Representatives of Polish and French authorities gathered in Potigny, in the northern French region of Normandy, to honor the soldiers of General Stanisław Maczek’s 1st Polish Armored Division, who liberated the city from German occupation in 1944 .
Polish Ambassador to France Jan Emeryk Rościszewski and Head of the Office for Veterans and Victims of Oppression Jan Józef Kasprzyk laid wreaths at the monument dedicated to the 1st Armored Division, located in the center of the city in a square named in their honour.
A mass for General Maczek and his soldiers was celebrated at the Polish war cemetery of Grainville-Langannerie, the only Polish World War II cemetery in France, where 696 soldiers are buried. On occasion, a plaque bearing the name of Cpl. Mieczysław Szymański was attached to his tombstone. Cpl. Szymański was killed in action on August 8, 1944, but his remains were not identified until recently.
The 1st Armored Division was created in February 1942 and transferred to Normandy in the summer of 1944, where it was attached to the 1st Canadian Army. The 1st Armored Division and other Polish units were instrumental in closing the retreat of German forces from the so-called Falaise Pocket. Nearly 6,000 German soldiers and SS paramilitaries are taken prisoner.
The 1st Polish Armored Division then fought in Belgium and the Netherlands, until on 5 May 1945 it reached the German town and naval base of Wilhelmshaven on the Weser River.
Commemorative ceremonies were also held the day before, Saturday, in Saint-Sylvain, liberated by the soldiers of the Podhale Rifle Battalion, and in Soignolles, liberated by the 10th Armored Cavalry Brigade. Ambassador Rościszewski was present at the celebrations in Montormel, commemorating the 78th anniversary of the conclusion of the Battle of Normandy, where he reminded the crowds and assembled officials of the continuing struggle of the Ukrainians against the Russian invaders, saying that “today today they [Ukrainians] fight for the values that are the foundations of Europe”.