London to celebrate anniversary of Polish independence

Cardinal Jozef Glemp, Primate of Poland, and Archbishop Wesoly from Rome will be celebrating a special Mass at Westminster Cathedral at 1.30pm on 8 November to mark the 90th anniversary of Polish independence. Cardinal Glemp will be delivering the homily. Music will be directed by Martin Baker, Master of Music at Westminster Cathedral, and combined Polish choirs from South London directed by Dr Jurek Pockert.

Following the Mass there will be a parade led by the Polish Navy Band from Westminster Cathedral to a rally in Trafalgar Square. Speakers at the rally will include prominent Poles and distinguished British parliamentarians. Polish songs and hymns will be performed by the Polish Navy Band, the Ave Verum Choir and the Balham Polish parish choir

Mr Janusz Sikora-Sikorski, Chairman of the Organising Committee said: "It is the first time that this Polish anniversary is being celebrated in such a public way in the UK. Many young Poles in this country wanted to participate in such a large-scale colourful event. War veterans will attend with their battle standards. Polish organizations and trade union branches will march behind their banners. Young and old will march proudly together."

Polish Independence Day commemorates the date, 11 November 1918, when Poland regained its sovereignty at the end of the First World War. In fact, Poland had first been a sovereign nation more than a thousand years ago after it had embraced Western Christianity. However in 1795 it lost that sovereignty and endured 123 years of bitter struggle for freedom against three partitioning powers.

When Polish leader Jozef Pilsudski was able to proclaim the rebirth of a strong independent Poland in 1918 it was important news not only for Poles themselves, but for Europe too. Barely two years later the newly independent Poland was able to defeat the Soviet Army in 1920 at the gates of Warsaw and thus saved Europe from revolution and tyranny.

In 1939 Poland was also the first country to say "No" to Hitler's demands. Then its pilots, sailors and soldiers fought shoulder to shoulder with Britain as its most long-lasting wartime ally.

Poland paid a terrible price for its defiance of tyranny. Six million were killed and its major cities destroyed. There followed 44 more years of struggle and deprivation under Soviet rule. Poland only regained its independence again in 1989 thanks to the Solidarity movement and the guiding spirit of Pope John Paul II. Now Poland is a member of NATO and the EU. It is again a democratic state with a successful modern economy and has restored Polish Independence Day as a national holiday.


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