Arnhem remembered

Fife Provost Jim Leishman and Polish Consul General Dariusz Adler
Fife Provost Jim Leishman and Polish Consul General Dariusz Adler

After months of planning, Leven came together to remember and commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Battle of Arnhem - and the subsequent links between the area and the Poles - this weekend.

People from all over Scotland and as far as Coventry and Kent travelled to Levenmouth to take part in the celebrations, which culminated with the unveiling of a memorial sculpture created by world-renowned artist David Mach.

Hundreds of people descended on Leven Promenade early on Sunday where they had the opportunity to get up close to military vehicles, provided by WW2 Presentations, before heading to Fesitval Gardens for the special ceremony attended by Fife Provost Jim Leishman, MSP Tricia Marwick, Polish Consul General Dariusz Adler, Professor Hal Sosabowski and Reverand Gilbert Nisbet.

Speaking after the memorial was unveiled, David - whose father Joseph Mach was a member of the 1st Independent Polish Parachute Brigade - said although a war memorial was unlike anything he had done before, he couldn’t wait to do it given his Polish connections.

“We tried to do it in a slightly traditional way, so that it looks like a memorial, but you don’t want to try to ‘out-do’ the original, so you want it to be appropriate.

“I have to say, it’s gone really smoothly, and it was made by lots of different people. The bronze was made by a foundry in Peebles, we got the stone from Berwick, Robert my brother worked on the actual clay modelling, and it all just came together quite nicely.

“My dad would have loved to have been here today, he would have adored it. This is a really important day - they infiltrated the whole of Fife, these Poles, and there are so many stories about them.”

Professor Hal Sosabowski - the great-grandson of Major General Stanislaw Sosabowski - had the honour of unveiling the sculpture, which features both the Scottish and Polish flags and emblems, and the motto of the Brigade, ‘Najkrotsza Droga’ - The Shortest Way.

Commenting on the memorial, Prof. Sosabowski said: “My goodness, it really has exceeded my expectations, beyond my wildest dreams, and not just the memorial but the locals and the whole community.

“There’s a strenth of feeling between the Scots and the Poles, and it is really humbling to see all of the Vets come out and all of the Poles.”

Following the unveiling, Fife Provost Jim Leishman and Polish Consul General Dariusz Adler laid wreaths, and Mr Leishman admitted he did not realise there was such a close bond between the Scots and Poles in Levenmouth: “The turnout has been great, and it does mean so much to the people in this area. There is such a connection between the Polish people and the locals here in Levenmouth, which I didn’t realise.

“When I was manager at Dunfermline, we used to go to Holland to do preparation, and on one of our days off, my friend and I hired a car, and we actually drove to Arnhem to go round the war graves and the Hartenstein Museum.

“It’s hard to describe the feeling you get when you’re there, but the people of Holland were clearly so appreciative of the British and Polish soldiers that came to rescue them. And that passion is still there.”

The whole project was made possible thanks to the determination of Leven Community Council, which has spent months organising the whole thing.

Alistair Suttie, chairman, said: “I’m absolutely proud of today and a bit stunned at the turnout and the good feeling that’s around. One of the great things is the amount of Poles that have turned up to see this, along with the number of young people.

“People are still thinking about what happened and remembering what happened, and so I’m really chuffed with how things have gone.”

Tricia Marwick MSP added: “They (the Poles) became so much part of our community that they are our community and I think what’s wonderful now is that we’ve got another generation of Polish people coming to live in Scotland.

“The Scots and the Polish people have completely integrated and they are us and we are them.”