| photo: Eddy Van Deun
| photo: Eddy Van Deun
The sad history of the Polish War Cemetery at Lommel.
It's remarkable to find this Polish Cemetery at Lommel in Belgium because Polish units didn't battle at all in this area. The reason is that there was an opportunity to buy a piece of wood there very cheaply; so that a cemetery could be established where all the Polish War Graves, spread across Belgium could be concentrated there.
History tells this didnít happen, therefore this small analysis.
257 Polish War graves from the municipalities mentioned below, were transferred to Lommel by the 84th British "Grave Concentration Unit" in 1947.
But in the municipalities mentioned below 154 Polish War graves remained there. Why this happened in this way is difficult to follow.
For instance: from a cemetery at Turnhout the Polish War graves were transferred to Lommel, but from another cemetery, at Turnhout as well, the Polish
War graves were transported to the British "Leopoldsburg War Cemetery" at Leopoldsburg, so close to Lommel.
Whereas from the "Belgian Military Cemetery" Polish War Graves at Lier were transferred to Lommel.
In 1948 the supervision of the cemetery was given by the British Army to the Polish Government in Warsaw. From this moment on the Polish War Cemetery was a puppet of politics.
Very soon the anti-communist Polish old-combatants, who had a permit to stay in Belgium, built a big Cross in the middle of the cemetery. The Polish government reacted by placing a monument as big as a railway-carriage.
| The Cross in the middle of the cemetery
Both groups had their yearly memorial service separately. The communist-oriented on the 1st Sunday of October and the Free Poles on the last Sunday of that month.
Up to the increase of terrorism in Poland less people visited the memorial service, which was organised by the communists. On the other hand the memorial service of the Free Poles was much more frequented.
Especially during the last years before the restoration of democracy in Poland the memorial service of the Free Poles grew into a political manifestation. After the official commemoration the visitors remained on the cemetery till dark to sing, to pray and to scan loudly "Solidarność...... Solidarność" while all the cemetery was lighted by thousands of lights. The visitors, however, lived between hope and fear, for the long arm of the Polish Secret Service reached as far as Lommel.
In the mean time the communist government didnít pay any attention to the Polish Cemetery. The whole became worse and worse and weeds throve everywhere. But also the crosses on the graves decayed seriously. The enamel on edges of plates on the graves began to came down and so they got a brown rusty border in such a undermining way, that on some plates the name was illegible. Industrious volunteers painted at random, so without pasting, a red brim around the plates. It all looked very shabby!
| Text plates into delay.
After the restoration of democracy in Poland both parties, so the Free Poles and those who sympathized with the former Communistic Government in Poland, united. The two yearly
memorial services were melted together and in good deliberation the cross, which was standing in the centre of the burial-ground, was placed on top of the monument, as a symbol of this new harmony.
|photo: Eddy Van Deun
Not everybody however agreed upon this, for in the art of sculpture it isnít usual to add something to an existing piece of art. That is, in fact, an objection of esthetical nature, but there is more.
The monument standing at the back of the cemetery, is a product of communistic, so atheistic, monumental art. The cross, on the other hand, is a symbol of religion and both expressions arenít tolerable in one monument. So, that is an ideological objection - of much more importance of course!
The new Polish Government took responsibility and in 1990 the burial-ground was renovated at last. Also new crosses of soft nature-stone were placed, on which new plates of artificial material were adjusted.
Alas, they worked slovenly in making the plates and more than a hundred mistakes in the text proved to be made.
| New plate in 2000.
Very soon it was also clear, that flimsy material had been used. The plates became warped. Thatís why very soon a screw was placed on the four corners Ė again very slovenly Ė but that was just a temporary solution. The problem went further, for the undressed iron screws, which were originally used to fasten the plates, started to rust. This rust pressed up the paint and the characters started to fall down.
|The same plate in 2006
After much discord a new restoration was carried out in 2009. New plates were placed with another cementation.
It concerns the understanding graves:
The mistakes in the texts were corrected for the greater part, but they made 40 new mistakes !!!
The cross of KOWALSKI Roman is damaged.
|Polish restorers at work
|The plates are fastened in another way.
|After the restoration in 2009
photo: Eddy Van Deun
Now 257 Polish victims are resting in The Polish War Cemetery in Lommel.
BARTKOWIAK Józef Kazimierz
BOY Jan Edward
CHRAPKOWSKI Jan Wilhelm
DĘBICKI Wacław Franciszek M.
ELIASIEWICZ Witold Jan
GEMBARA Edward Stefan
KASIK-KASICKI Teofil Antoni
KLUZ Nikodem Edward
KOMOROWSKI Antoni Eugeniusz
KUŚNIERZ Karol Kazimierz
MACKOWIAK Feliks (Nieznany)
MOCHNACKI Zygmunt Jan
PRASCHILL Stefan Leopold A.
RACZYŃSKI Konrad Emil
SIKORA Józef Stanisław
STELMACH Kazimierz Czesław
SZPERBER Adam Wacław
SZWARNOWIECKI Zenon Ludwik
TOPER Jerzy Dymitr
WIERZEJSKI Aleksander Stanisław
WŁOCH Tadeusz Jan
The Polish War Cemetery, signed as " Pools Militair Kerkhof" is to be found in a large wood that bears the name "Kattenbos".
See understanding Map.
GOOGLE: 51º 12' 59.56" N 5º 21' 46.83" O
LOCATION of the GRAVES