THE amazing story of a Polish warship and its crew who risked their lives to save Cowes from German bombers during the Second World War was remembered on the 65th anniversary of the incident at the weekend.
This year is particularly poignant as the celebrations fell on exactly the same days that the original air raids happened.
On Friday, IW Council chairman Cllr Roger Mazillius hosted a short reception at the Royal London Yacht Club to welcome the recently appointed Polish Ambassador Barbara Tuge-Erecinska.
The ambassador, along with the Island’s Lord-Lieutenant, Maj Gen Martin White, and the High Sheriff, Lt Col David Langford, IW councillors and the Friends of the ORP Blyskawica Society led by spciety president Michael Aiken, vice-president Otton Hulacki and Cllr Tim Gladdis, attended the opening ceremony at Francki Place, Cowes, where Ms Tuge-Erecinska, unveiled a plaque in memory of the 70 people who lost their lives on the nights of May 4 and 5, 1942.
Ms Tuge-Erecinska, in her first official engagement since she was appointed ambassador four months ago, said: “It is still amazing to me that people, both here on this beautiful Island and at home in Poland, still remember, so many years later, the true bravery and courage of the Blyskawica and its crew.
“The ship will always have a very special place in my heart and I feel very privileged that its final resting place, the port in Gdynia, Poland also happens to be my home town.”
Flowers were laid by members of the council and the Blyskawica society, and there was a special presentation by Janina Francki, daughter of the commander of the ORP Blyskawica, Capt Francki.
In the evening guests were treated to a rousing and emotive piano recital by Captain Francki’s grand-daughter, renowned concert pianist Eva Maria Doroszkowska.
On Saturday, VIPs and guests, along with military and civilian veterans of the event, attended a wreath-laying ceremony at Kingston Ceremony, at the communal grave of Island residents who died during the Second World War, and this was followed by a civic reception at the Royal London Yacht Club.
Later in the evening, a concert featuring The Ave Verum Polish choir, along with a special commemorative service took place at St Mary’s Church.
On Sunday, there was a service of remembrance at the War Memorial, Northwood Park, and this was followed by a service in St Mary’s Church and a march to the bandstand at Cowes Parade, where the celebrations were brought to a close.
- Full report in the Friday, May 11, County Press.