I’ve been planning to visit the Gunnersbury Cemetery for a long time and finally I did it. The funniest thing is I used to work in Chiswick, 15 minutes walk from the cemetery but never could find time. It was a rainy Thursday afternoon when I got there and I guess that was the reason for only a few visitors apart from me. The main purpose of my visit was Katyn Memorial at the centre of the cemetery. The Memorial is thought to be the first one to be erected in Western Europe (unveiled on 18 September 1976) but the first place to commemorate the Katyn Massacre was the Church of Divine Mercy in Manchester where in 1964 an urn with soil from Katyn and a cross made of a monastery’s wall in Kozielsk appeared. Three years later a plaque was unveiled at St Andrew Bobola Church in London and on 16 November 1975 a Katyn Memorial was unveiled in Stockholm.
The idea of Katyn Memorial faced a lot of opposition in the UK. Moscow and Warsaw were protesting and there was no support from the British Government but despite all that Polish Government-in-exile secured the support of a few British politicians like Winston Churchill, grandson of Sir Winston Churchill. Around 8000 people attended the ceremony on 18 September 1976, including delegations from few embassies. However there was no Western European delegation, the British PM also failed to show up. Who would’ve thought that even 30 years after the WWII Brits would have no balls to oppose the Soviets (a New Year’s resolution – I’ll try to choose words more carefully 🙂 ).
Walking towards the Memorial I started noticing a lot of Polish names. I slowed down and started reading the names. I guess at least 20% of people resting there were Polish. Suddenly I realized almost every tombstone had an emblem of Polish Eagle or Poland Fights On. Sometimes it would only say: “Born in Lviv”.
At the Memorial I had a chat with a Polish woman who belonged to Solidarity and arrived in the UK more than 30 years ago. I’m sure I’ve mentioned before that post-war and new wave of Polish immigrants are not very well connected. Well, there’s a similar situation when it’s about post-Solidarity immigration. I didn’t want to listen to the accusations against the post-war immigration so I quickly asked her to show me the way to some graves. It really takes a war for us, Poles to stop barking at each other… But thanks to her I got a name of a Polish priest who’s involved in taking care of Polish graves in London. She also saved me some time by showing me graves of the second to last Polish President in Exile Kazimierz (Casimir) Sabbat and general Józef (Joseph) Haller who in 1920 seized Pomerania and performed a symbolic “wedding ceremony” of Poland and the Baltic Sea (as the woman described him – “the one who married the sea” 😀 ). She failed to show me the grave of general Bór-Komorowski, the Home Army’s commander – a coincidence? I hope so 🙂
Oh, by the way, only 161 days left 🙂