CAMP BONDSTEEL, Kosovo – Soldiers from Multinational Battle Group East, Kosovo Forces, met to celebrate Polish Independence Day, Nov. 13. Traditionally, Polish Independence is celebrated on Nov. 11, but the ceremony was moved to allow all Polish members of MNBG E to participate.
The ceremony consisted of the Polish national anthem and raising of the Polish flag, followed by a platoon firing three shots into the air. A reception afterward featured traditional Polish food.
Polish Army Lt. Col. Krzystof Monkiewicz, Polish Contingent commander, spoke about the history and importance of the foundation of the Second Republic of Poland.
“Polish Independence is the most important holiday in Poland celebrated every year on November 11 to commemorate the anniversary of Poland's assumption of independent statehood in 1918 after 123 years of occupation,” said Monkiewicz.
During his speech he went on to explain the significance of the day, which became a national holiday in 1937. However, during communist occupation after World War II, the celebration of the holiday was not recognized.
Polish Army Capt. Jaroslav Barcinski, public affairs officer for the Polish Contingent, reflected on the celebration here compared to in Poland.
“In Poland every soldier in the unit prepares our equipment and we open the base to the local civilians, but the ceremony is the same,” Barcinski said. “Every base has this ceremony and part of it is three shots fired in memory of those who have lost their lives for Poland.”
U.S. Army Capt. Barbara Bujak, a physical therapist at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, temporarily assigned to Camp Bondsteel, had a chance to attend an event she has not been to since she was a child.
“It was wonderful that I came here at this time to be able to be part of this. I am originally from Poland, so it is always nice to see this celebration and brings back memories,” Bujak said. “When I moved I was a lot younger, so I participated in a lot these celebrations in school,” she said.
She moved to the U.S. when she was 11 years old and joined the U.S. Army five years ago, with a direct commission when she finished her master’s degree in Physical Therapy.
Also in attendance for the ceremony and reception were Marta Przenioslo, deputy chief of mission of the Republic of Poland to the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Col. Francisco Neuman, MNBG E commander, Greek Army Col. Chatzithoefanour Georgirn, Hellas Contingent commander, Lt. Col. Jose Boria, MNBG E deputy commander, Ukraine Army Maj. Oleksander Lutsenko, Ukraine Contingent commander, Turkish Army Capt. Hakan Ozkubat, Turkish Coy commander.
During the ceremony Neuman spoke to mark the occasion and the importance of the Polish Contingent’s role in working together with other nations to accomplish the KFOR mission.
“To you, the Polish soldiers of Multinational Battle Group East, I want to say that it is indeed appropriate that we honor the accomplishments of the Polish people, whose determination and independent spirit brought about the formation of the independent Polish republic,” Neuman said. “We, the soldiers of Multinational Battle Group East are part of an extraordinary group. We come from many areas of the world and from many different cultures, yet we are all here working together for progress.”