Great Polish Map of Scotland took me on an unexpected journey to receive a medal from Poland – Christine Grahame MSP

It’s funny how you become involved in things quite by chance and where it takes you.

By Christine Grahame
Thursday, 5th May 2022, 4:45 pm
Christine Grahame receives a medal from the Polish consul at a reception in Edinburgh City Chambers marking Poland’s National Constitution Day

One of those accidental roads was to become a politician, entering Parliament in 1999, and another was to come across the remains of the Great Polish Map of Scotland.

What? I hear you ask. Well, it’s this huge relief map of Scotland constructed out of concrete, water surrounding the map like the seas, located in the grounds of the Barony Castle Hotel in Eddleston, near Peebles, in my constituency.

During the 1970s it was built to commemorate the great Polish general, Stanisław Maczek, who also has a statue at Edinburgh City Chambers.

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He had an extraordinary military career as a Polish tank commander in the Second World War. His division was instrumental in the Allied liberation of France, closing the Falaise pocket, with the destruction of 14 German Wehrmacht and SS divisions.

A veteran of the First World War, the Polish-Ukrainian and Polish-Soviet wars, Maczek was the commander of Poland’s only major armoured formation during the September 1939 campaign, and commanded a Polish armoured formation in France in 1940.

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He was the commander of the famous 1st Polish Armoured Division, and of the Polish Army Corps between 1942 and 1945. which served in defence of the Scottish coast between Montrose and the Firth of Forth. He lived out the end of his days quietly in Leith.

Between 1974 and 1979, Barony Castle was owned by Polish immigrant Jan Tomasik so the connections were made and from 1974-79 the map was built.

Moving on, over the years I supported through Parliament, as best I could, the rebuilding of the map by volunteers which took a huge commitment by them for over a decade. Somewhere in YouTube land is my debate on the Great Polish Map of Scotland translated into Polish. The map today? Well, it is now fully restored and worth a visit.

Then, just a few weeks ago I was told I was being nominated for a Polish award, the Pro Patria for my help with the map and this week I received the medal from the Polish consul at a reception in the City Chambers marking Poland’s National Constitution Day on May 3, their first constitution being declared and adopted on May 3, 1791. The UK, of course, does not have one.

I was surprised but honoured to receive it from a nation which has proved itself over the decades a doughty fighter for its own independence and democracy against invaders: Nazis and Russians.

Today it is providing unquestioning sanctuary to those dispossessed and traumatised as they flee the terrors of Putin’s insanity and warmongering.

It puts the UK to shame as it pussy-foots about with complex visa processes when time may be on the side of the UK immigration departments but not of those desperate to escape bombs, injury and death.

Scottish links with Poland stride the centuries, going back to the 16th century at least. Today it is estimated there are over 100,000 either Polish or folk of Polish descent living in Scotland, so ties are strong to this day.

My best wishes to all of you and you should be so proud of Poland today. Dziękuję.

Christine Grahame is SNP MSP for Midlothian South, Tweeddale and Lauderdale