After finally taking the abbey at Monte Cassino, the Allies quickly liberated Rome and moved north in their march to liberate all of Italy, with a dream of ultimately liberating Poland. A strategic location was Ancona, a port city on the Adriatic Sea which provided the German Army access to the oil fields of the Middle East. General Anders was given the assignment of taking Ancona, with the help of Italian volunteers fighting for a free Italy. On July 18, 1944, Polish troops defeated the German army after days of fierce fighting, and the city of Ancona welcomed their Polish liberators. Today, museums, monuments, and a historic cemetery honor the brave Polish soldiers who fought for a free Italy. We arrived in Ancona on Sunday, May 19, and the city remains a port city with ship-building as it's main industry.
I met Angie in the summer of '15 when I traveled across Europe to do research for my book. She was so helpful than that I mentioned her in the Acknowledgements of my book, and now I visit her again with my father, and she can only be described as our angel. From the moment we arrived, Angie has been there every step of the way, doing everything in her power to make this trip most memorable and meaningful for my father.
Near Ancona is the town of Lareto, which houses the historic Basilica della Santa Costa. Just below the hillside of the Basilica lies the famous Lareto cemetery where over 1,000 Polish soldiers who lost their lives in the battle to liberate Ancona are buried. We visited the cemetery, and Angie supported my father to walk the 200 steps, where he found the marker of a friend from his batalion who died in an accident following the liberation.
Following the visit, we visited the home of Raimondo and Beatta, historians and local politicians who Angie introduced me to 4 years ago. They have written numerous books on the history of the Polish Army in the Marche region, and have hosted countless dignitaries in their beautiful historical home. Raimondo's mother spent the entire day making homemade spaghetti for us, and we enjoyed an amazing meal in their dining room that once housed the animals in an attached barn. I picked several poppies from a nearby field for the table decoration, and four hours of fascinating conversation in Italian, Polish, and English flew by. Raimondo's mother joined us for this photo. She was a little girl when the Polish soldiers liberated her town, which she of course recalls very fondly.
Tomorrow we will visit a nearby fishing village where my father was stationed as an officer in the Anders Army. Then on Wednesday, we will take a train to Bologna before ending our trip back in Bochnia, Poland. Until then, arrivaderci!
Author - Andrew Bajda
Since publication of my book in December of 2016, so many amazing things have happened on both a personal and professional level. As the journey continues to evolve, I'll update my travel adventures on this blog, and invite you to join me along the way.