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When I'm working as a Tour Guide on the WW2 Battlefields of Monte Cassino, people are sometime asking me, why the Poles took part to the battle, and what they did. The Battle of Montecassino is so well know by the Poles because it is one of episodes of the Second World War, marked by bravery and success. In every article or book on the Italian Campain there are some lines dedicated to Monte Cassino and what happened here 73 years ago. The Italian Campain lasted from July 1943 to May 1945. First of all the Allied Forces landed on Sicily and they were successful because the German reinforcements arrived too late. The Polish II Corps did not take part in the Sicilian operation because in July-August 1943 the Poles were still in the Middle East. Then the Allies landed in Italy , the American were direct to Cosenza and Neaples, while the British were sent to east, to Taranto, Foggia and Termoli. German tactics was very clear. They wanted to slow the Allies down and to inclict them the maximum amout of casualties. The II Corps bagan to arrive in Italy at the end of December 1943. They were sent to the training centre of San Basilio, but their first introduction to the sunny Italy started in the mud and the snow. The base camps were established in the region of Bari and Brindisi, far away from the first line, but always under a lot of rain and snow. The transfer from Egypt to Italy took several weeks and the integration in the British VIII Army was not easy. The British VIII Army was like a collage. In Africa it war formed mainly by British, Indians and Commonweath regiments, but in Sicily the "Free French" were added, and between them the most numerous part were Algerians, Maroecans, Madagascarians and even Tahitians. Even the Poles were familiars with multi-ethnic societies. they themselves included Poles, Belarusians, Jews and Lithuanians.
The Polish order de bataille was very simple:
3rd Carpathian Infantry Division
5th Kresowa Infantry Division
2nd Armoured Brigade
General Wladyslaw Anders controlled 15-20 per cent og the VIII Army's strength. Among the twenty divisions which partecipated to the Italian Campain three were dependent on exiled governments based in London. The French Expeditionary Corps with 112.000 men, the Polish II Corps with 55.000 men and the 3rd Greek Mountain Brigade with 18.000 assigned to the British 13 Corps. We must remember and other very important thig the Poles shared with the Canadians: both of them have to partecipate to the war without being rappresented in the strategic conferences. All the decisions were taken by the "Big Three" America, UK and Sovit Union.
General Leese, commander of the VIII Army asked Anders on 24 March 1944 if the II Corps could partecipate to the coming battle, even if t was clear to Anders that his men were still very weak to fight, but he also knew that if he had declined he could have seriously demaged the reputation of the Polish Corps. When he arrived next to Cassino, he had already a lot of information about what had already happened there, and the mistakes the Allied had already done. On 11 May 1944 General Wladyslaw Anders issued his Order of the Day:
The moment for the battle has arived. We have long awaited the day of revenge and retribution over our hereditary enemy. Shoulder to shoulders, will fight British, American, Canadian and New Zealand divisions, together with French, Italian and Indian troops. The task assigned to us will cover with glory the name of the Polish soldier all over the world. At this moment, the thoughts and hearts of our whole nation are with us. Trusting in the Justice of Divine Providence, we go forward with the sacred call in our hearts: God, Honour, Country"
While two British corps were to surge fowards on either side of them, and the I Canadian Corps had to cross the Liry Valley, the Poles were asked to take the Monastery Hill by frontal attack. The first Polish assault on 12 May was not successful, but in the early hours of 18 May when elements of the 78th British Division joined the Polish unit, a red and white flag was raised above the ruins. At midday, Master Caporal Emil Czech raised his bugle to sound " St Mary's trumpet Call" to signal the Victory. The telegram which General Wladyslaw Anders sent to his Commander-in -Chief General Sosnkowsky was realy clear : "....Victory due to heroism of soldiers...."
On 25 May Polish units burst throught the Gustav Line at Piedimonte San Germano.
But from this point starts an other story, your tour guide will tell you when you will visit us...
