FEDERAL member for Melbourne Ports Michael Danby was awarded the Order of Merit of the Republic of Poland by the Polish Minister for Foreign Affairs, Radoslaw Sikorski, at the Polish consulate in Sydney last week.
The order is awarded by the President of Poland to foreigners or Polish residents abroad, for distinguished contribution to international cooperation, or to cooperation between Poland and other countries.
Speaking at a Government House ceremony in Canberra during which Righteous Among the Nations’ Raoul Wallenberg became the first honorary Australian citizen, Danby told The AJN the award was gratifying.
“You work on behalf of democracy and reconciliation for 30 years never expecting a reward, but it is doubly moving if people you are working on behalf of, in this case the Poles, notice it,” he said.
“I really appreciate the [Polish] Foreign Minister making that award. I never expected it in a million years and I certainly didn’t know it would be as big as it was.
“I thought it was particularly nice that he and his wife said that the award was partially for Polish Jewish reconciliation.”
Sikorski is married to Jewish journalist Anne Applebaum, who won a Pulitzer Prize for her book Gulag: A History documenting the Soviet forced labour camps.
Danby’s father was born in the German town of Thorn, which is now Torun in Poland, and has visited Poland several times since he has been a member of Parliament and has worked for closer relations between Australia and Poland. As a student activist he campaigned in support of the Polish trade union Solidarity against the former communist regime.
Danby thanked Polish President Bronislaw Komorowski for the honour, adding that he had great respect for the Polish Foreign Minister.
“I am very grateful to President Komorowski and to Mr Sikorski for this award. I am a great admirer of the Polish Foreign Minister, who often appears on the BBC program Hard Talk with his impeccable Oxbridge accent.”
Melbourne Ports MP Michael Danby