Author stationed at Greenlaw Town Hall during Second World War unveils plaque of Polish eagle

Zbigniew Mieczkowski
Zbigniew Mieczkowski

A POLISH war veteran made an emotional return to Greenlaw last Monday to unveil a commemorative plaque at the Town Hall, which marks the town’s long association with Poland.

Author Zbigniew Mieczkowski, who was stationed at Greenlaw Town Hall during the Second World War, unveiled a plaque of a Polish eagle.

Lord Simpson, Zbigniew Mieczkowski and Lord Joicey. Zbigniew Mieczkowski, a polish soldier unviels a plaque at Greenlaw Town Hall and makes a presentation to Lord Joicey.

Lord Simpson, Zbigniew Mieczkowski and Lord Joicey. Zbigniew Mieczkowski, a polish soldier unviels a plaque at Greenlaw Town Hall and makes a presentation to Lord Joicey.

A second plaque, depicting a Scottish lion, was unveiled by Major General Sir John Swinton.

During the unveiling ceremony, author Mr Mieczkowski read excerpts from his book ‘Soldiers of General Maczek in World War II’.

Mr Mieczkowski - holder of the Military Cross for valour - was born in Poland into a family of centuries old traditions of struggling for the independence of their country.

In 1939, at the age of 17, he joined the Polish Army under General Sikorski in France and at the time of the French armistice he was evacuated with his unit to Great Britian.

In 1944 as a young officer of the Polish Armoured Division he fought in Normandy and thereafter with the British Liberation Army in the 1944/45 campaign entering Germany.

Mr Mieczkowski first arrived in Berwickshire during the conflict with the regiment of General Maczek, and like many other of his comrades, he couldn’t go back to Poland once peace was restored.

Speaking to ‘The Berwickshire News’, Lady Brigid McEwen, a long time supporter of the local Polish community, explained: “So many soldiers came over here during the war and many made a home for themselves as it was almost impossible for them to return to their homeland.

“We owe a lot to the men as they effectively guarded our coastline when our own troops were fighting abroad.”

Unable to return home following the war, Mr Mieczkowski decided to make a life for himself in the UK.

He has since written about his experiences of growing up in Poland and serving in the war effort; his journey overseas and his new life on British shores.

His book ‘Horizons - Reflections of a Polish Emigre’ describes the years of the Cold War, his involvement in the political life of Polish diaspora and the important contacts he established with prominent members of the British Government - as a successful business man he supported various cultural ventures of the Polish community in Great Britian and after the fall of Communism he established the Foundation whose aim is to commemorate the achievements of Polish Forces in the West.

In his latest release, ‘Soldiers of General Maczek in World War II’, Mr Mieczkowski presents the contribution of Poland to the final victory and brings back memories of the Liberation of Northern Europe.

Now living in Henley-on-Thames, just outside London, Zbigniew was keen to present a copy of his latest book to Duns District Council.

And, when he found out that the council no longer existed, he decided to return to his one time military base instead - the newly-renovated Greenlaw Town Hall.

The plaques, unveiled at the Town Hall by Mr Mieczkowski and Major General Sir John Swinton last Monday, were paid for with a £2,000 grant that was donated to the restoration fund by the Ex-Polish Combatants Association, based in London.

Additional funding for the plaques was then made up by Duns and District Twinning Association, who had representatives at the unveiling ceremony on Monday.

Other notable guest present at the ceremony included the Polish Consul; Adam Dudley, the architect behind the Town Hall restorations, who himself is a son of a Polish soldier; and Una Richards, director of the Alba Conservation Trust, the firm who oversaw the renovation work. Ms Richards is also, coincidently, of Polish descent.

Lady McEwen, a town hall trustee, was also there. She said that Mr Mieczkowski’s return to Berwickshire, and the reasons behind it, were of massive importance.