Excellencies, Distinguished Veterans and Families, Dear Friends
This year, 60 years after the end of the Second World War, is the right time to pay our tribute to those who died in the battles, who were murdered, who sacrificed their lives in order to let us live free.
Today, we attended a solemn ceremony at the Katyn memorial, a monument built to remember over 20 thousand Polish prisoners of war — mostly officers and policemen, killed ruthlessly by the Soviet oppressors in 1940. They were guilty of being Polish patriots and therefore doomed to be forgotten forever under the forests of Katyn and other sites of genocide. But their martyrdom has not been forgotten and never will.
The inscriptions at the monument remember also the heros of the Warsaw Uprising of 1944 — a battle against German occupants that took the highest toll of death during World War II. Among those heroes were South African Airmen, who were bringing aid to Warsaw, knowing only too well how slim were their chances of survival.
When remembering a hero one is tempted to say: we have gathered here not to mourn his death but to praise his glory. The loss of one man is a tragedy, but dozens of others may follow in his steps. When they sacrifice their lives, thousands of others may throw themselves as “stones for a rampart”. But when hundreds of thousands — the elite of a nation — are annihilated, all those who survive become orphans. It is their right to mourn the dead and it is their duty to remember and pass that memory down to new generations.
Let me express — on behalf of Poland — our admiration and gratitude to those of you who combated for Poland. Let us pay the honour to those who are no longer among the living. And let us pay our respect to all in South Africa who have been helping us to keep alive and cherish the memories of the tragic and the glorious events that we commemorate today.