YAVORIV, Ukraine— Polish Soldiers, assigned to the Polish Task Group, celebrated Polish Independence Day, Nov. 10, with the Soldiers of the Joint Multinational Training Group-Ukraine by conducting a 10 kilometer race, a relay race and a celebration ceremony that was held at the International Peacekeeping and Security Center.
In Poland, National Independence Day is a public holiday that is celebrated each year in November to commemorate the anniversary of Poland's assumption of independent statehood in 1918 after 123 years of partitions by Austria, Hungary, Germany and Russia. It is officially celebrated on Nov. 11, but so the Polish Soldiers could return home to celebrate with friends and family the race was held a day earlier.
The races included Soldiers from every nation represented here; Polish, American, Lithuanian, Ukrainian and Canadian. The relay race was a total of four miles and consisted of four Soldiers on each team running one-mile increments of the race. Once the first Soldier ran his first mile, he would pass the baton to the next Soldier until all four Soldiers completed their mile. Whichever team made it back first, ultimately won the race.
Lt. Paulina Lambucka, a liaison officer assigned to the Polish Task Group, has been working with JMTG-U for two-months and was the key leader responsible for setting up the races between the multinational partners.
"In Poland, we celebrate Independence Day by having big races in the city and I wanted to bring that here to Ukraine," said Lambucka. "A friendly competition is another way to bring the different nations together."
Maj. Krzysztof Kacprzyk, commander of the Polish Task Group, understands the importance of forming cohesive relationships with other nations.
"We cannot forget that our Independence may not be forever and that is why our participation in this operation is very important to show our readiness and to be aware of support of our allies," he said.
When the Polish Soldiers aren't preparing for races, they play a key role in training the Ukrainian Soldiers on their similar weapon systems. They are responsible for training the Ukrainian Soldiers on air defense, heavy machine guns, mortar systems, reconnaissance, RPG-7 operations, and staff training.
"Twenty-five years ago, we were in exactly the same place as Ukraine so we know the importance of this mission," said Master Corporal Adam Lewkowski, heavy machine gun instructor. "We are now part of NATO, and our goal is to teach them those standards to help them achieve the same thing."
Poland, America, Lithuania, and Canada are responsible for training Ukrainian ground forces as part of the Joint Multinational Training Group-Ukraine. JMTG-U is training Ukrainian land forces and building a team of Ukrainian cadre who will ultimately assume that responsibility. The training is designed to reinforce defensive skills of the Ukrainian Ground Forces in order to increase their capacity for self-defense.