that, and that’s worth remembering.”
David, who has been working on the sculpture with brother Robert, added: “The sculpture, it seems quite traditional, but we’ve tried to do it in a different way. I’ve never worked with stone or bronze before, so it’s been quite exciting for me, and I can now take that process and apply it to other things I’m working on. And of course, this is something for Methil, Leven, Fife, Scotland - I’ve not done much in Scotland but no matter the outcome of this referendum, I’d like to do more for and with Scotland.”
Marysia Lachowicz, a qualified and accomplished photographer, has compiled a beautiful exhibition of old pictures and laser cuts in the Beachcomber Cafe on Leven’s Promenade.
The daughter of a Polish paratrooper, Poland is quite literally in her blood and she admits it was a no-brainer getting involved with the event.
“I know Robert Mach, brother of David, and he told me about it. I did a show for the Largo Festival, and I thought this would be a good opportunity to get involved with something like that again.
“My dad was in the 1st Polish Parachute Brigade, but he didn’t talk about it at all. I really wish I had asked more, but he found the whole thing very difficult.
“So it has been really interesting finding out that he wasn’t alone.”
This week, Marysia has travelled to Holland for the official Arnhem celebrations, where she plans to take some photos to add to the exhibition, and said she hopes Leven’s own event will encourage second generation Poles to find out more about the history of Leven and Poland.
Methil Heritage Centre
After being asked to get involved by Councillor David Alexander, Methil Heritage Centre volunteers Garry Nurse and Norman Myles were put on the case to search the archives for photographs and artefacts from the era.
After gathering an extensive amount of information, it was decided that a memorial booklet should be produced which will be handed out on the day of the memorial unveiling.
The centre will also be hosting an exhibition starting next week, with three days of events for local children from September 26 - 28.
Garry said: “Although we had the stuff there, we’d never actually done anything on the Polish paratroopers.
“But it’s been really enjoyable. We’ve been to St Andrews and Cupar to look at the other memorials and have really gone into detail on this as it’s a fascinating subject.
“It has really opened our eyes, and hopefully the booklet and the exhibition will bring Polish decendants and lots of others along to see this side of Levenmouth and open their eyes too.”
Adrian Hunt and David Neill from WW2 Presentations, are holding an exhbition at Methil Heritage Centre until October 17, and will provide a host of military vehciles for display on Leven Promenade on Sunday, September 28.
Although aware of General Sosabowski’s background, Adrian said he was amazed to learn in 2012 that the Polish paratroopers had formed and trained in Scotland for three years before setting off on their mission. But following the defeat at Arnhem, both the General and his paratroopers were blamed for losing the battle.
Adrian and David visited Leven several times, and Adrian noted that although the current Polish-Scottish friendship memorial was probably appropriate for the day, it was general in its content.
He said: “I thought something else was needed to highlight an injustice in military history now accepted and revised by historians. I also felt that as there was a large Polish community both old and new, in Fife, the story needed to be retold.”
After contacting the Veterans Minister at the Scottish Parliament, he was put in contact with Councillor Alexander, who took the idea to Leven Community Council - and the event was born.
Adrian said: “Ultimately it’s thanks to them and the good people of Fife for funding the project.”
After hearing about the event from Leven Community Council treasurer Eddie Young, Michael and Ayshea Morris, who own the Beachcomber Amusements and Cafe, were keen to get involved.
Michael said: “We don’t have any historical links with Poland, but we’re very pro-community and we wanted to help out with a community endeavour wherever we could.
“Hopefully longterm, this memorial will be a new attraction for the area, as we already do get a lot of people coming to see the original.”
The Beachcomber Cafe is already showing Marysia’s exhbition of photographs and laser cut artworks, and over the weekend of September 27 & 28, they will also show the film, ‘A Bridge Too Far’, as well as provide hospitality at the memorial event and 40s dance on Saturday, September 27 at Leven’s Balmaise Centre.