About Project

2015 marks the 70th anniversary of the end of the Second World War and the 2nd Polish Corps liberation of Bologna. On the occasion of this anniversary we would like to commemorate the Polish soldiers that fought for the freedom of Italy and Poland and have been buried in the Polish War Cemetery in Bologna.

The 2nd Polish Corps, which was lead by General Władysław Anders, passed through the entire Italian Peninsula. It captured Monte Cassino, liberated Ancona, and fought on the Gothic Line, to finally free Bologna on the 21st of April 1945. The soldiers believed that this was simultaneously the way to regain independence for their fatherland. General Władysław Sikorski wrote to the Polish soldiers that were defending a besieged Tobruk: "Thank you and I wish you further battle laurels and luck, until the greatest day of glory when all united with our heroic nation, we will stand on Poland's free land." Nearly four thousand Polish soldiers did not live to see that day, dying while liberating Italian soil. From over 100 thousand soldiers of the 2nd Polish Corps, only around 14 thousand decided to return to USSR controlled Poland.

This praiseworthy, yet dramatic in its end history, should be passed on to future generations, and to its heroes we owe our commemoration. The Consulate General of Poland in Milan with the Council for the Protection of Memory of Combat and Martyrdom and the National Digital Archives, Polska decided to create a project that will provide virtual tablets dedicated to the remembrance of the 2nd Polish Corps' soldiers, buried in the Polish Cemetery of Bologna, as well as recount their war trail. We would like to make it possible for the soldiers' families to find the burial locations of their loved ones thanks to our new website and our newly created multimedia station that is located on the Polish War Cemetery in Bologna. We hope that this modern form of recounting history will contribute to the popularisation of the story of the 2nd Polish Corps in Italy, in Poland and in the whole world. At the same time, it is important to us that the project serve as a form of living memory, created by families, old friends from the front, historians as well as the Italian and Polish youth, that could participate in the process of discovering and telling the story of these buried soldiers. We encourage you to contact us so that we may describe their fate together.

This project would not have been possible without our partners. We would like to thank the Council for the Protection of Memory of Combat and Martyrdom for its supervision of historical content as well as the National Digital Archives, Polska for transferring photographs of soldiers of the 2nd Polish Corps.

We also thank everyone that contributed to the realisation of this project and we encourage more people to join this group.

Jerzy Adamczyk,

Consul-General of the Republic of Poland in Milan


Foreword by the Associate Professor, Ph.D. Andrzej Krzysztof Kunert Secretary of the Council for the Protection of Memory of Combat and Martyrdom

Seventy years ago, on the 21st of April 1945, the chaplain of the 9th battalion of the 3rd Carpathian Infantry Division, Rev. Rafał Grzondziel (Franciscan, religious name: Ignacy) hung the Polish flag on the 104 meter tower Torre degli Asinelli – one of the two highest twin towers in liberated Bologna.
In the anthology published on occasion of the first anniversary of the liberation of Bologna, he wrote:

"Bologna is the sun of Italy. It is a gem that is wonderful and rich, thanks to the work and acts of its sons. It is not a utopia and its simple sign, its emblem and keynote libertas – liberty. With this idea of liberty, the city has lived and built its greatness and glory."

When in the day of this first anniversary, on the 21st of April 1946, the 9th battalion received the name "Bolognian" and the banner (funded by the city, its university and its archbishop), when its soldiers were given commemorative medals and given honorary citizenships of Bologna – they in turn handed the president of the city "the Polish eagle, carrying the coat of arms of the city of Bologna in flight, that is a battalion badge. For Bologna's libertas is the cry and symbol of the Polish Nation." - ended his account of the celebration Rev. chaplain Grzondziel.

Yet there was and is one more reason, for which Bologna is close to the hearts of Poles: "Just as the words "Polonia" and "Bologna" rhyme together, so is the history of the two cities intertwined – wrote Jan Bielatowicz – Throughout centuries Polish scholars rushed in crowds to Bologna, as if captivated by the native sound of its name."

In the books of the University of Bologna – the oldest university in Europe, whose rector at the turn of the XIII and XIV centuries was Jan Polak – under the date of 1414, we find 97 names of Poles. In the academic year of 1945/1946, after "throwing away their guns" after the liberation of the city, 257 Poles joined this very university.

For just like the churches in Rome, the university in Bologna was the great book, into which subsequent generations of Poles registered. The marble bust of the most famous of Polish students, signed NICOLAUS COPERNICUS POLONUS, offered by Poles to the university in 1936, and removed and damaged by the Germans during the II World War, returned to its place near the entrance to the Aula Magna of the University of Bologna, opposite of the statue of Dante.

After the liberation of Bologna by the soldiers of the 2nd Polish Corps, a welcome proclamation by the University of Bologna was hung on city walls, containing inter alia the following words:

"...We warmly welcome the Allied troops, who are exponents of a Europe reborn and fraternal in the ideas of justice and freedom [...] and in particular the soldiers and officers of our sororal Poland (Polonia sorella), that had the glory of being the first to enter the city (la gloria di entrare per primi nella Città)."

I deliberately use the word "liberation", and not "capture", for the Polish soldiers, amidst Allied troops of different nations, were treated by the local populace not as captors, but as liberators – as the bringers of freedom. At that time the Italians called Poles – nostril liberatori.

The soldiers of the Polish Army in the USSR – the Polish Army in the East – II Polish Corps of gen. Władysław Anders (the most extraordinary army among all Allied armies, created from prisoners, exiles and captives), whose path to Poland led them through three continents – were not given the opportunity of bringing freedom to Poland. They were, however given the opportunity of taking Monte Cassino, thus opening the way for Allies to Rome and they further brought liberty to the citizens of Ancona (liberated in July of 1944) and other Italian cities.

In liberating Bologna and ending the estimable participation in the Italian Campaign, the 2nd Polish Corps of Anders testified throughout the whole war trail, that "Polonia non è liquidate" – that was the inscription of col. Klemens Rudnicki (deputy of the Commander of 5th Kresowa Infantry Division) in the visitor's book in the family mausoleum of Mussolini in Predappio, liberated by Polish soldiers on 28th of October 1944, on the 22nd anniversary of Mussolini's March on Rome.

Two years later, on 12th of October 1946, gen. Anders spoke at the Polish War Cemetery in Bologna:

"In our presence, the soldiers of the 2nd Corps, takes place the consecration of the cemetery of our friends, that fell in the Apennine battles and in the battle for Bologna. This is our homage paid to those, who already gave Poland everything; if despite this Poland, for which they died, is not free – this is not their fault, nor ours, nor of the Polish Nation."

Amongst the sacred duties of the Polish Republic – that gained complete liberty and sovereignty only twenty-five years ago – and especially for two institutions - the Council for the Protection of Memory of Combat and Martyrdom as well as the Office for War Veterans and Victims of Oppression, is to remember about the struggle, the fallen and the care for war cemeteries.

Associate Professor, Ph.D. Andrzej Krzysztof Kunert

Secretary of the Council for the Protection of Memory of Combat and Martyrdom