- Luikersteenweg 3, 3920 Lommel, Belgique
“For our freedom and yours” – reads the inscription in Polish, French and Flemish. It is carved on the wall of memory, crowned with a six meter tall cross. It is located in the biggest Polish cemetery in Belgium. Those who lie there fought just for that.
A simple iron gate. Behind it, an alley with straight lines of white graves on both sides. Exactly 255 crosses and two headstones with the Star of David engraved. This is how the Polish war cemetery on the outskirts of a small town Lommel in Limburg looks like. It was created in 1946 on the initiative of the British government, for Polish soldiers who fell during the liberation of Belgium. Remains exhumated in various parts of the country were moved here. Not all of them, however. The council of the city of Tielt refused to give back the “heroes, who have become a relic of the city”. They remained on a local cemetery. In spite of that Tielt is among the other towns, whose names are inscribed on the wall located in the center of the cemetery. Places such as Ieper, Gent, Stekene, Roeselare, Merksplas and many others mark the battle trail of those who lie in the cemetery. Next to them there are the emblems of their units – the 1st Polish Armoured Division and squadrons 302, 308 and 317 of the Polish Air Force in Great Britain. The youngest soldiers were 18 years old. Their sacrifice is commemorated by a marble sculpture of a woman with a laurel wreath, by Marian Wnuk, unveiled in 1959.
Each September in Lommel celebrations are held in honour of those who took part in liberating France, Belgium and the Netherlands, dreaming of a free Poland. As their commander, general Maczek said: “The Polish soldier fights for the freedom of many countries, but dies only for Poland”.
The 1st Polish Armoured Division
The Polish First Armoured Division under command of general Maczek played an important role in the liberation of France, Belgium and the Netherlands. The ‘black division’ was feared by its enemies and brought swift liberation to the occupied nations.
In northern Belgium, Flanders exudes history from the middle ages in the medieval cities of Bruges, Ghent and Antwerp, and from both World Wars that left many scars behind. During WWII, the Battle of the Scheldt raged in the region