Witold Pilecki, the legendary Polish military man who volunteered to step into a real hell on earth – the Nazi-German Auschwitz death camp – had the Polish School in Rabat named after him and an oak sapling planted in a Berber culture institute on Saturday.
Poland honours memory of WWII-era hero Pilecki
The ground of the Royal Institute of Amazigh Culture’s (IRCAM) garden was broken on Saturday to plant an oak sapling named after Captain Witold Pilecki – the first such tree in the whole of Africa.
Deputy Director of the Museum of Cursed Soldiers and Political Prisoners of the Polish People’s Republic Jacek Pawłowicz descended on Rabat to represent the museum which now occupies the building of a former prison where Captain Pilecki was tried in a show trial by communist puppet authorities and sentenced to death.
Taking part in the ceremonies also were Poland’s Ambassador to Morocco Krzysztof Karwowski, headteacher of the Polish School Barbara El-Khourani and, first and foremost, Polish and Polish-Moroccan pupils of the Polish School in Rabat, among others.
The patron of the school is one of the greatest and most selfless among the pantheon of Poland’s national heroes. Born in 1901, Witold Pilecki served as cavalry captain during the Polish-Soviet War and WWII. He was also a co-founder of the Secret Polish Army, a resistance group in German-occupied Poland.
“He was an amazing Man – not just a true and great Hero but also a loving and wonderful Father,” Zofia Pilecka-Optułowicz, daughter of the courageous Pole, said in a letter read out on the day.
She went on to recount that her early childhood “was blessed with His constant presence and lively little theatrical plays that he acted out with us for Mommy… strolls in the fields and forests where he taught us to respect every living being be it bird, insect, plant or the entire forest. He instructed us, children, not to shout in the forest as if it was a true temple.”
@PLauMaroc et @IRCAM ont planté ensemble un chêne en guise de signe de l’amitié entre la 🇵🇱 et le 🇲🇦. Le chêne rend hommage au héros PL, le capitaine #WitoldPilecki, interné de son propre gré au camp de concentration nazi d’Auschwitz pour rendre compte des atrocités y commises. pic.twitter.com/z9uqlFwnDy
— AmbPologne Maroc (@PLauMaroc) September 17, 2022
In 1940, Witold Pilecki volunteered to be arrested by Germans and deported to the Auschwitz concentration camp in order to organise a resistance movement and prepare a report on the situation in the camp.
“He is one of the greatest Poles. For his entire life, Witold Pilecki served Poland, fought for Poland and loved Poland,” Mr Pawłowicz told the pupils and other people present at the IRCAM.
His report was presented to the Western Allies as early as 1941, while Pilecki was still in Auschwitz, where he arrived in September 1940. The man spent nearly three years in the camp, which he escaped on the night of April 26-27, 1943.
After WWII, Witold Pilecki was arrested, accused of anti-state activities in a show trial by a kangaroo court, and executed in secret by Communist authorities in 1948.
“And then dreadful years followed when slanderously accused, humiliated, killed he was to be forgotten. It was prohibited to speak his name, talk about his merits and exploits,” Ms Pilecka-Optułowicz wrote in the letter read out by Poland’s Ambassador to Morocco Krzysztof Karwowski.
Despite concerted efforts by the Institute of National Remembrance, his body has never been found.
There is a school in Rabat…
“Thankfully, the dreary time has passed,” the hero’s daughter wrote. “Today you may enjoy true freedom, while I am receiving wondrous gifts from God the Lord such as this special day – the day when the Polish School in Rabat is named after the person who has been the dearest to me of all people. It takes place in the presence of Yours and in the capital of this beautiful country that Morocco is… A truly moving moment when a school is given the name of Captain Witold Pilecki – my Daddy.”
Following the planting of the tree, a solemn ceremony took place at the residence of Poland’s Ambassador to Morocco, where the Polish School operating under the umbrella of the diplomatic post was named after Witold Pilecki.
Un moment important dans la vie des élèves polonais à #Rabat: l'École PL vient de prendre le nom du capitaine #WitoldPilecki et rend, ainsi, un hommage à cette personnalité qui a marqué l'histoire. pic.twitter.com/zfFNLG0Hdf
— AmbPologne Maroc (@PLauMaroc) September 17, 2022
In his letter addressed to the gathered officials, teachers, members of the Polish diaspora and pupils, Prime Minister Morawiecki called the naming ceremony “an outstanding event”.
“Given the fact that this school is located not just in another country but also on another continent, we can call it an outstanding event,” he wrote.
“Captain Witold Pilecki is a paragon of true heroism and perseverance in the face of two totalitarian regimes [of Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia], with which he came to grapple. However, in his bearing, we can discern something more than just a soldier’s personal bravery. His courage, dignity and self-sacrifice in the face of a final test present us with deep questions about our individual attitudes towards our Homeland,” the letter read.
The PM went on to write that “such questions gain particular gravitas, especially today when as a result of Russia’s brutal invasion of Ukraine a war rages on in the heart of Europe.”
Opinion: Holding ground against Russia in Morocco
The fact that the ceremonies were scheduled for and carried out on September 17 when Poland commemorated the 83rd anniversary of Soviet Russia’s invasion of Poland might not be a coincidence. Ever since Moscow launched its savage invasion of Ukraine, Africa, and Morocco in particular, have been the ground for intense Russian propaganda work.
The Polish Embassy in Rabat has been effectively pinpointing the half-truths, disinformation and fake news disseminated by the Russian Embassy.
Picking September 17 for the tree planting ceremony in the Moroccan institution of IRCAM sends out a clear message – the memory of Witold Pilecki lives even in a country as far from Poland as Morocco, regardless of the Kremlin predecessors’ dogged attempts at effacing it from Polish and world history.
Another message that Russian propagandists should definitely take to hear could read – your brainwashing attempts in Morocco are going nowhere. You are losing ground.
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