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Pictures: Statue of Polish war hero General Sikorksi unveiled in Newark

The unveiling of a statue of Polish war hero General Sikorski in Newark town centre was described as a “dream come true” today.

Tuesday’s event was a symbolic reminder of the town’s key role in Britain’s support for exiled Poles during the conflict.

Sikorski and daughter’s death – July 1943

On July 4 1943, a plane crashed on take off in Gibraltar with the Commander in Chief, General Władysław Sikorski and his daughter Zofia on board.

General Sikorski was the Polish Prime Minister and Commander-in-Chief of the Polish Armed Forces in exile following Germany’s invasion.

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The plane plunged into the sea immediately after take-off from Gibraltar, killing all on board except the pilot. Sikorski was then buried at the Polish War Cemetery in Newark-on-Trent on 16 July 1943.

Repatriation

He was repatriated back to Poland in 1993, but now there is a permanent reminder of his connection to Newark in the form of a bronze statue created by sculptor Andrew Lilley.

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Newark and Sherwood District Council, the Polish Cultural Institute and Newark Town Council were part of the project to mark the 80th year of General Sikorski’s death.

Tuesday’s unveiling took place at Newark Cemetery, an event Dr Marta de Zuniga, Director of the Polish Cultural Institute in London, described as a “dream come true”.

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Dr Marta de Zuniga, Director of the Polish Cultural Institute in London

The sculpture

Dr de Zuniga added she and sculptor Mr Lilley came up with the idea for the statue two years ago.

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Sculptor Andrew Lilley

She said: “It was around the idea that he deserved to be commemorated as a person, he was such an extraordinary man.

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“We thought it would be amazing to commemorate him on the anniversary of his death.”Mr Lilley said:

“This is the culmination of 40 years of sculpting in my career.

“It is a huge privilege. It has taken just over a year from conception until today.

“We wanted him to look natural and relaxed, but it had to be formal as he is such an important figure in Poland.

“My goal is to try to bring my subject to life.”

General Sikorksi’s funeral

90-year-old Peter Allen attended General Sikorski’s funeral when he was ten years old. He served with the parachute field ambulance in Egypt in 1951 and has lived in Newark ever since.

He said: “I remember standing on London Road to watch the parade go by. The thing that struck me was the death drum.

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Peter Allen

“I stood there with my mum and watched the soldier carrying a cushion with his medals on it.

“I didn’t think this many people would be here today. Newark needed a statue like this, he was a fantastic man and he did a lot for Poland. It’s marvellous.”

The statue

In the statue, General Sikorski is depicted saluting the Polish soldiers who are buried in Newark cemetery.

Councillor Neil Ross (Ind), Armed Forces Champion for Newark and Sherwood District Council, served in the Royal Air Force for 20 years.

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He added: “In 1940 when Britain’s existence was in peril, thousands of Polish people came and helped to defend our skies in the Battle of Britain.

“Many of them are laid to rest in this cemetery. It’s important that we remember that and our debt of gratitude to Poland.

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Councillor Neil Ross, Armed Forces Champion for Newark and Sherwood District Council

“Representing General Sikorski here in the heart of the cemetery amongst his troops is a really important thing to do and in years to come our children will come here and learn the story of what happened.”

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