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Poetry of Direct Personal Experience
Our Collection of Aviation and Military Poetry

Czerwone Maki Na Monte Cassino
Feliks Konarski

Czerwone Maki Na Monte Cassino 
(The Red Poppies on Monte Cassino)

In early 1944 a German stronghold, dug in at the ancient Benedictine monastery atop Monte Cassino, had blocked the Allies' advance toward Rome. The forces of several Allied countries had attempted since mid-January to capture the German fortress. For a fourth major assault, which would begin on 11 May 1944, Polish troops were rotated in.

The song's melody was composed during the night of 17–18 May 1944 by Alfred Schütz, a composer, actor and member of the Polish Soldiers' Theater garrisoned at Campobasso in the shadow of Monte Cassino. Two opening stanzas were written at that time by Feliks Konarski ("Ref-ren" — "Refrain"), a poet and song-writer and soldier of the Polish II Corps commanded by Major General Władysław Anders. The third stanza would be written a few days later.

The fourth and final stanza would be written a quarter-century later, in 1969, to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the battle. That final stanza is the least known and is sometimes omitted.

On 18 May 1944, the day following the song's composition, the Poles stormed and captured the precincts of the Monte Cassino monastery. Later that day, the song was first performed at General Anders' headquarters to celebrate the Polish victory. The Red Poppies on Monte Cassino won popularity with the troops and was soon published by a Polish-American newspaper in New York. It would later be published in Poland. It was banned, however, during the Stalinist period in the People's Republic of Poland, when the government sought to minimize memory of the wartime Polish Armed Forces in the West. It is featured, however, in Andrzej Wajda's film Ashes and Diamonds, made in 1958, after the death of Stalin.

The Polish Cemetery at Monte Cassino holds the graves of over a thousand Poles who died, storming the bombed-out Benedictine abbey atop the mountain in May 1944, during the Battle of Monte Cassino.

The religious affiliations of the deceased are indicated by three types of headstone: the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox headstones feature different forms of the Christian cross, and the Jewish headstones bear the Star of David.

The cemetery also holds the grave of General Władysław Anders, who had commanded the Polish forces that captured Monte Cassino. Anders died in London in 1970.

The Polish memorial at Monte Cassino bears the following two inscriptions

The first, based on the Epitaph of Simonides, reads:

'Passer-by, go tell Poland

That we have perished obedient to her service.'

The other translates from Polish:

'For our freedom and yours

We soldiers of Poland


Our soul to God

Our life to the soil of Italy

Our hearts to Poland.'

In PolishIn English
Czy widzisz te gruzy na szczycie?Do you see the rubble at the top?
Tam wróg twój się kryje jak szczur!There, like a rat, lurks your foe!
Musicie, musicie, musicie!You musn't stop, you musn't stop
Za kark wziąć i strącić go z chmur!But from the clouds the enemy throw!
I poszli szaleni, zażarci,And so, onward and upward they went;
I poszli zabijać i mścić,They went to avenge and to kill,
I poszli jak zawsze uparci,On the enemy's destruction, bent;
Jak zawsze za honor się bić.To their honor they harnessed their will.
Czerwone maki na Monte CassinoThe red poppies on Monte Cassino
Zamiast rosy piły polską krew...Drank Polish blood instead of dew...
Po tych makach szedł żołnierz i ginął,O'er the poppies the soldiers did go
Lecz od śmierci silniejszy był gniew!'Mid death, and to their anger stayed true!
Przejdą lata i wieki przeminą,Years will come and ages will go,
Pozostaną ślady dawnych dni!..Enshrining their strivings and their toil!...
I tylko maki na Monte CassinoAnd the poppies on Monte Cassino
Czerwieńsze będą, bo z polskiej wzrosną krwi.Will be redder for Poles' blood in their soil.
Runęli przez ogień, straceńcy!The forlorn hope charged through the fire!
Niejeden z nich dostał i padł...More than one was struck and felled...
Jak ci z Samosierry szaleńcy,Yet like the horsemen at Samosierra,
Jak ci spod Rokitny, sprzed lat.They charged with a force unrepelled,
Runęli impetem szalonymLike those at Rokitna years ago.
I doszli. I udał się szturm.And they made it, and carried the day.
I sztandar swój biało-czerwonyAnd they planted their red-and-white flag
Zatknęli na gruzach wśród chmur.In the rubble amid the clouds.
Czerwone maki na Monte Cassino...The red poppies on Monte Cassino...
Czy widzisz ten rząd białych krzyży?Do you see the white crosses in a row?
To Polak z honorem brał ślub.That's where the Poles pledged their all.
Idź naprzód - im dalej, im wyżej,The farther, the higher you go,
Tym więcej ich znajdziesz u stóp.The more you'll find them fall.
Ta ziemia do Polski należy,This soil belongs to Poland,
Choć Polska daleko jest stąd,Though Poland be far from here,
Bo wolność krzyżami się mierzy -For 'tis crosses measure freedom's span —
Historia ten jeden ma błąd.That is history's lesson dear.
Czerwone maki na Monte Cassino...The red poppies on Monte Cassino...
Ćwierc wieku, koledzy, za nami,A quarter-century has passed,
Bitewny ulotnił się pyłThe dusts of battle no longer rise,
I klasztor białymi muramiAnd the monastery's walls at last
Na nowo do nieba się wzbił...Once again climb, white, to the skies...
Lecz pamięć tych nocy upiornychBut memory of those nights terrible
I krwi, co przelała się tu -And of the blood that once flowed here —
Odzywa się w dzwonach klasztornych,Echoes in the monastery bells
Grających poległym do snu...!That toll the fallen to sleep!...

Carapthian Brigade on Monte Cassino

Polish Cemetery at Monte Cassino

General Anders' Gravestone at Monte Cassino

Monte Cassino Map

Monte Cassinoi from air

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 • Last Modified: 30 April 2019, 13:48