The first in Australia „Rajd Katyń-Smoleńsk” took place over the ANZAC Day long weekend. The rally was in commemoration of the Katyń massacre in 1940 where 22,000 Polish officers and intellectuals were executed by Stalin’s secret police. In conjunction the Smoleńsk plane crash in 2010 where 96 Polish senior delegates on board died, including President Lech Kaczyński, en route to commemorate the events 70 years prior.
76 years have passed and „Rajdy Katyńskie” take place in Europe, America and now Australia.
The Australian „Rajd Katyń 1940–Smoleńsk 2010” organised by Klub Gazeta Polska began at Our Lady of Częstochowa Queen of Poland Catholic Church Marayong in Sydney’s west in the early hours of Friday 22 April. Speeches and photos included the Polish War Memorial Chapel and commemorative oak tree (dębu) planted on church’s grounds.
The convoy led by a half dozen motorcyclists and several cars bearing both Polish and Australian flags began the journey. Southbound down to Canberra passing motorists beeped out of support or jest but nevertheless curious at the cause of the rally, answered only by posters in the windows bearing origin and destination, both flags, both dates, an white eagle (orzeł biały) and the words “we remember!”
At Berrima the rally was joined by four more riders from the Brothers of the Iron Eagle motorcycle club.
The first stop was the Pauline Fathers Monastery in Penrose Park 140 kms south of Sydney where five oak trees (dęby) were planted on the 75th anniversary of Katyń.
After photos and refreshments the journey continued south to the nation’s capital where the convoy led by Consul General of the Republic of Poland in Sydney, Regina Jurkowska, entered the Polish Embassy in Canberra greeted by the Polish Ambassador to Australia Paweł Milewski.
A book about the Katyń film by director Andrzej Wajda was gifted to the organiser of the „Rajd Katyń 1940-Smoleńsk 2010”, president of the Federation of Polish Association in New South Wales, Dr Ryszard Adams-Dzierzba.
At this point I should acknowledge that Dr Dzierzba is my father and I was in attendance with other members of my family to support him.
Ambassador Milewski’s sons presented gift bags to the five youngest children present for the „Rajd Katyń-Smoleńsk”.
After the long day’s journey sanctuary was given by Pope John Paul II Polish Catholic Centre in the suburb of Narrabundah in the Australian Capital Territory.
The evening marked the date of Hungarian Polish friendship and the group were invited to the Hungarian Embassy for celebrations marking the occasion. Speeches were given by ambassadors, referencing the popular saying ‘A Pole and Hungarian are together in raising a glass and a sword’ (Polak, Węgier dwa bratanki, i do szabli, i do szklanki).
The Consul General Regina Jurkowska thanked the hosts in fluent hungarian having studied hungarian philology at Eötvös Loránd University in Budapest.
Dr Dzierzba spoke at length acknowledging Józef Kozłowski, 95, the oldest member of the „Rajd Katyń-Smoleńsk” group and a veteran of World War II. A gift from the Polish diaspora of Australia was presented to the Hungarian Ambassador.
The painting by Witold Skonieczny was of Frederic Chopin the Polish composer, whom Mr Skonieczny acknowledged, a good friend and contemporary of Hungarian composer Franz Liszt.
Folkloric dancing groups of both Polish & Hungarian extraction performed for the gathering and glasses were raised in continuing friendship throughout the night.
The next day the „Rajd Katyń-Smoleńsk” visited the War Memorial in Canberra and links Poland has with Australia with stops at the Tadeusz Kościuszko Monument in Cooma and the bronze statue of Count Paul Edmund Strzelecki in Jindabyne in southeast New South Wales.
On Sunday the events concluded with mass at the society of Christ and a meeting with local Polonia. Even before the rally return to Sydney, plans were already being discussed for next year to make the „Rajd Katyń-Smoleńsk” an annual event.