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The Dutch embassy in London has honoured a 99-year-old Polish veteran for his role – as part of the 1st Polish Armored Division – in liberating the Netherlands from German Nazi occupation in World War Two.

Eugeniusz Jan Niedzielski was awarded a Thank You Liberator Medal at a ceremony at the Embassy. The medal, which features the flags of Poland, Canada, the US and UK, has been presented 2,443 times.

“More than 250,000 Poles fought for our freedom during World War II,” wrote the embassy. “To compare, there were 20,000 Dutch military and 12,000 sailors in the merchant fleet active in the war. We wanted to say Thank you Poles for their sacrifices during the liberation of Europe and the Netherlands.”

Niedzielski was involved in Operation Pheasant, an Allied offensive to clear German troops from the province of Noord-Brabant in the Netherlands that took place in October and November 1944.

Poland’s 1st Armoured Division, under the command of Major General Stanisław Maczek, played a major role in that operation, as well as the wider efforts to liberate France, Belgium and the Netherlands after the D-Day landings.

Niedzielski was born on 1 September 1923 in Dubno in Wołyń, which was then part of Poland but is now in Ukraine. After the German and Soviet invasions that began World War Two in September 1939, he was one of the hundreds of thousands of Poles deported to work camps in Siberia by the Soviet Union.

In 1942, after Stalin had switched sides to join the Allies, Niedzielski joined the new Polish army that was formed from those who had been deported to Siberia. After his unit evacuated to Persia (now Iran), it was placed under British command and Niedzielski was subsequently assigned to the UK.

There, he was enlisted in the 1st Armored Division of the Polish Armed Forces in the West. His unit took part in the battle of the Falaise pocket in August 1944, before arriving at the Dutch border on 16 September and subsequently being involved in Operation Pheasant.

During the operation, the 1st Polish Armored Division liberated the city of Breda on 29 October 1944,without any civilian casualties or major destruction. To commemorate the 75th anniversary of the city’s liberation in 2019, the football club NAC Breda named their stadium after General Maczek for the day.

In 1947, Niedzielski returned to the UK, where he enlisted in the Polish Resettlement Corps before being honourably discharged the following year. Niedzielski remained in the UK, residing in London.

Source: Dutch Embassy in London

Copyright: Niedzielski family

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