On Thursday 2nd February 2017, 21 members of Glasgow & Lanarkshire Battalion took part in the 4th Poland Project. This educational project involved cadets from 7 detachments undertaking research and completing 3 workbooks on the atrocities of WWII.
At the end of the project the participants travelled to Kraków, Poland, to experience how the holocaust affected the city of Krakow and how the city has adapted after the war. The prior research provides the participants with an invaluable insight into the tragic events of that era and prepares them for their educational visit.
The trip includes a visit to the Auschwitz/Birkenau concentration camps, meeting a survivor of the holocaust, touring the Jewish district and ghetto of Kraków, visiting the Schindler museum and finally the salt mines learning about the local area and its legends. Each cadet was presented with a certificate for participating in the project.
The project was the idea of Major Darren Hughes in 2012 and was this time led by Lieutenant Lisa Hay, 2IC B Company. She felt it an honour to be asked to oversee the project. Having attended the trip twice previously “I knew how much the experience made me grateful for the free life I have and I feel it is important to teach younger generations of the past to prevent such atrocities reoccurring”.
Both cadets and adults are required to contribute financially towards the trip and the remainder of the cost is achieved through fundraising and grants like the one received this year from Lowland RFCA. The trip could not go ahead without these donations and the continued support of other organisations so I would again like to personally thank all involved.
The project teaches cadets that history is inescapable; all human beings have a history which is why it is essential to learn about the past and how it links to the present so that present and future generations understand how human behaviours can affect the world. It is a fantastic thing to participate in, helping all involved learn more about WWII which also helps with their studies in school. On their return this year’s group said they felt the experience would be one that “will stay with them forever”.
Sgt Elisa Murdoch, A Platoon RHF, was the only cadet to have taken part in the trip last year. On the visit to Auschwitz she said the second visit was “not any less shocking”. Cpl Dillon Harkins of B Platoon RHF, wrote in his diary “To see what humans are capable of is more than frightening, especially as these events were less than 100 years ago”. Sgt Sophie Graham of 3 Troop Royal Engineers, described how she felt it difficult to relate emotionally to the experience of going around the rooms in the Auschwitz memorial museum, until she reached the rooms displaying human hair and personnel belongings of the prisoners. She said that those items “really put it into perspective”. She wrote that when standing inside the prisoner accommodation, which housed around 700 people before they were executed in Birkenau Camp, was extremely overwhelming.
During the trip the cadets met a holocaust survivor and she told us her story through a translator. She described to us how she was sent to an orphanage by a family friend of her parents as a baby to protect her from being killed as her parents were, when they were removed from the Jewish ghetto. She did not find out she was adopted for many years later when she looked into her own family history. Sgt Kimberly Dougal of 2 Platoon RSB, wrote that she found it difficult to hear the pain that the woman had experienced growing up not knowing her mother. The lady asked a cadet to read a poem for her and Sgt Murdoch volunteered. Cpl Lauren McLean of F Platoon RHF, found this very moving. At the end of the story Sgt Dougal shook the ladies hand and thanked her for sharing her experience with us. Cdt James Jordan of A Platoon RHF, enjoyed the visit to the Schindler Museum learning more about WWII in Krakow and how Oskar Schindler helped to save Jewish people who worked in his factory.
The experience was enjoyed by all the cadets and adults involved with Sgt Carly Colquhoun of C Platoon RHF, stating that “the trip was a great opportunity which has given her the ambition to travel, to experience more countries cultures and learn more about history”.
Words by Lt Lisa Hay / Unit pictures
More photos from the trip are available on the Facebook Page