• Faithful to my Homeland, the Republic of Poland


    Relations of Poland with Holland, or officially Kingdom of the Netherlands, have long-lasting history, going back at least 700 years. Trade was the foundation for first encounters, which flourished with establishing Hanza network. Between 15th and 17th centuries, on the shores of Baltic Sea many important trade centres and harbours were booming. One of them was undoubtedly Gdańsk, which was one of the global centres of trade for merchants from around Europe – Brandenburg, Poland, Teutonic Order (later on Prussia), and of course dominantly Holland.

    For Poles, Gdańsk was the final destination for timber rafters who also transported other goods as crops, leathers, salt. Most of these commodities was bought by Dutch merchants. This was very profitable to Polish magnates and noblemen, but even more so to the Dutch themselves, who sold these all over Western and Southern Europe. Many of Dutch fortunes had been build on this “Gdańsk trade route” which later on allowed Netherlands to become trade superpower.


    During the religious wars in Western Europe, many sought refuge in tolerant Poland. Among many, there were also Dutch Mennonites, who found safe haven in northern part of Poland (Żuławy area) which is below the sea level and along the Vistula river. In all those places Mennonites used their water management skills and build their settlements.


    In the 2nd half of 17th century this golden period of Polish – Dutch relation was over. Poland was kept busy with simultaneous wars with the Cossacks, Swedes, Russians, Ottoman Empire and Brandenburg. Meanwhile, the Netherlands was on trade war with England and tried to control overseas expansion of France.


    New chapter in common relations takes place in the period just before and after World War I. It was at that time, when significant number of Polish mineworkers settled down in southern Limburg. The centre of this Polish colony in the Netherlands was the town of Brunssum.


    During World War II, Poland’s name was carried in the Netherlands by the soldiers of 1st Independent Armoured Brigade under General Stanisław Maczek and of 1st Independent Parachute Brigade under General Stanisław Sosabowski.


    Soldiers of Gen. Maczek entered southern Netherlands in autumn of 1944, where it reached much success in pushing German occupiers back. What General Maczek is remembered especially for in the Netherlands, is his tactic decisions which allowed to save the city of Breda from destruction and civilian losses.


    Much more difficult, even impossible task was set before the brigade of General Sosabowski which was dropped in September 1944 over village of Driel close to Arnhem as a part of Market Garden Operation. Without proper support, Polish soldiers were chanceless in succeeding their aims. Nevertheless, they fought bravely and covered retreat of Allied forces till the very end.


    Numerous cemeteries in the whole of the Netherlands mark these events. Right after the war Dutch intellectualists set up Association Netherlands – Poland (Vereniging Nederland – Polen) aimed at developing relations with Poland. However, it was only after the end of Stalinist period in Poland (thus after 1956), when it was possible to develop any civic relations.

    During the Cold War, relations between both countries were on freeze, as Poland and the Netherlands were in opposite political and military blocs. On this reason any form of deeper cooperation was not possible. On the other hand, from 1960s one could observe some detenté between our countries.


    In the 1980s many Dutchmen supported Solidarność (Solidarity) movement and democratic opposition in Poland both politically and materially. In many cases, after the fall of Communism in Poland these initiatives laid ground foundations for local cooperation. Polish and Dutch cities, towns and municipalities saw big potential of contacts in fields of economy, culture and sport.


    After democratic transition in Poland, both countries began rebuilding common framework of relations. Just as in 16th and 17th centuries, again trade and business contacts were catalyst of contacts. Couple of hundreds of Polish – Dutch joint – ventures has been established and most major Dutch companies and banks set their branched in Poland. For many years now, the Netherlands is one of the biggest and most important investors in our country.


    Also governments of both countries attach much attention to bilateral relations. Frameworks of regular contacts have been created, for instance between armed forces and the police. Central point in this sphere has the mechanism of annual intergovernmental consultations, so-called Utrecht Conference, where administrations of both countries discuss in-depth all matters of mutual interest. The Utrecht Conference has been brought to life in 1999.


    Currently, Polish – Dutch contacts develop dynamically in economy, culture, sport and politics. Also direct daily links between people of two countries are more frequent than ever before in history. Aside of close ties between authorities and businesses, more and more Poles decide to settle in the Netherlands, but also number of Dutchmen living in Poland is on the rise. These contacts significantly contribute not only to economic growth, higher volume and value of trade, but most importantly build a platform of daily meetings and getting to know Poles and Dutch better.


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