Seventy million people. This was the result of the second world war. Seventy million dead people, who often are treated only as a number, but we must not fall into this error. In this number there were seventy million people, each with a family, a job and a story.World War II was the first conflict in which to lose their lives were more civilians than the military. Despite this, the military casualties were twentythree million. Soldiers who were involved on the field to defend, for better or for worse, their homeland and their freedom. Many fought here in Italy, and some of them fell in battle right on our territory. For this is not difficult to find in our country several military cemeteries, dedicated not only to our compatriots, but also to the fallen of the other regiments.
I visited some of these cemeteries, and today I want to tell you about the Polish Cemetery at Montecassino, a place that embodies the sad Odyssey of indomitable Polish Army.
The cemetery is located at the foot of the Abbey of Montecassino, and just entered on the left you will find a museum with objects and images that tell the story of the Second Polish Corps and his General Władysław Anders.
To learn more about this affair you can rely on a lady of the site, which will tell you with emphasis and emotion this story, which absolutely deserves to be heard.
It all began in 1939, when in the aftermath of the German invasion in Western Poland, Anders and other polish were taken prisoner by the Soviets who invaded the East of the country. Were deported to Siberia and kept there, for twenty months until the London agreement of 1941 that restored relations between Russia and Poland. With this agreement it is ordered the freedom of all Polish prisoners and the reorganization of one unit of the Polish Army under the command of the Soviet Union. However, when it opened the gates of the prison camp, the Polish soldiers were left to fend for themselves, so without transportation, they walked barefoot up to training camps in Russia. Due to the scarcity of supplies, Anders decided to move his countrymen to Persia to be closer to sources of Western supply. Here were subjected to the protection of the ninth British Army, and at that time he discovered the serious injury caused by the Russian prison camp: many were suffering from malaria, others were not able to perform military service. In this time, however, was born the second Polish Corps, under the command of General Anders, who led his soldiers into Italy, ready to fight.
It was may of 1944, the allies started the fourth massive attack on the Gustav line that cuts across the Italian peninsula, and the task this time is to conquer the Abbey of Montecassino, which blocks to the allies the road to Rome. They tried for months, had tried without success the British, gurkha and New Zealanders; three battles that razed the old Abbey and deleted with bombs the town of Cassino. At the fourth attempt, they try the Polish under General Anders, convinced he can succeed because the second Polish Corps was composed of men who had something more in your veins. Starts the offensive and three times the Polish are rejected. Have against the first parachute German Division of General Heinrich, called the “Green Devils”. Germans and Polish, kill in order not to be killed, dead bodies dotted around the battlefield. On 17 may, the men of Anders start attack of the mountain. They make shield themselves with the corpses of comrades and climb the Snake’s head. The battle raged all night, amid the thud of bullets and melee, until silence falls over the ruins of Montecassino. In the midday sky starts to wave the red and white flag, the battle is over and is opened the road to Rome. On 19 may, Anders ascended to the Abbey to pay homage to the more than 4000 Polish dead or wounded. Of these, 1051 are buried in this cemetery, which was built a few years after the end of World War II.
In the cemetery there is also the tomb of General Anders, died in exile in London in 1970, and buried here with his men according to his will.
This is the story of the second Polish Corps, and understand why it’s worth visiting this cemetery and pay tribute to these extraordinary men.
Leaving the Museum, there is a long avenue lined with Italian and Polish flags, leading to the white graves, each accompanied by a small Polish flag.
At the top there is an obelisk which States: “For our and your freedom we Polish soldiers have donated our soul to God, the bodies to Italy and hearts to Poland.”
When I was leaving the cemetery, I had the pleasure of meeting a group of Polish, came to pay tribute to his compatriot. A touching scene that I will remember for a long time.
Please visit these places with the proper respect they deserve, because there are buried soldiers who gave their lives for our freedom.
Good light to everyone.