The Polish Heritage Society
Duke of Gloucester to unveil restored Chopin memorial at Southbank Centre
Twenty years after Poland achieved Chopin’s dream of a truly free nation, a statue of the great composer and Polish patriot is being unveiled by HRH the Duke of Gloucester in the presence of The Ambassador of the Republic of Poland to the United Kingdom, Her Excellency Ms Barbara Tuge-Erecińska on May 18th at 11am at Southbank Centre.
The statue was a gift of the Polish people to the British Nation for its help in fighting Nazi tyranny. It is also inscribed as a memorial to the 250,000 Poles who fought under British Command “for your freedom and ours”. Following the unveiling of the restored monument, Her Excellency Ms Barbara Tuge-Erecińska is laying a wreath in memory of Britons who paid the ultimate sacrifice in World War II.
David Lidington MP, Britain’s Minister for Europe, is also laying a wreath in memory of the Poles who gave up their lives defending the United Kingdom.
Her Excellency Ms Barbara Tuge-Erecińska will say: 'It is a great privilege to lay a wreath here today; Chopin is one of Poland’s greatest sons and, through his music, he is the incarnation of the passion of a resilient people and of the drama of its history. Like all great artists, he does not belong to one country alone. He is a treasure and a joy for the world at large.'
'It is also fitting that the unveiling of the statue takes place now, in light of Poland’s Presidency of the European Council which will begin in July—a poignant moment for our nation, emphasising that we have achieved the freedom that was Chopin’s lifelong dream and inspiration to his music.'
It has long been a tradition in Poland for people to lay flowers on statues to Chopin and it is hoped this tradition will be adopted here by visitors to the Southbank Centre. The renowned Chinese pianist Lang Lang will be visiting the statue to do so on May 22nd, to soon be followed by the accomplished French pianist, Helene Grimaud.
Dr. Marek Stella-Sawicki, Chairman of the Polish Heritage Society explained “This abstract bronze (weighing 2 tons), was designed by the Polish sculptor Bronislaw Kubica, and is according to the Daily Telegraph ‘perfectly adjusted to its setting. Its austerity is in tune with the buildings around it, but it has sufficient references to direct human connotations to evoke an immediate response, providing an admirable foil to the surrounding buildings.’ The statue has a symbolic significance for the Polish people as the music of Chopin is regarded as the highest expression of Polish patriotism and an emblem of Poland’s historical struggles.'
Following the unveiling, a Chopin recital by Alexander Ardakov is taking place in front of 400 guests in the Purcell Room.
The statue was originally unveiled on 26th February 1975 by HRH Princess Alice, Duchess of Gloucester, the mother of the present Duke of Gloucester, and for more than 10 years stood outside the entrance of the Royal Festival Hall opposite the Hayward Gallery. It was removed for safe-keeping during the refurbishment of the Hall and has remained in storage since then.
To mark the bicentenary of the birth of the composer in 2010, The Polish Heritage Society, with the support of The Polish Ambassador to the United Kingdom, Her Excellency Ms Barbara Tuge-Erecinska, proposed that the statue be renovated and finally returned to its original home near the banks of the River Thames, in the City where Chopin performed his last public recital.