The distinguished Catholic journalist and author Kevin Grant was presented with the Officer's Cross of the Order of Merit of the Republic of Poland at the Polish Embassy in London yesterday, by Ambassador Arkady Rzegocki, for "outstanding services in supporting democratic changes in Poland and for activities for the benefit of the Polish community in Great Britain."
In his acceptance speech, Mr Grant said he was "surprised and humbled" to to learn that he was to receive the award, and said: "I should like to dedicate it in four ways."
"First, to the memory of those whom, with the aid and encouragement of my Polish friends and the late Sir Edward Heath, I was able to help in Poland at a dark and dangerous time. Foremost among these was Wladislaw Bartoszewski, a hero, my friend, and the guest at our home of my late wife Maureen, and me; Maureen was with me at Crystal Palace for the visit of Pope John Paul in 1982. Bartoszewski was then Professor of Modern History in Lublin University, and in later, brighter days your Ambassador to Vienna and then your country's Foreign Minister. But there were also Tadeusz Mazowiecki, editor of Znak, Wiez and Solidarity Weekly, and Kazimierz Janusz, the Christian writer and philosopher. And I do not forget the murdered Fr Jerzy Popieluszko. I was editor in those days of the Aid to the Church in Need Mirror. Fr Werenfried and I agreed the headline: "They hated him without cause".
"Second there is Sir Edward Heath himself, a great British and European statesman, tireless in his labours to release detainees in Poland and who told Professor Bartoszewski, when I was at last able to introduce the two men, that he and Lord Carrington, the Foreign Secretary, had been able to do much more, working quietly in the background, than by any public action. As a diplomat, Sir, you know the truth of this.
"Third, I dedicate this honour to my Polish friends from those days, without whom I would have accomplished nothing. They are represented today by the indefatigable Krystyna Mochlinska, widow of the late and eminent servant of the cause of free Poland, Kazimierz Mochlinski. But I must also mention with profound affection Zdzislaw Walaszewski, editor of Gazeta Niedzielna, and Jerzy Kulczycki, always wise and calm, who shepherded us around Poland in November 1983, six journalists without journalist visas. Christopher Howse, one of them, is here with us today. One fruit of this visit was that a supply of paper was organised that enabled KUL, the Catholic University of Lublin, to resume its academic printing programme. I think of Olgierd Stepan, granite-principled, and a leading figure in the Polish Catholic community in Britain. And, always, in support, the Veritas Foundation. Through the newspaper I then served, The Universe, we organised Easter greetings to many, many political detainees, astonishing their gaolers!
"My fourth and last dedication is to the 18,300 Jews murdered in Majdanek on 3 November 1943 whom we all, Jews, Christians, people of all faiths and none, commemorated in the 4th November 1984 Majdanek Massacre Walk through London to the Jewish Memorial. It was 18.3 miles, a footstep for each person. Not one of them is forgotten. I honour each of them, at this moment. Two Jewish ladies wept openly when the late Archbishop Boleslaw Pylak of Lublin and my late friend Rabbi Hugo Gryn, an Auschwitz survivor, prayed at the Memorial together."
Kevin Grant concluded by thanking President Andrzej Duda for the honour, and expressing his appreciation to all present.
The presentation ceremony and reception was attended by church leaders, representatives from the Polish community, colleagues, friends and family members.
The Order of Merit of the Republic of Poland (Order Zasługi Rzeczypospolitej Polskiej) is a Polish honour created in 1974, awarded to those who have rendered great service to Poland. It is granted to foreigners or Poles resident abroad.