The Nigerian-born Jazz drummer dropped his sticks to defend his wife's hometown in the Second World War.
Poland’s “Freedom and Peace” foundation wants to honour August “Ali” Agbola O’Brown in the country’s capital, Warsaw.
Born in Lagos, Agbola was the only known African participant in Warsaw’s tenacious but fated uprising against the Nazi forces in Germany’s occupation of Poland during the Second World War.
The Peace and Freedom Prize wants to celebrate Ali by putting a plaque in downtown Warsaw.
It is a move that has been applauded by jazz musicians, representatives of the Warsaw Uprising Museum and Poland’s Institute of National Remembrance (IPN).
A Nigerian in Poland
Agbola was reportedly born in Lagos, Nigeria in 1895.
Records suggest he moved to Poland in the 1920s, where he found work as a drummer in the city’s jazz clubs. He was one of the first Africans to record a musical album with the release of his debut in 1928.
He married a Polish native of Warsaw. Together, they had two children – Ryszard in 1928 and Aleksandar in 1929.
Agbola was described as an intelligent man; he was reportedly multi-lingual with a grasp of at least six languages.
When Hitler’s forces invaded Poland, he fought in the failed defence of Warsaw in 1939.
In 1944, as the Allied Forces began to turn the tide of the war, the Polish Resistance Force staged an uprising against the German occupiers.
Agbola was one of its main players, fighting as part of the distinctly named “Iwo Battalion” in the centre of Warsaw with the codename “Ali”.
An International Effort
According to Polish records, residents from over 12 different nationalities fought alongside the Poles in the failed defence of Warsaw.
Although there is little public record of most of the foreign fighters in the Warsaw Uprising, it is known that Agbola survived the war.
It is claimed that he worked in the Department of Culture and Art in the city of Warsaw, and later played music in pubs and restaurants in the city.
He emigrated to the UK, where he lived until the mid-1970s.