People and the Map

 

Founder member and Secretary of Mapa Scotland Keith Burns explains how he first came across the map:

In 1996 on other business, I was wandering around the old landscaped grounds of the Barony Castle Hotel at Eddleston on a beautiful spring morning. I came into a clearing that had a strange circular walled pit about 1.5m deep and about 40 metres in diameter. The base of the pit seemed to be very uneven bedrock. I walked around it wondering what on earth it was. Around half the circumference, in astonishment, I recognised the overgrown outline of the Mull of Galloway, then the Clyde Coast, Arran, Bute and beyond. I jumped down into the weed-strewn pit and was amazed to recognise more and more detail of what was a 3-dimensional terrain relief model of the whole of the Scottish landscape. I hopped across the Border hills and over the Tail of the Bank to recognise Ben Lomond, Ben Lui, the Glencoe Hills, Ben Nevis and much more. Five minutes later I was at Cape Wrath, stunned by my discovery.

Inquiries at the hotel reception drew a blank. No-one there knew anything about it, or seemed to be interested either. Further inquiries to friends who lived in the near vicinity were equally fruitless. After 10 years of research that took me as far as Krakow the full story behind the great map still unfolds, and gets more and more interesting. We now have a restoration project nderway. Anyone interested in helping should contact us. Those with an interest in the Scottish landscape and maps should visit Barony Castle. It beats paper maps for impact!  We owe our gratitude to Jan Tomasik and to Kazimierz Trafas and his Krakow team who made it all happen a long time ago.

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Mapa Scotland member Anne Hardie explains why she joined the group:

My father served in the 1st Armoured Division during the war, I am interested in the map because it is part of his history. I first saw the map when it was being built in the 1970s. I visited the Hotel Black Barony, which was owned by Jan Tomasik, with my parents who were friends of General Maczek.

Sadly I have seen the condition of the map decline over the years as the hotel changed hands. I was absolutely delighted to learn of plans to renovate it. I visited the Maczek Exhibition held in Penicuik Town Hall where I met Roger Kelly. I was able to lend him a book produced by the 1st Armoured Division during the war. I was later invited to attend the very first meeting of those interested in saving the map.

I have been most impressed by the way the Committee of Mapa Scotland has worked to publicise and protect this piece of history. The Committee itself has helped to make history by having the Mapa project debated in the Scottish Parliament and gaining cross party support. I hope that the map will eventually feature in the record books as I believe it to be unique. It is a pity that it could not have been included in the Great Scottish Tapestry.

I would hope to see the Great Polish Map of Scotland become a tourist attraction and to see schools visiting the map and using it for history and geography lessons. Perhaps the map will be able to feature some of Scotland’s most famous landmarks. I have taken many people to view the map and without exception they have all been impressed by the project.

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Mapa Scotland member Majka Kozlowska explains her involvement:

I first heard about Mapa Scotland from a friend. Being Polish, I felt an immediate connection with this project – my father’s youngest brother ended his life in Scotland in 1947 and is buried in the Polish Military Cemetery in Perth.

I come to Eddleston as often as I can to help with the restoration work which I thoroughly enjoy, not just because I can see the difference I am making, but also because it is good to work with such an enthusiastic and committed team. I think the Mapa has a great potential to become a tourist focal point but I am also very keen to make the Mapa a destination for schools. Its educational potential could attract history teachers and enhance an awareness of the Polish contribution to Scotland during the Second World War.

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Piotr Konieczny explains his reasons for joining Mapa Scotland:

I think I first heard of Mapa Scotland on Facebook. I found it to be a fascinating link between Scotland and Poland where I come from — a link that seems to have been forgotten in the same way as the history of Polish troops in the UK at the time of the Second World War. And so I thought it would be a good idea to join the efforts to restore it and bring it back to life. Also, I am a graduate of the Jagiellonian University, where the original builders of the map came from. I was really impressed when I saw it for the first time several months ago. I would like to see the map become a well known and important historical and tourist attraction in Scotland, reminding people about the Polish-Scottish connections.

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But one doesn’t need to have a connection with Poland to be drawn to the map, as Heather Tidy explains;

I first heard of the map from a friend of mine who lives in the area, is passionate about local history and involved with the project to restore the map. My decision to join was prompted by my friend’s passion and the fact that I had time on hands and was looking for something meaningful to do. I enjoy the outdoors and spending time with nature – both of these could be satisfied by working on the map. I find it interesting meeting different people and hearing about their lives and ‘takes’ on different topics – sitting scrubbing a Munro is a great time to chat. Being ‘new’ to Scotland it is great to learn about the lay of the land and what better way to remember the names of formations than to spend time cleaning them! I look forward to seeing the map completed and to seeing the sea flooded again.

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Zenon Sliwinski 

Zenon Sliwinski is a Second World War veteran who served in the 1st Armoured Division under General Maczek. Mr Sliwinski resides in his adopted home of Glasgow and is one of the last living veterans in Scotland who served under General Maczek. During the war, he was based in Duns in the Scottish Borders and fought in the Normandy campaign.

His life before joining the 1st Armoured Division was one of exile and travel: a common experience of Polish soldiers who served during the Second World War.

He was living on his family’s farm in Eastern Poland, when the country was divided between Germany and the Soviet Union in 1939. He still recalls a severe winter’s day when he and his mother and two younger brothers were given two hours to pack a few belongings by the Soviets before being marched to a station to be crammed in to a railway cattle wagon with other Polish exiles. There was a small stove in the middle of the three tiered wagon and a hole in the floor for the toilet. They travelled like this for well over a week. Mr Sliwinski remembers that one night his head froze to a bunk. On arrival in the Archangel area, they were transferred to sledges and travelled on these for another six days. The corpses of those who died on this journey were left by the side in the snow.

When Germany invaded Russia in 1941, the Poles became allies of the Russians and Mr Sliwinski and his family were released from captivity. The family travelled south by train and worked on a collective farm in the south Volga area.

From here, Mr Sliwinski travelled to Tehran and in the Spring of 1942 joined the Polish army. His mother and youngest brother were transferred to a peanut plantation in Kenya and his other brother went to Palestine. Given Mr Sliwinski’s knowledge of tractors and mechanics he was assigned to the Armoured Division and became a tank driver.

He trained in the Scottish Borders area and remembers testing a tank that could operate underwater. The 1st Armoured Division fought with great gallantry in Normandy in 1944 and during a particularly savage encounter with the enemy, Mr Sliwinski was badly wounded. He was treated for his wounds in the field before being transferred to a military hospital in Liverpool. 

At the war’s end, Mr Sliwinski decided to stay in the UK and make Scotland his home. His other three family members returned to a Poland that was now a Communist, totalitarian state.

He started visiting Poland in the 1970s but was initially treated with suspicion by Polish officials. With the demise of the Communist regime, travel became much easier. He now returns to his native country every year to visit his daughter who lives and works in Krakow.

To this day, he remains disappointed that Polish combatants were not allowed to participate in the official victory parades or given the recognition they merited after the war. The restoration of Mapa Scotland is one small act of gratitude and respect to the brave Poles, like Zenon Sliwinski, who fought alongside our nation during the Second World War.. 

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