Barbara was deeply involved in the Gdansk Shipyard protests and the heroic rise of the Solidarity movement:
Active in the underground during the martial law in Poland, she was harassed by the communist party. "It wasn’t a big deal compared to what happened to some," she remembers. "The worst experience was when my son was one year old — to see those security men searching in my baby’s cot."
The ceremony in part marked Guildhall’s expression of appreciation for the remarkable generosity of Poles who during WW2 found a way to offer money to help repair Nazi bomb damage to the building.
And did you know another proud Polish connection? That Chopin’s final concert was at Guildhall in November 1848, to raise money for Poles who had fled France to escape more continental revolutionary violence?
No, you didn’t. Here is some background from Jack Gibbons, with deft musical accompaniment:
His last public appearance took place in London at the old Guildhall on 16th November 1848. The occasion was a concert and ball in aid of Polish refugees. Chopin played several of his shorter pieces on an upright piano in a side-room adjoining the main hall.
According to his pupil, Princess Marcelina Czartoryska, "Chopin played like an angel". By now completely exhausted, Chopin was greatly relieved to return to Paris where he spent the last months of his life virtually bedridden, supported by the generosity of his friends and pupils.
Yesterday a delicate modern bust of Chopin by Jaroslaw Alfer (latterly not on display as renovation works at Guildhall proceeded) was unveiled by the Ambassador in a new place of honour.
Or should it be honor?
All right-thinking and/or snooty English people will say that of course it is honour.
Honor is an Americanism. Ugh.
And they are right, these days at least. The different usages became formalised in the nineteenth century.
Not that the great men of 1800 or thereabouts minded too much. Thomas Jefferson’s original draft of the US Declaration of Independence used honour.
And there on the wall of the room in Guildhall where Ambassador Tuge-Erecinska was sworn in as Freeman is a framed letter from Lord Nelson, expressing his honor.
All in all, a most honourable day for UK/Polish relations.