The Rt. Hon. Sir John Major KG CH

Prime Minister of Great Britain and Northern Ireland 1990-1997

1994Prime Minister (1990-1997)

Mr Major’s Speech at the Opening of Archives Exhibition – 1 August 1994

Below is the text of Mr Major’s speech at the opening of the Archives Exhibition in Warsaw on 1st August 1994.


The two themes of my visit are captured in this British/Polish exhibition: commemoration and cooperation.

The exhibition is the result of cooperation between the Polish National Archives and the Public Record Office in London. They have done a fine job.

I am here first to pay tribute to those who fought fifty years ago so that Poland might be free. To commemorate the men, women and children of Warsaw who risked everything in that cause. And to recall the heroism of those who flew supplies to the Home Army.

The documents and photographs gathered together in this Exhibition bear witness to the extraordinary bravery of the citizens of Warsaw in the tragic days of August 1944.

They record the efforts of those in Britain who sent help to the insurgents in Warsaw.

They show the courage of the Polish, British and other Allied airmen. The pilots and their crews flew from the south of Italy across hundreds of miles of occupied territory for the sake of a few precious minutes over Warsaw in which to drop their supplies.

The exhibition shows the desperate straits of the insurgents as they fought, often hand-to-hand, sometimes underground, to defend their city; the distress of the Allies that they could not do more to help the defenders of Warsaw; the agonising choices which had to be made; and the determination of the Allies to fly in supplies at enormous cost in lives and material.

Winston Churchill was moved by Poland’s fight and Polish spirit. He gave the command for help to be sent, however uphill the struggle. In the end, this help could not change the outcome. But it had a deeper meaning, which is not forgotten by the people who lived through the Uprising or who have studied its history.

After the Uprising, Warsaw was razed to the ground. When I came here two years ago I saw the city that rose on the ruins of the old. The fine reconstruction of the old Town and the determination to rebuild their capital is testimony to the pride and vigour of the people of Warsaw.

The physical changes since 1944 are staggering. But the moral and political reconstruction of the last 5 years is as astonishing as the physical reconstruction of Warsaw. Poland has shaken off the legacy of Communism, the Command Economy and the Cold War.

As we recall our past alliance, let me say this: Britain is supporting Poland also as she faces the challenges of constructing a truly democratic society. We in Britain are proud to help in this through trade, investment, transfer of Know-How; through all the cooperative links which exist between partner countries in Europe.

I firmly believe in Poland’s ability to contribute to the stability and security of Europe. Poland’s application for membership of the European Union opens new prospects. I welcome it. I welcome the contribution that a free and democratic Poland will make to the Union.
Every state, every nation, wants security. But for the Polish people, with their troubled history over several centuries, security has a special

meaning. By developing our relations with you in a way which threatens no-one, and is not founded on a new division within Europe, we want to create a deeper sense of security in Poland.

We welcome the enthusiasm with which you have embraced Partnership for Peace. We look forward to taking part in the first joint exercise on Polish soil next month: a symbol of what we can, and mean to, do together. We shall do all we can to build up substantial effective military cooperation between Poland and NATO: preparation for eventual membership.

Next year we shall mark 50 years of peace in Europe. Now Poland is not only at peace, but is free. And Britain is at your side, as we were in the Uprising 50 years ago. We look forward to being equal partners within the European Union. As you prepare to join us there, you can count on our support.