On 20th February, Australia and Poland celebrated the 50th Anniversary of formal diplomatic relations since Poland regained her independence on 11 November 1918.
The Polish and Australian Prime Ministers issued a joint statement to mark this anniversary, which concludes:-
“For 50 years, Australia and Poland have cooperated to build and enhance our strong bilateral relations. Today, we are proud of our friendship, confident in our shared interests and optimistic in the opportunities that lie ahead. ”
Brett Olaf, an Australian in Kraków, has researched Australian Polish links over the centuries.
Beyond these 50 years, Australia and Poland have significant bonds that pre-date British settlement when Polish crew members sailed on a Dutch vessel in 1696.
Poles have also settled in Australia since 1800s and the famous explorer, Sir Paweł Edmund Strzelecki KCMG CB FRS FRGS DCL, explored much of Australia’s east coast, naming the highest peak, Mount Kosciusko, named for Polish hero, General Tadeusz Kościuszko, and Gippsland after then then Governor of New South Wales (name given to Australia’s east coast at the time). Strzelecki himself having many landmarks named in his honour including Gippsland’s Strzelecki Ranges in Australia and Kraków’s Strzelecki Park adjacent Kraków Glowny.
Photo: Strzelecki Park, Kraków, celebrates historical events and people including the Battle of Grunwald, a Berlin Wall fragment and Saint John Paul II. Credit: Brett Osler
There are also many Krakówians who made their way to the land Down Under including the Krakouers (Jewish Krakówians), whose descendants are renowned in Australian Rules football, as well as Aussies playing for Krakówian sporting teams such as Erin Phillips (Wisla Can Pack Kraków), Jacob Burn (Wisla Kraków), Shane Parker (Wanda Kraków), Michael Thwaite (Wisla Kraków).
Notable Krakówians in Australia include former Sydney Lord Mayor, Leo Port MBE, actor Guido Lorraine, film producer and Krakow University graduate, Yoram Gross, who brought to life Blinky Bill: The Mischievous Koala and Dot and the Kangaroo, musician Leo Rosner, who ‘delighted in playing Australian football theme songs’ as recounted by his daughter, Anna Rosner Blay, and actress/comedian and author, Magda Szubanski, whose father hails from the Malopolska voivodeship and features in Babe, Happy Feet and plays her Kath and Kim character, Sharon Strzelecki, a sports obsessed fictional character.
Photo: St Kilda FC’s theme song, When The Saints Go Marching In, handwritten music by the City of Saints’ own Leo Rosner Credit: Danny Rosner Blay (Leo’s grandson)
Krakow is also the site of WWII plane crash involving two Australians, one now buried at Rakowicki Military Cemetery in Kraków, Squadron Leader John Liversidge, and the other, Flight Lieutenant Allan Hammet, ejecting safely and joining the Polish Home Army until the war’s end. The plane crashed either side of the Vistula River with parts into the site of Galeria Kazimierz and others into Oskar Schindler’s Enamel Factory. A mural unveiled in 2018, a historical marker and Boulevard of Allied Airmen also mark this event with plans for a full-sized Liberator B-24 monument remain grounded for now. Many other Australians who were killed in action or as Prisoners of War are also buried at Rakowicki.
Photo: Plaque on the external wall of Oskar Schindler’s Enamel Factory commemorating those airmen lost in the crash of Squadron No. 178 Liberator B-24 KG-933 with part of the plane crashing into the factory on the night of 16 August 1944. Credit: Brett Osler
Photo: Burial site of RAAF Squadron Leader John Liversidge at Kraków’s Rakowicki Military Cemetery whose Squadron No. 178 flight KG-933 was shot down over Kraków in 1944.<br />
Credit: Brett Osler
Australian author, Thomas Keneally, wrote and won a Man Booker Prize for Schindler’s Ark which was famously adapted into Steven Spielberg’s film, Schindler’s List. Krakowian musician, Leo Rosner, also made contributions to both of these.
More recently, Australian Rules football has emerged in Krakow with AFL Krakow developing the game for men and women as well as AFL Europe’s university contest, the Fitzpatrick Cup. Krakowians interested in learning more about the game and joining in the action are invited to follow AFL Krakow’s Facebook page.
Image is the Australian Embassy of Warsaw / Polish Embassy of Canberra commissioned logo winner connecting an Australian kangaroo, a Polish eagle and 50 into the logo.
Author: Brett Olaf, who hails from Australia’s Strzelecki Ranges.
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