Monthly Archives: July 2012

A Little Piece of Poland

The 4th of July was a sad day for Poles. It marked 69th anniversary of Gibraltar catastrophe and death of General Wladyslaw Sikorski, Chief Commander of Poland and Prime Minister of Polish Government-in-Exile. I decided to honour General by visiting The Polish Institute and Sikorski Museum in London.

The Museum’s main hall

The Museum is a home to many documents, regimental colours, uniforms and personal effects of statesmen, soldiers and ordinary men. The Museum’s building was bought right after the WWII, it’s located at 20 Princes Gate, 5 min walk from all the museums in South Kensington. The Museum is open Tue-Fri from 2 to 4 pm and on the first Saturday of the month 10:30 am – 4 pm.

I don’t think 2 hrs is enough to see everything but there’s a chance you will be the only visitors on a weekday. The whole attention of Mr Romuald Kostrzewa, who was our guide, was focused on me and my brother. And believe me, his knowledge is so vast that he could talk for hrs… Stories I heard made me feel like I moved back in time. The fact that Mr Kostrzewa is a veteran makes the whole experience even more amazing – he joined Pulk Ulanow Karpackich (Carpathian Uhlans) in 1943 (unit this fought in North Africa and in Italy).

One thing I heard saddened me a lot. Apparently “the new immigration” that arrived after 2004, doesn’t visit the museum, doesn’t want to connect with the “old” generation. It’s strange considering the Museum is a little piece of Poland. And I mean the real Poland. When our parents were taught the wrong (or right, according to Soviets) version of history, here in the UK lived people who fought for free Poland and who knew that Soviet “liberation” didn’t mean the end of the war for Poles. We just switched the occupants…

On two floors there are thousands of exhibits and it looks like the Museum could use more space. I’ll show you now a few snapshots.

We’re going to start in Gen. Sikorski’s room.

Gen. Sikorski’s painting and a car flag from General’s car

Desk used by Gen. Sikorski

I’m sure some of you heard a story about Wojtek (Voytek) a  Syrian brown bear that served in 22nd Artillery Supply Company in Polish II Corps. He became a soldier of the Company and was getting his soldier’s pay in… beer and cigarettes. Wojtek went with Polish Army from Iran through North Africa to Italy. After the war Wojtek was given to Edinburgh Zoo. Until his death in 1963 Wojtek smoked cigarettes and always recognized Polish language when visited by Polish soldiers or journalists.

Wojtek the Bear

I think the most valuable exhibits are the regimental colours. You’ll find in the Museum colours of Polish Army from 1939 and also Polish Armed Forces in the West.

Polish 1st Independent Parachute Brigade’s banner awarded the Military Order of William by Queen Beatrix

The Brigade’s banner was sewed in Warsaw and was delivered from occupied Poland  to the Brigade in England.

I’m sure many of you have seen this picture before.

Polish flag over the Monastery’s ruins

In the early morning of May 18 1944 a reconnaissance group of Polish 12 Podolian Uhlans Regiment raised a Polish flag over the monastery’s ruins.

I’ll just say I was quite moved when taking these pictures.

This pennon was first raised over the ruins

And this is the flag you can see in many history books

I mentioned Mr Kostrzewa told us several stories. One of them was about Polish Model 34 sabre. It was a part of regular equipment in 1939 but this particular sabre was found in a German tank in… North Africa 🙂

Model 34 sabre

I hope a few photos I showed you will make you want to see more. If you have a few spare hours in London, don’t spend £17 on Churchill War Cabinets, go to Sikorski Museum instead.

The Polish Institute receives no financial aid from any official body. It relies on generosity of the public. In the Museum you can get souvenirs and books (they don’t take cards) and all notes and coins are dropped into this shell from ORP Piorun (destroyer “Thunder”).

Please be generous 🙂

Categories: Misc | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

And now for something completely different

The topic of today’s post will be slightly different from the previous ones. It is going to be about our RTW trip. I’m so excited that I’ve even started counting down days till my last day at work… My dear wife thinks I’m crazy but I don’t care – only 329 days left!!!

Where did the whole idea come from? Well, I described my reasons in “About me” so feel free to read about it. In a few words, the idea is that wherever I go I’ll try to find some Polish traces and write about it of course. And I think there is no place in the world without any Polish traces… I already have a few Poles in mind but first I want to get to those places, take a few pictures and then share the knowledge with you, Dear Readers 😉

I was asked what traces can I find on Easter Island…? 🙂  Well, even if it’s only a graffiti in Polish saying “Tony was here”, that is a reason good enough for me to go there.

I’ve attached a highly professional map with our itinerary. Of course the plan may and probably will change during the trip. If you check any of the travel blogs you’ll easily notice that plans do change. I’m sure that we’ll hear about must-see places and must-do things along the way. I remember breakfasts at a hostel in Madrid. Every morning, one of the seasoned travelers was telling his stories and every morning he was surrounded by a bunch of listeners. I can’t confirm if his stories were true or not, because I could only hear a calling of the streets of Madrid. But the fact is people love to talk about their travels and very often they are a very good source of information.

Highly professional map 🙂

Just in case my map is not readable, I’ll write a few words about the Big Plan.

From our beloved Wroclaw we’ll go to Ukraine. We want to see Western Ukraine and the Crimea. From Crimea we want to fly to Uzbekistan. In each country we plan to spend approximately 4 weeks. From Tashkent a quick and hopefully safe flight to Delhi. We won’t stay in India very long. We want to see Delhi, Agra, Jaipur, Ahmadabad and Varanasi. Next stop will be Nepal. We’re thinking about semi-difficult trek with Himalayas in the background. We wanted to go to Tibet, but because you need a special permit, buy a “trip”, plus you never know when Chinese decide to close the borders, Tibet will have to wait. From Nepal we’ll fly to China. We don’t exactly know yet what do we want to see there but I’d like to visit Harbin, a city in NE China. City that was founded by Poles building a railway for Tsar in nineteenth century. After China we’ll visit SE Asia, starting in Vietnam and finishing in Thailand. I think 3-4 weeks for each country should do. From Thailand we’d like to go to Malaysia and Indonesia. We’re still not sure about Philippines, but I guess we’ll see when we get there.

Next stop will be Aussie land. We’ll do only east coast, because this country is just too big and too expensive. A short flight and we’ll land in Middle-earth, I mean Maori land 🙂

The last stage will be Latin America. So far we have Chile with Easter lsland, Argentina, Brasil (recently added), Bolivia, Peru, Colombia, Panama and Mexico on the list. But because we don’t need visas there, we’re quite open-minded about the route. We’ve decided to go to Patagonia and I’d love to see Strait of Magellan, but like I said the itinerary is not set in stone yet.

Recently I’ve started thinking  we may be over planning a wee bit, but the worst scenario is… we’ll save too much and we’re going to travel even longer. Just in case we still have money in Mexico, we might go to USA and Canada, buy a car and just drive around…

So that’s the Big Plan… at the moment. I still have a few months left, so I’ll keep saving, reading and blogging.

Categories: RTW trip | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

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