TWENTY-ONE boys and girls from the 2nd Goring & Streatley Scout Group joined other scouts from the UK and more
TWENTY-ONE boys and girls from the 2nd Goring & Streatley Scout Group joined other scouts from the UK and more than 100 from Poland and Ukraine in the Order of World Scouts’ Christian scout “Get Together” in the beautiful seaside resort of Sopot, Poland, over the long weekend of November 14 to 17.
My grandfather, as a young Polish man, was badly treated by the Germans during the war but managed to escape and finally reached England, like many other Polish people, to join the fightback against their oppressors.
No one from his family has ever revisited Poland, so my sister Abigail and I were the first to return and with great excitement. There was much interest from the family to find out what Poland is like today.
On arrival at Gdansk airport, we were taken to different Polish scouts’ homes where we spent the first night as guests of the families and were looked after.
Then on the Friday, while awaiting the arrival of all the other scouts, we were given a guided tour of the beautiful old town of Gdansk as well as the modern parts around the Solidarity Museum, where we saw a fragment of the Berlin Wall.
We heard of the extreme suffering that the Polish had to endure under the Germans and later under the so-called liberating Russians.
All the scouts understood and were clearly very appreciative of the freedom we have in this country. We were told that the scouts, while not shouldering arms, reported enemy positions and activities and many were shot as spies. We saw the large memorial with the names of the scouts who had been shot by the Germans and who are held up as heroes in Poland.
We were joined in Gdansk by some of the Polish scouts and the contingent from the Ukraine who been travelling by coach for 12 hours. They had a four-hour wait to cross the border into Poland because of the friction between the countries over the crossing. They soon joined in the fun and spirit of the event.
Then we set off for Sopot where we all stayed in a large senior school, sleeping on the classroom floors. That evening there was a candlelit campfire with lots of singing, stunts and socialising.
Our skip David Cooksley, who is the chief commissioner for the OWS, read a message of greeting from the grand scout master, the Rev Dr Michael Foster, who was unable to attend. Skip also outlined the history of the OWS.
On the Saturday, with all the scouts then present, we were sorted into mixed patrols and set off on an orienteering exercise around Sopot and surrounding areas. It was great fun with our new scout friends.
It gets dark at 4pm in Poland at this time of the year, so back at the school each country had to provide some form of entertainment derived from their traditional scouting activities. The night finished with campfire entertainment.
On the Sunday, it was up early to pack as we had to vacate the school by 9.30am. The 120-plus scouts travelled to nearby Gydnia, where we paraded for Holy Mass to the main church. The church was filled with the scouts and the general congregation. The scouts assisted the priest leading the service. Patrol Leader Oscar Clark gave a Bible reading along with Polish and Ukrainian scouts. Skip read a prayer that he had written specially for the occasion.
After the service and lunch, we had a guided tour of Gydnia, visiting the memorial field where Baden-Powell had inspected the Polish girl guides many years ago, the new docks and other areas of interest.
Then it was time for a big thank-you to the Polish scouts for their great hospitality, a warm goodbye to our many new-found scouting friends and back to Gdansk for our flights back home.
It was a great adventure that we will never forget and big thanks to our leaders for giving us such a great opportunity. Roll on the next scouting adventure, we cannot wait.