There would be no European Union without the sacrifice of Polish lives during World War II, Poland's President Andrzej Duda said at a ceremony marking the 72nd anniversary of the Battle of Monte Cassino on Wednesday.
The president thanked the veterans who came to Italy to take part in the ceremony for their heroic struggle at Monte Cassino and other places worldwide for the right to determine the security order in Europe and the world.
He also thanked them for securing "the sacred right to the claim that we contributed to Europe's freedom, that we fought for it, that we built a common Europe, which exists today", adding that the European Union would not exist if Polish blood had not been shed during World War II.
The president pointed out that the Polish soldiers had brought freedom "to Europe first, because ... Poland was not free for 50 years, it was not sovereign, it was not independent. But today it is, also thanks to your bravery and your blood, or perhaps even mainly thanks to it".
Making a reference to a patriotic Polish song about the battle of Monte Cassino, President Duda said that it had often been sung in secret, especially during Stalinism, and that it was one of many factors thanks to which "people stood shoulder to shoulder as Solidarity, the first independent trade union in the communist countries".
"Poles were the ones who built the foundations for toppling the Berlin Wall, Poles were the ones who helped their country regain its independence", Andrzej Duda also said.
The Battle of Monte Cassino was a series of four assaults by the Allies against the Axis forces' Winter Line in Italy during the Italian Campaign of World War II. The intention was a breakthrough to Rome. The fighting continued for 123 days, from January 17 to May 19, 1944. Polish units on the Allied force played a major role in the battle, seizing Monte Cassino under heavy German shellfire on May 18. In all, 923 Polish soldiers were killed in the fighting, with 2,931 wounded and 345 reported missing. (PAP)