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Issue 81 - General Maczek's Map

Scotland Magazine Issue 81
June 2015

 

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General Maczek's Map

The creation of a three dimensional map of Scotland's coastline

The Polish General Stanislaw Maczek is one of the great, and often overlooked, heroes of World War II. His story is one of extraordinary valour, political betrayal and ultimate valediction. Born in 1892, in what is now the Ukraine, General Maczek served as a battalion commander in the Austro-Hungarian Alpine Regiment during World War I, and valiantly commanded the First Polish Armoured Division, later the first Polish Arms Corps under Allied Command, between 1942 and 1945.

Cruelly stripped of his Polish citizenship by the incoming post-war Stalinist regime, he was obliged to take refuge in Britain where, not being accredited as an allied soldier, he was denied a pension and obliged to find employment wherever possible, at one stage working as a barman in an Edinburgh hotel. Happily, everything changed after his 97th birthday, along with a public apology from the people of Poland, he was awarded that country's highest state decoration, the Order of the White Eagle. He died in 1994 at the age of 102 and is buried at Breda, one of the Netherland towns he liberated.

Maczek's salvations came in 1968 when Jan Tomasik, an entrepreneurial former sergeant in the 1st Polish Armoured Division, purchased the Black Barony Hotel (now the Mercure Barony Hotel & Spa) at Eddleston in Peeblesshire. This 16th Century extended tower house had once belonged to the Murrays of Blackbarony and Elibank, but was converted for hotel use in the 1930s and been requisitioned by the Polish Higher Military School in 1942.

During the war, Tomasik had been stationed at Galashiels, approximately 14 miles from Eddleston, and had often visited Black Barony. Finding his old war time commander almost destitute, he gave him a job in Edinburgh and allowed him to make use of an apartment in his new acquisition. In 1974, as their friendship grew, it inspired the creation of a super-sized, three-dimensional concrete model map of Scotland’s coastline.

Maczek had seen a similar out-of-doors map of land and water in the Netherlands, and thus was devised ‘a gift to the Scottish people for the hospitality the Scots had shown to the Poles during the
war years.’

Designed by Dr Kazimier Trafas, a young cartographer from Krakow, it sits close to the hotel in a 160ft wide and 5ft deep oval pool which at first held gravity fed water to recreate rivers lochs and the sea. In 2010, Mapa Scotland, a charitable trust, supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund, embarked upon a major restoration project.

Surrounded by the rolling hills of Peebleshire, this somewhat bizarre construction serves as an unexpected, yet strangely melancholy memorial to the powerful alliances forged between Scotland and Poland in the not so distant past.