Strong links between Falkirk and Poland were marked at a recent surprise medal presentation to Provost Pat Reid.
The district’s First Citizen was invited to a reception in Edinburgh’s City Chambers to mark the end of Dr Tomasz Trafas’s period as Polish Consul in Scotland.
However, Provost Reid didn’t expect to be in the limelight at the event when he was one of a handful of people presented with medals.
Signed by the President of Poland, Bronislaw Komorowski, the certificate which accompanied the Polish Gold Cross of Merit – the highest civilian award – revealed it was for “exemplary public service on behalf of the Polish community in Falkirk”.
Provost Reid said: “I was very surprised but humbled to receive this. However, I accepted it on behalf of the entire Falkirk community.”
Dr Trafas has attended Falkirk’s annual Festival of Remembrance on several occasions and was also involved in the Polish ambassador to Britain making a £1500 donation towards the Spitfire Memorial in Grangemouth.
Many young Polish pilots were among the 71 based with 58 Training Operational Unit who were killed. The memorial is an exact replica of the Spitfire flown by Pole Sergeant Eugeniusz Lukomski who was killed in 1941 when his plane crashed at the nearby Avondale Estate.
Provost Reid has been involved in several link projects going back to the 1990s which has strengthened links between Bairns and Poles.
In the 1600s it is estimated there were up to 30,000 Scots living in Poland.
However, it wasn’t until the Second World War that the influx was reciprocated. Many service personnel came across for training, including at Grangemouth Airport.
It is now estimated that there are upwards of 40,000 Poles in Scotland and over 521,000 in the UK, many coming here after the 2004 enlargement of the European Union.