Polish president, at 80th Monte Cassino anniversary, urges Europe to stop 'brutal Russian imperialism'

Polish President Duda speaking at Monte Cassino

 MONTE CASSINO – Polish President Andrzej Duda, speaking at ceremonies to mark the 80th anniversary of Polish troops' heroic victory at the battle of Monte Cassino, denounced Russian President Vladimir Putin’s regime as “criminal, cruel, ruthless” and urged Europe to help Ukraine stop “Russian imperialism." 

 President Duda delivered a fiery speech against the Kremlin Saturday afternoon climaxing solemn ceremonies to honour the 1072 Polish soldiers who died during the battle, under the command of Gen. Wladyslaw Anders, while making the final assault on Nazi positions in and around the Benedictine monastery at Monte Cassino in May 1944.      

 “It does not matter what Russia is like at a given moment,” the Polish head of state said. “whether it is tsarist Russia, whether it is Soviet Russia, or whether it is Putin's Russia. Russian imperialism is always the same -- criminal, cruel, ruthless.”

 Six surviving Polish veterans from the battle attended the ceremonies as well as hundreds of family members of the dead Polish 2nd Corps men buried at the beautiful hillside cemetery. Also present was Gen. Anders’ daughter, Anna Maria Anders, the Polish Ambassador to Italy, who also evoked the Russian threat in a speech, while those laying wreaths included the Duchess of Edinburgh from Britain and Italian President Sergio Mattarella.

 An honour guard of Polish soldiers fired three volleys of shots in the air after a roll call of the fallen, and the delegation of Polish authorities and veterans laid wreaths at the Virtuti Militari cross. Ms Anders laid flowers on the grave of her father, whose last will it was to be buried alongside his fallen men.

 It is unusual for dignitaries attending such ceremonies at the Second World War cemeteries in Italy to speak directly about contemporary events but President Duda, a member of the conservative PIS party who has an uneasy cohabitation with the new Polish centre left government, evoked what he said was an appeal by the fallen heros to prevent history repeating itself through “Russification.”  

 “Ruskiy mir  is not any Russian culture - it is brutal rule over another person,” he said. “This is the subjugation of other nations. This is sucking out their blood and the best juices. This is kidnapping their children to the east. “

 “This is Russification. This is brutal force used against other nations, which has absolutely nothing to do with contemporary standards of democratic countries.”

 “It is a cruel, brutal and authoritarian model where human life is of little importance. Anyone who doubts this should see what losses Russia has suffered in Ukraine. Because Russia does not care about the lives of its own soldiers, let alone the lives of people from other nations. They are of no value to Russia.”

 “Therefore, Russian imperialism must be stopped. And these soldiers who lie in this cemetery know this very well.”

 “Because most of them had backs covered with scars from the Russian, Soviet whip that tortured them in mines and during hard labor. That is why they are calling from this place today to Europe for responsibility.“

 “They cry: ‘No more war! Don't let it happen, stop the brutal imperialists, stop those who want to take away the freedom of other nations! Help the Ukrainians stop the Russians! Don't let brutal Russian imperialism spread over the nations of Europe again!”

   Among the veterans making what for many was probably their last pilgrimage to the battle site was Major Stosław Kowalski. At 101, he is the oldest survivor of any soldier from any country whose troops fought at Monte Cassino, serving in the 5th Kresowa Infantry Division.

 Captain Władysław Antoni Dąbrowski, a sprightly 99-year-old, also traveled to Italy. In 1940 he was arrested by the NKVD, the Soviet secret police, and deported along with his family to Kazakhstan.

 In April 1942, he joined the Polish Army being formed in the Soviet Union. After military training, he served as a tank driver in the 15th Poznań Lancers Regiment from December 1943. He later served with the 2nd Polish Corps, fighting its way up Italy.


Monte Cassino vetreran Captain Władysław Antoni Dąbrowski
Major Stosław Kowalski. Born in 1922, he is the oldest veteran of Monte Cassino