When I explain people our history during my Montecassino Second World War tour, I usually speak about Irena Anders and her husband. But why was Irena so important for Cassino WW2 battles? Irena Anders, the wife of WW2 Genaral Wladislaw Anders is now a legendary woman. She is well know for having performed during World War II for the Second Polish Corp, led by Genaral Anders, boosting their morale. When General Anders was given the difficoult task of forming an army from the survivours of the Poles who had been captured in 1939 and deported in to the Soviet Union, Irena and her company enlisted in the army, proving a great morale booster to the Polish soldiers, along their route from Persia via Iraq and Palestine to Egypt. It was Irena Anders who is said to have first sung “Czerwone maki na Montecassino” (The Red Poppies on Montecassino), writen in the midst of fighting in honour of those who lost their lives. Durig the campaign emerged this patriotica song which had a sitting by Alfred Schuetz of Feliks Konarski's words. The song, composed in the night between 17th and 18th May 1944 was forgotten in the heat of the battle, while the poppys immage also awoked the simbol of trench warefare during the Great War. After the war came a time of humiliation for these heroes. There was no place for them during the victory parade in London. And the Communist Regime, that took power in Poland, deprived over seventy officiers of their Polish citizenship. So Anders and Irena remained in Great Britain in 1948, she married Genaral Anders and sudsequently became an icon of the Polish social emigrè scene in London. She died in London in 2010, aged 90, and her funeral took place on December 8 at the S. Andrew Bobola Church in Hammerrsmith. She was buried at the Polish Cemetery at Monte Cassino, in her husband grave, as she desired. If you desire to visit her gravestone with a tour guide, please call me.... I will be happy to tell you more about the story of Irena and his great husband!
Quando spiego ai clienti la storia della Seconda Guerra Mondiale a Montecassino, di solito parlo di Irena Anders e suo marito. Ma perche Irena fu cosi' importante nella battaglie della Seconda Guerra Mondiale a Cassino? Irena Andersnata Jarosiewicz è stata una famosa cantante è attrice polacca che seguendo il II Corpo d'Armata Polacco in occidente conobbe sui campi di battaglia il Generale Wladislaw Anders. Quando fu dato al Generale Anders il difficile compito di formare una armta con i sopravvissuti polacchi che erano stati catturato nel 1939 e deportati in Unione Sovietica, Irena e la sua compagnia si aruolò per enere alto in lorale delle truppe durante il loro viaggio dalla Persia, attravrso l'Iraq e la Palestina fino in Egitto. Si raccona che fu lei la prima a cantare la nota canzone "Czerwone maki na Montecassino" scritta durante la battaglia in onore di coloro che hanno perso la vita per la liberazione di Monte Cassino. La melodia era stata conposta tra il 17 ed il 18 maggio 1944 da Alfred Schuetz con le parole di Feliks Konarski, e fu cantata il 18 maggio per celegrare la conquista del Monastero di Monecassino. Questa canzone è stata proibita nel periodo staliniano in Polonia quando il governo cercò di eliminare le idee di libertà ed unità che avevano animao il periodo bellico. Dopo la guerra arrivò il momento dell'umiliazione per i Polacchi. Non ci fu poso per loro nella sfilata della vittoria a Londra ed il regime comunista che aveva preso il potere su quella nazione privò setanta ufficiali polacchi della lori cittadinanza trasformandoli in uomini senza patria. Andera e Irena rimasero a Londra e nel 1948 si sposarono e di conseguenza lei divenne una icona della società polacca in esilio a Londra. E' morta a Londra nel 2010, all'età di 90anni, e dopo un fumerale tenutasi in Inghilterra alla chiesa di S. Andrea Hammersmith è stata sepolta nel cimitero polacco di Monte Cassino, insieme a suo marito, come desiderava. Se desiderate visitare la tua tomba con una guida turistica, chiamatemi....
