New Duns exhibition will focus on moving story of Polish troops

Duns library exhibition about Polish soliders
Duns library exhibition about Polish soliders

‘For Our Freedom and Yours’ - the story of the 1st Polish armoured division - is a fascinating and moving exhibition which will be on show in Duns Library Exhibition Room from August 13.

It traces the story of the famous Polish armoured division, from their formation in Duns in 1942 to their campaigns in western Europe in 1944-1945 under the command of the esteemed General Stanislaw Maczek.

The exhibition has never been seen before in the Borders.

The brainchild of Sean Szmalc and Margot Corson, ‘For Our Freedom and Yours’ is an exciting, awe-inspiring and evocative national touring exhibition which has already been visited in other parts of the country by thousands of people.

It features many rare and previously unseen artefacts from soldiers of the 1st Polish armoured division. These include uniforms, equipment and personal belongings of the soldiers.

The exhibition will incorporate examples of other Polish army units during the Second World War including a complete combat uniform depicting a paratrooper from the Polish independent parachute brigade as well as a uniform from the Polish 2nd Corps which famously fought with distinction at Monte Cassino in Italy.

There will also be a selection of wonderful props and costumes from the blockbuster movie ‘Saving Private Ryan’ and the mini-series ‘Band of Brothers.’

Sean Szmalc’s fascination with the Second World War began when he was a young boy due to his grandfather, the late Emil Szmalc, serving in the Polish army and later the 1st Polish armoured division during the Second World War.

Sean grew up in the Polish community and attended the Polish Ex-Servicemen’s club in Falkirk where he was good friends with his grandfather’s brothers in arms. He and Margot Corson, his partner, have been amassing their awe-inspiring collection ever since.

Sean said: “This diverse exhibition appeals to so many people from all age groups. With the exhibition we aim to increase the knowledge of the struggles and the plight that the Polish soldiers had to go through, and the fight for freedom which they carried out with much bravery and honour.

Each individual visitor to the exhibition will get a feeling of what it was like to have been a soldier on the front lines in the Polish army from the invasion of Poland in September 1939 to the end of the war in 1945.”

Councillor Graham Garvie, Scottish Borders Council’s executive member for culture, sport and community learning added: “This is a significant exhibition for both the Borders and Scotland.

“Poland and the Polish Military have a long and distinguished historical connection with Scotland which goes back centuries to when the Scots and the Poles together built the Gdansk shipyards, and continued right up to World War II when the Polish High Command chose to re-locate in the Borders after the invasion of their country by Nazi Germany.

“It also brings us up to the present day when so many of our Polish friends have set up their homes in the Borders.

“I would encourage everyone to go and see some truly unique and inspiring artefacts in this fascinating exhibition.”

There is free admission to the exhibition in Duns Library Exhibition Room from August 13, to September 24.

Please telephone 01361 882622 (for library opening hours) or 01361 884114 (museum service) for further details about the exhibition.