Polish Heritage Day 2018
Poland and Polish people worldwide celebrated very important milestone in their history. It is 100 years ago tat Poland has regained independence after being partitioned for 300 years between neighbouring powerful countries: Germany, Russia and Austrian Hungary Empire. During that time Polish people were deprived of their basic rights and freedom, were exploited to the full, went through russification and germanization. Nevertheless polish people resisted fiercely against suppression, there were number of bloody uprisings, taught Polish language their children at home and underground and above all kept their tradition and kept their Christian faith.
Here in the UK Polish population is estimated according to Polish government statistics based on recent studies to be around 1million with 614,000 settled as permanent residents the largest group of immigrants. Most of the migrants are well educated young people contributing greatly to UK economy. Despite what we hear from anti-Europe press and ardent Brexiteers the Polish people are here not for benefits but to work, prosper and to look after their families. As any respectable employer can confirm good reputation, hard work, dedication and good work ethics of the Polish employees. Many have established thriving businesses employing local people.
To understand better connection between Poland and the UK is is good to explore little bit of background. You could say that Polish emigration started long time ago. Well known in the British History the Great King Canute’s mother was Polish Princess daughter of Mieszko I of Poland. She was not exactly an immigrant but the Queen to but nevertheless there is recorded link between Poland and England.
End of XIV i beginning XV wieku Poles appeared in England as emissaries and traders, only after 100 years during developing contacts between two countries that a number of Poles decided to emigrate to England or study at English universities. Number of these settled migrants played prominent role in English history.
In the second half of the 17th century in London settled by radical social religious Arian order.
Only in the next 100 years came to England political asylum seekers after the bloody but failed uprising against Russian occupation in 1794. Next wave of polish political emigres following other uprisings between 1830-1831, 1848 and 1863.
Towards the end of 19th century started wave of Polish emigrants seeking work and better life. At that time number of Polish emigrants was approx 2,000. During the World War I in England Poles started founding schools and associations. After regaining independence from the occupiers many Polish people returned home.
During II World War was renewed arrival of large number of Polish people predominately as part of Allied Polish Forces. Role of the Polish pilots is well known during in the Battle of Britain in air. Polish Armed Forces have participated on all battlefields in Europe, Middle East and Africa, too many to mention here. London became Centre for the Polish Government in exile. At the end of the World War II Polish population in the UK was approximately 190,000. Most of them could not return back home to Russian dominated communist state for fear of persecution for fighting for freedom against Hitler’s Germany as third largest Army after US and British and part of integral Allied Forces.
After Poland regained total democracy and political influence from Russia and occupational Russian Army, the economy was in poor state with high unemployment and low wages. As soon as the doors opened to the West unexpectedly high number of young well educated often with entrepreneurial skills came to the UK taking up often low paid jobs nobody else wanted in the service, construction, catering and many other industries.
Now we have entered new era following the vote to leave the EU. In order to swing vote to leave Europe strident and often misleading and negative campaign taken place blaming mainly Polish people for all the ills and problems in the society such as criminality, dependence on benefits, non-integration, taking British jobs and many other excuses. This whipped up hysteria and misconception often resulting attacks on children at schools, and on adults. This presented Polish people that have settled in the UK with a dilemma as to their future, strong feeling of insecurity and not being welcome especially now when the Brexit negotiation commenced protracted negotiations on rights of the EU citizens in the UK. Many thousands of Poles started returning home leaving UK employees with lack of reliable and hard workforce affecting nearly every industry.
Negativity towards Polish people was recognized by the Polish Government and they launched initiative to engage local communities as Polish Heritage Day throughout the UK to promote and celebrate Polish culture, heritage of past generations and the positive contribution made by the million members of the Polish community in the UK to the cultural, economic and social life in the United Kingdom, celebrate the 3rd of May Constitution Day, first in the Europe, precursor to the European Human Rights Act.
This year, the Polish Ambassador to the UK on behalf of the Polish Government encourages all Polish organisations, Polish RC parishes and Saturday schools in the UK to actively take part in the celebrations by including the theme of Polish independence.
Ambassador Rzegocki in an open letter to a variety of Polish organizations. “I encourage you to organise events, initiatives and projects which can promote and better educate others in your local communities about the rich and unique history of Poland, so that together in an atmosphere of friendship and cordiality we can celebrate these 100 years of Polish independence. I also encourage you to inform the local government and the local media about your projects to generate great interest among local communities,”
He added : “I would like to warmly invite everyone to join us in the Polish Heritage Day celebrations which for a second time will take place across the whole of the UK around the 3rd of May Constitution Day. The 2018 edition is a special one, as Poland marks the 100th anniversary of regaining its independence…… I hope that as we celebrate Polish Heritage we can share with our British friends the richness of our culture and tradition.”
Polish community in Bury in view of this appeal and the real need to emphasize major role Polish community played in political, cultural and economic contribution and life in Bury MBC have organized Polish Family Day encompassing Polish Heritage Day, Constitution Day and celebrating 100 years of regaining its independence 11 November 1918.