The Day Yolanda met General Anders and the Archbishop of Canterbury

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Pablo Edronkin

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Shortly after WWII, there was a big problem with the members of the Polish Second Corps that fought with the western Allies: Most of them could not and would not return to Poland after it fell in the hands of communism; so had to be assimilated int British society or migrate, and General Anders and the Archbishop of Canterbury went to visit Polish garrisons, where soldiers, officers and their families lived.

"In a good book room you feel in some mysterious way that you are absorbing the wisdom contained in all the books through your skin, without even opening them." - Mark Twain.

One day, they went to the garrison where my grandfather was stationed, and my mother was selected among the kids of the base to greet them. Here are some pictures taken by my grandfather that day.

In 1946 my grandmother, along with my uncle and my mother, who were then little more than kids, escaped from Poland already under the control of communists and after a long trip that took them over the Czech Republic, Germany, Austria and Italy, they reached Rome, where my grandfather was stationed after fighting the Italian campaign. Polish soldiers and officers were being re trained and re adapted to civilian life in western Europe because it was becoming evident that going back to Poland wasn't an option.

Being an officer and enjoying a little more freedom than regular soldiers, my grandfather used his time in post war Italy to get to know the country, paint, draw, and study art at Rome's Fine Arts Academy. He wanted to stay there and finish the course, but grandmother was of a different opinion.

A view from a window in Rome, 1946, H.A. Braun[94.17].
A church tower in England, ca 1947, H.A. Braun[94.18].

Soon after the family got together again, they moved to England under the auspices of the British Army and the insistence of my grandmother. They lived in the UK until 1948. At that moment, as the Cold War became a fact, my grandmother was so worried about the prospect of WWIII that she insisted that they should leave Europe at once, and they did.

My grandfather was offered positions in the military in the British colonies, to Canada, Australia and there was talk about going to Rhodesia (Zimbabwe) at one point; but grandmother insisted that they should not go to any country that traditionally took part in conflicts around the world, including its colonies or former ones, which would naturally jump to assist their motherland. So, the UK, the British Empire, the US and many others were excluded.

Yolanda with the Archbishop
Yolanda with the Archbishop, H.A. Braun[94.19].
General Anders
General Anders, H.A. Braun[94.20].

They took the first ship that they found that departed to Argentina, which was and has always been a neutral country in such matters (see S.S. Córdoba). But in the meantime, as they reached the UK and lived there, several things happened.

The British government realized that they shouldn't attempt to send back the Polish combatants and their families, so, as I said before, they offered assimilation. Among the Poles there was a certain uneasiness because they saw how Poland was being "sold" to Stalin and they suddenly felt insecure after years of fighting as part of the British Army. Most of them, including my grand father had uncomfortable Siberian gulag memories.

Yolandaand officers
Yolanda, dignataries and officers, H.A. Braun[94.21].
Yolanda and yet more dignataries and officers
Yolanda and yet more dignataries and officers, H.A. Braun[94.22].

In that context, British and Polish authorities in exile decided to do some PR and make visits to the military garrisons where the Polish troops were stationed within Britain, to explain what was being done, what was being offered and bring some calm among the ranks.

The day General Anders, the Archbishop as well as other Polish and British authorities visited the base, people there decided to dress Yolanda in a dress from Krakow, topped with a crown of flowers; mother hated it - especially the crown. Then, she hated even more the idea that she would have to kiss the ring of the Archbishop, after realizing that the ring would have been kissed by countless people, countless times – that's why she appears somewhat serious in some of the pictures.

Yolanda and Polish officers
Yolanda and Polish officers, H.A. Braun[94.23].
Rev. Hon. Geoffrey Fisher and General Wladislaw Anders
Rev. Hon. Geoffrey Fisher and General Wladislaw Anders, H.A. Braun[94.24].

She wanted to greet the visitors but didn't want to kiss the ring; once I asked if she did, and she said that actually, she didn't but faked a kiss.

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