The mayor of Cassino, Enzo Salera, has said: “We should be grateful to Poles, primarily to those soldiers who fought a heroic battle at Monte Cassino 76 years ago.”
Addressing a press conference in Warsaw, he added: “Thanks to a monument commemorating General Anders and his 1,057 troops who fought for freedom under his command, their memory will be preserved for future generations.”
The monument is due to be unveiled on May 18 during events marking the 76th anniversary of the victorious Battle of Monte Cassino and the 50th anniversary of the Polish general’s death.
The general’s daughter, Anna Maria Anders, who currently serves as Poland’s ambassador to Rome, told reporters she was delighted with the idea of the project.
"It is very important that he and his soldiers will be honoured in this way,” she said.
Designed by Giacomo Bianchi, the memorial will feature the names of all Polish soldiers who died in the 1944 Battle of Monte Cassino. They will be inscribed on a 19-metre-long wall of black granite.
Stones brought from Poland will be placed over an area of 144 square metres as a token of remembrance of the young victims of the fighting. General Anders’ figure will be cast in bronze.
The idea of the memorial has been co-sponsored by the Monte Cassino Run, the brainchild of former Polish track-and-field athlete Bogusław Mamiński, a successful steeplechase runner who won world and European championship medals in the early 1980s.
A 10-km run at Monte Cassino, whose first edition in 2014 attracted 998 runners, will be held again in May.
Born in 1892, Władysław Anders commanded a cavalry brigade at the start of World War II. He was wounded and taken prisoner by the Soviets in September 1939. He spent 22 months in the NKVD Lubyanka prison in Moscow. Tortured in countless interrogations, he was persuaded to join the Red Army, but he refused to meet any of the Soviet demands.
He was freed after the outbreak of the German-Soviet war and appointed commander of the Polish army in the Soviet Union. In the summer of 1942, the Anders Army, together with over 20,000 Polish civilians freed from prisons and labour camps, was evacuated to Iran, Iraq and Palestine. There, Anders formed and led the 2nd Polish Corps, which fought in the Battle for Monte Cassino in the Italian Campaign.
General Anders was critical of the decisions of the Yalta Conference. In 1946, the communist authorities in Poland deprived him of his Polish citizenship and his military rank.
As a political émigré in Britain, he continued his political activities aimed at preserving the constitutional continuity of the Polish government-in-exile in London. He took part in a campaign for the release of Poles still held in Soviet labour camps.
He died on May 12, 1970, the 26th anniversary of the Battle of Monte Cassino, and was buried, in accordance with his wish, at the Polish War Cemetery at Monte Cassino.
After the collapse of communism in Poland in 1989, his citizenship and military rank were posthumously reinstated.
Click on the audio icon above to listen to a report by Elżbieta Krajewska.