Polish cemetery at Montecassino/ Cimitero Polacco di Montecassino
Polish Point 593 Memorial/ Monumento polacco di quota 593
Monumento Polacco di Piedimonte/ Polish Memoria at Piedimonte
Polish Tank Memorial Albaneta Farm/ Monumento del carroarmato polacco alla Fattoria Albaneta
Monumento ad Anders/Anders's Memorial
Monumento al Cimitero Provvisorio di San Vittore del Lazio/Memorial to the Temporary Polish Cemetery
When I work as a Tour Guide and I explain people the story of the Second Polish Corp during the battles of Montecassino, many people are surprise to know that we will speak not only about the Monte Cassino Battlefields, but also about Poland and its little orphans. Do you want to know something more about thise little children on the other side of the world? Please keep reading!
It is hard to believe today but from 1942 to 1945 Isfahan was home to an army withount weapons, an army of young Polish orphans who found freedom in Iran after years in Siberian labour camps. The adults died in the labours camp, or on the trail to Iraq, many of them, decided to follow General Wladyslaw Anders and Irena Anders to Italy, for fighting with the Second Polish Corp in Montecassino. While the Polish soldiers were fighting in the four Battles of Monte Cassino, the children were far away in Iran. The orphans arrived in the country suffering from typhus and choler, very traumatized and emaciated by malnutrition, but Isfahan became for them a paradise. The wonderful climate of this town helped them to go further. A large number of them remained in Isfahan for up to three years, and so the town earned the name of "City of Polish Children". Traces of this children are still there: in the Armenian Church there is a wonderful icon of the Madonna of Czestochowa, nobody knows where it come from and you can immagen the surprise to discover that in the south side of the river there is a Polish wartime cemetery. They are 13 gravestones belonging to adults who cared for the orphans, and 7 belonging to children. After the war their lives became harder. They passed from one resettlement camp to another, some of them settled in New Zealand in a town called Pahiatua, and an other group ended up in Santa Rosa in Mexico. Usa refused to take any of them, but they sent money to give them a future, and during their vojage to Mexico, the group of children war arrested in Los Angeles and placed behind barbed wire in an internment camp for Japanise citizens untill when they left.
As a polish newspaper wrote: "Isfahan will enter the history of Poland".
E' difficile credere oggi che tra il 1942 ed il 1945 la cittadina Iraniana di Isfahan divenne la patria di un esercito senza armi, un esercito di giovani orfani polacchi che trovarono la loro libertà in Iran dopo anni ci campi di lavoro forzato in Siberia. Gli orfani arrivarono in questo paese pieni di tifo e colera, traumatizzati dagli eventi subiti sulla loro pelle e fortemente denutriti, ma Isfahan divenne per loro un paradiso, poichè il clima di questa città li aiutò a superare tutto ciò. Molti di loro rimasera ad Isfahan per 3anni e quindi fecero guadagnare alla città il nome di "città dei Bambini Polacchi". Tracce di questi bambini sono ancora qui: nella chiesa Armena c'è una meravigliosa icona della Madonna di Czestochowa che non si sa come sia arrivata in quel luogo e poi nulla riva sud del fiume c'è un piccolo cimitero di guerra polacco. Ci sono 13 tombe che appartengono agli adulti che accompagnavano i bambini e 7 tombe di bambini. Dopo la guerra la loro vita divenne più difficile. Passarono da un campo all'altro, alcuno furono trasferiti in Nuova Zelanda in una cittadina chiamata Pahiatua, a altri furono inviati a Santa Rosa in Messico. Gli Stati uniti rifiutarono di accogliere i bambini polacchi , ma si diedero da fare per mandare soldi per aiutarli, e durante il loro viaggio verso il Mexico, questo gruppo di Bambini fu arrestato a Los Angeles e fu messo in un campo di di concentramento per Giapponesi, attorniati da filo spinato fino a che poterono continuare il loro viaggio. Come scrisso un giornale polacco a quel tempo:"Isfahan entrerà a far parte della storia della Polonia"