Short speech by His Majesty King Willem-Alexander on the occasion of the official visit to the Netherlands by Andrzej Duda, President of the Republic of Poland, Noordeinde Palace

Mr President, Mrs Kornhauser-Duda,

Welcome to the Netherlands! My wife and I are delighted to have you here as our guests on this historic day. Today we celebrate the fact that 75 years ago, your compatriots liberated ‘our’ Breda.

On the 29th of October 1944, the people of Breda took their Polish liberators to their hearts. That affection has since been passed down from generation to generation.

This afternoon you will see for yourselves how intense that gratitude remains, even after all these years.

Your visit marks the close bond between our two peoples, but also the friendship between families, veterans, local organisations and volunteers in Poland and the Netherlands.

Many Poles live and work in our country, contributing to Dutch society.

For all these reasons we are most gratified by your visit.

‘For your freedom and ours.’ That was the motto under which Polish soldiers, led by the great General Stanisław Maczek entered our country in early October 1944. Young lads, far from home, fighting tooth and nail for people they did not know, while their own capital city was ablaze, following the crushing of the Warsaw Uprising.

‘For your freedom and ours…’ Putting others before yourself. That testifies to nobility of spirit and courage. As well as to insight. Because our freedom is always closely tied to that of others.

What is freedom worth if we cannot share it with our fellow human beings, both near and far?

History can be unfair. This year, our country celebrates 75 years of freedom. Your country had to wait many more decades – until 1989 – for its own freedom. We feel fortunate that Poland and the Netherlands are now close partners in the European Union and NATO.

The protection of our security and freedom has become a joint responsibility and a task that we carry out together. A task that requires constant alertness from us all.

In your country, Mr President, people in their forties and fifties can still remember oppression, fear and violence. And in mine, the oldest inhabitants of Breda and other towns and villages also still remember what it is to live in fear in your own country. Such memories never fade.

Those times must never be allowed to return. The best way to ensure that is to uphold the principles of democracy and the rule of law, with separation of powers, and with equal rights for all citizens.

After all, working across borders to promote security and freedom can only have meaning if we also make the same effort at home.

A country of Poland’s stature carries a great deal of weight, both within the European Union and on the world stage. We are proud to join you in the search for solutions to the big issues of our time. Like the need to make the transition to cleaner energy and to tackle climate change. But also to ensure that the EU remains strong after Brexit.

Our countries both feel the urgency to make the European voice heard loud and clear, now and in the future. For that reason, too, your visit is important.

As friends, we have the opportunity to discuss everything frankly and to strengthen the many ties that bind us.

This afternoon in Breda we will honour the Polish soldiers who fought so resolutely for our freedom and theirs 75 years ago.

We will see for ourselves how this city’s love for Poland is in its DNA, prompting thousands of its citizens, young and old, to come together on this day. And we will realise once again how close we are and how much we need each other.

Can I ask you all to raise your glasses.

To your health, Mr President! And yours, Mrs Kornhauser-Duda!

To the friendship between Poland and the Netherlands!