BAND OF BIGGAR BROTHERS; Almost 60 Years after the End of World War II, Polish Soldiers Return to Thank the People of a Scots Town for Their Kindness

Article excerpt

Byline: LINDSAY CLYDESDALE

POLISH war veterans yesterday returned to the Scots town where they arrived as strangers in their darkest hour - and left as brothers.

Sixty years after the Lanarkshire town of Biggar opened its doors and hearts to the Polish soldiers, officers and Embassy officials arrived to pay tribute.

But the most touching tribute had already been paid decades earlier.

A handwritten note left behind by two of the soldiers at their digs when they were posted away from Biggar read simply: "You didn't even know us but you treated us like brothers."

They titled the note, left in the home of resident Betty Paterson's family, A Tribute to Scotland.

Betty, now 79, said yesterday: "They were beautiful lads and always perfect gentlemen.

"When they came to us, they had nothing and didn't know if their families were dead or alive.

"I'd go to dances with them and dated a couple of them. They were lovely dancers, especially at the tango."

Battalions of the Polish army escaped from their country and from mainland Europe as it was over-run by the Germans, and were stationed in the Scots town for two years from 1940 onwards.

Yesterday, a plaque marking the friendship between Biggar and the Polish soldiers was unveiled by veteran Cihocki Wladyslasai, 88.

Mr Wladyslasai, wearing a uniform decorated with a dozen medals, including the Polish equivalent of the Victoria Cross, said he was overcome by memories.

He added: "Biggar was the first place I set foot after leaving France. I was very lucky, it was a wonderful welcome we received.

"Polish and Scottish minds are very similar. They were so kind and made us feel at home.

"I served in Hungary, Yugoslavia, Belgium and France and none of them compared to the kindness and care we received here. I loved Scotland so much, I stayed here after the war and married a Scots girl."

Frank Baran, whose late father Frank senior, was also stationed in the town in 1940, said the locals' generosity would never be forgotten. …