Poland’s ambassador to Canada says it is no mystery why Canadian soldiers are revered in Europe for their efforts during the First and Second World Wars.
While Europeans were fighting to preserve their way of life in the face of German aggression, Canadians didn’t have as much at stake yet made extraordinary sacrifices nonetheless, says Adrzej Kurnicki.
Kurnicki headed a delegation of 40 people who laid wreaths Sunday at the Brantford cenotaph and at the Canadian-Polish cenotaph that was established nearby several years ago.
“It is incredible for me to be here to commemorate all these brave men that fought for the freedom of Poland and Europe,” Kurnicki said in an interview. “Canada paid a very heavy price in the wars and we in Poland will always remember them.”
The Polish Kombatant’s Association of Canada, District 4 in Brantford, holds a formal get-together every year.
Kurnicki timed his visit from Ottawa to coincide with District 4’s annual event. Kurnicki and his entourage considered themselves fortunate that Sunday’s visit coincided with a well-attended open house at the Canadian Military Heritage Museum on Greenwich Street.
“We just happened to be there for the open house, which was fantastic,” said Slawomir Dobrowolski, head of tech education at St. John’s College and a cadet trainee when he lived in Poland.
“It was just a coincidence.”
Poland as we know it today was carved out of Imperial Germany after the First World War.
Poland was a battleground then and served as a trigger for the Second World War when Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union invaded Poland in 1939. Great Britain declared war on Germany when that occurred, as did Canada soon after.
Poland was quickly overrun and later suffered the devastating loss of its officer class and intelligentsia during the Katyn massacre in the spring of 1940. An investigation concluded that the 22,000 died at the hands of Soviet secret police. Despite that, many Polish soldiers escaped to the west and fought under allied commanders.
Kurnicki and his compatriots are especially proud that members of the Polish air force accounted for a disproportionately high percentage of kills when they fought with the Royal Air Force during the Battle of Britain in 1940.
While in Brantford, Kurnicki handed out Polish national honours to local veterans who fought with Polish troops to end the Nazi menace. Officials from France have travelled to southern Ontario in recent years to do the same.
“The bonds between Canada and Poland are very strong,” Kurnicki said. “Those bonds continue to be strong now that we are both members of NATO.”