Edinburgh’s Makar, Christine De Luca writes for ELISA – Part 3: The Great Polish Map of Scotland

Over the last three weeks ELISA has been pleased to showcase a series of  guest posts by Edinburgh’s Maker, Christine De Luca.  In this final instalment Christine tells us about an unusual link between Scotland and Poland…

And finally …

In late October 2014, I was invited as Edinburgh Makar to join a small Scottish contingent at the Conrad Literary Festival in Krakow, Poland. This was a wonderful opportunity to visit a city I had long wanted to see, a city which had recently been designated a UNESCO City of Literature.

I told them a little about an unusual link between our two countries, Scotland and Poland.

There are of course lots of living links: Poles living and working here, and Edinburgh and Krakow having been twinned for almost 20 years, since 1995. But this particular link relates to that generation of Poles who escaped to Scotland from occupied Europe during World War II and who made a huge, often secret, contribution to the Allied cause. Many later settled in Scotland.

mapa scotland - pic
The Great Polish Map of Scotland

On a summer Sunday in 1975, I stopped off with my fiancé for afternoon tea at a quiet hotel (The Black Barony) at Eddleston in the Scottish Borders.  After our refreshments we took a stroll in the grounds, crossing the Fairy Dean Burn to the other side of the narrow valley. To my surprise I came upon an old man patiently working on a massive, scaled model of Scotland. As a Geography teacher I was transfixed and looked forward to being able to bring pupils to see it as, for many, visualising a landscape from a map is difficult. The old man was checking elevations and levelling and was working with only a quarter-inch map! We got talking to him – he was Polish and was attempting to do something for his adopted country. Little did we know that, not only had he bought the hotel and grounds, but it had been the secret headquarters of the Polish soldiers during the war.

However, I never heard any more about the model and, when I returned several years later, the hotel had changed hands, the grounds were fenced off and no one seemed to know anything about this incredible feature, visible from space!

Until recently, that is… when I was driving nearby and saw a sign pointing to ‘The Great Polish Map of Scotland’. My heart skipped a beat!   I was delighted to find that, although it had suffered neglect for many years, it has now been officially listed and is in the care of a trust. Work is on-going to restore it.

I wrote this ‘concrete’ poem by way of celebration and to bring to the Conrad Festival:

Mapa Szkocji - a ‘concrete’ poem

To read more about the Mapa Szkocji, visit http://www.mapascotland.org/

Very many thanks to Christine for these delightful and informative tales of Edinburgh, Kraków, poetry, geography, history and bookart. I hope she will choose to write for us again sometime – and that she will inspire other ELISA readers to have a go too! Please contact me if you’d like to contribute to this blog at any time.

Again, many thanks to Christine De Luca, Edinburgh’s Makar

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