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PAST EVENTS AND REVIEWS 2017 and before
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Past Events 2018
Commemoration of Warsaw Uprising In the Malinowa Room POSK on Saturday 1st August 2017
Representing Kresy Family Polish WWII History Group, I was pleased and honoured to attend the commemoration of the Warsaw Uprising In the Malinowa Room POSK on Saturday 1st August. An excellent lunch was organised by Pani Marzenna Schejbal on behalf of Veterans of the Armia Krajowa and Underground Polish Stadium (SPP). The commemoration was attended by Ambassador Arkady Rzegocki and Pani Eugenia Maresch from the Polish Underground Movement Study Group (PUMST ) committee welcomed the Ambassador and guests in her introduction. She was followed by a progress report from Alexander Smaga architect of the Ribbon of Memory Memorial, a testament to the largest underground army in WWII Europe. Alexander informed us that funding for the memorial has now reached 80% of the target amount.
Then we had the lovely Katy Carr who moved the audience by singing for us Dziś do ciebie przyjść nie mogę.
I shared the table with veteran Sergiusz Paplinski and enjoyed the company of Radek, Kasia and Witek from the Polish History Association Militia Regni Poloniae.
The most moving part of the occasion was when we were able to link with Warsaw and see the rousing commemorations of the Uprising from Warsaw itself. It was a very special experience.
BBC History Magazine article about Anders Army, written by Monica Whitlock
Click here to read the article
73rd anniversary of the Battle of Monte Cassino and 72nd anniversary of the liberation of Bologna -16-20 May 2017
Below is a letter published in Tydzień Polski on Friday 26 May 2017
73rd anniversary of the Battle of Monte Cassino and 72nd anniversary of the liberation of Bologna
I have recently returned from the most amazing five-day pilgrimage to Rome, Monte Cassino and Bologna which took place last week on 16-20 May and which was organised by the Urzad Do Spraw Kombatantow I Osob Represjonowanych to commemorate the 73rd anniversary of the Battle of Monte Cassino and the 72nd anniversary of the liberation of Bologna.
Over 30 combatants and veterans from around the world attended and I was very honoured and privileged to have been invited and to have had the opportunity to spend some time with them, listening to their experiences and learning so much from them that it was quite a humbling experience for me. My grandfather had fought in two World Wars and I showed some photographs and documents of his time serving in the 2nd Corps 5 KDP and many memories came flooding back.
We attended a general audience at the Vatican where Pope Francis prayed for all the Polish people who fought in Italy during WWII and we saw the burial place of Saint John Paul II. We attended a ceremony at the monument of the 6 Pulk Pancerny im. Dzieci Lwowskich at Piedimonte San Germano, an open-air mass at the Polish war cemetery in Monte Cassino and an open-air mass at the Polish war cemetery in Bologna. At these ceremonies, combatants, veterans and others received Pro Patria and other medals and awards.
Many important dignitaries attended from the Polish Sejm and Senate including the daughter of General Anders - Anna Maria Anders - and they were all pleased to hear about the work that the Kresy Family Polish WWII History Group is doing to honour, preserve, promote and further research the history and experiences of Polish citizens deported to Siberia during 1940/41 and who, upon release in 1942, went on to fight in these battles.
It was a very intensive 5 day programme and I am astounded by the energy and stamina of the combatants and veterans most of whom are now well into their 90s but who climbed steep and uneven hills, endured the hot temperatures and the long travelling, never complaining or wanting any fuss and always ready, standing to attention and paying respect to their friends and colleagues and all those who never returned.
We have a lot to learn......
My thanks go to Urzad Do Spraw Kombatantow I Osob Represjonowanych for organising the trip and for allowing me to be included in the official delegation. It was the trip of a lifetime for me and one that I shall never forget.
Kresy Family Polish WWII History Group
Polish Heritage Day – 6/7 May 2017
Sheffield 7 May 2017
The event was organised by the Polska Szkoła w Sheffield im. gen. Władysława Andersa .
Thanks to Polska Szkoła w Sheffield im. gen. Władysława Andersa for inviting Kresy Family to celebrate Polish Heritage Day with them. It was a wonderful day.
On Sunday, as part of a Polish Heritage Event, thanks to the Kresy Family Polish WWII History Group, one lucky lady found the name of her grandfather in a book about the battle of Monte Cassino which took place in spring 1944. This was the very first time she had found any details about his service during the war. Similarly, a Sybirak (Siberian Survivor) had for 75 years not known the fate of his father until, with the recent help of the group, he discovered his father’s name on a Belarusian ‘Katyń list’ which can be found on the Kresy website.
For those not familiar with the Katyń Massacre, prepare for a shock. Katyń, a forested part of Russia was the site of several mass executions of Polish nationals including army officers and national leaders, carried out by the Soviet NKWD ( Soviet Secret Police) in April and May 1940. The film “Katyń” by Andrzej Wajda gives you a personal feel of this terror: in total, an estimated 22,000 Poles were murdered. In addition, the Soviets deported more than one million Poles (the exact figure is still unknown) in four waves of mass deportations from the Soviet-occupied Polish territories mainly in the Kresy region, to Siberia and Soviet Central Asia. Only 115,000 survived to form the Polish Army under General Anders; others left behind joined the Soviet army (once the USSR became an Ally) or returned after the war, but in total a very small percentage survived.
Eva Szegidewicz (pictured above on the left), the secretary of the Kresy Family Polish WWII History Group, attended at least two Polish Heritage Day events at the weekend, in Manchester and in Sheffield, where I spent some time with her. I was amazed at how many people came up to the stall to tell us their grandfather’s story – some had met relatives in Poland, others knew very little but were incredibly pleased to have someone to relate their stories to.
Sadly it wasn’t until Eva’s mother passed away that she started to get involved in the group. Like many families they didn’t refer to what they had left behind so she had to find out herself all about the area her grandfather, a soldier of Marshal Pilsudski in the First World War, had settled in.
Although among Polish people born here in the UK the tragedies are common knowledge (and often a part of families’ traumatic personal stories), British schools do not teach this recent history, often concentrating on the WWII battle on the home front. Eva says that “even universities emphasise the atrocities of the Germans, but the Soviet deportations and war crimes are too inconvenient to dwell on. Russia was an ally and the Allies were ‘good’. Also Soviet archives are not always available.”
The Kresy Family Polish WWII History Group help and advise people who request information about their family members, and/or translate letters into Polish for them. Their website is all in English and they can arrange for people to visit local museums and archives in other countries where members live, such as Poland, USA and the UK. The website has many resources – lists of people, maps of labour camps, recollections and poems including the Sybirak March Poem.
Polish Heritage Day – 6/7 May 2017
Manchester 6 May 2017
On Saturday last, myself, Dominik and my husband attended the Central Library in Manchester to help Eva with our tables. The Central Library had very kindly given us two tables near the front in which to display our books, CD's, DVD's and other items belonging to Kresy Family. We had a very successful afternoon with visitors both Polish and British coming. The librarian who Eva had been corresponding with was also there to help us, and she brought along some really delicious Polish cakes such as cheesecake, apple cake, poppy seed cake. The Polish Ambassador also came and brought many promotional books and leaflets about Poland. He spoke to many of the visitors there and stayed until almost the end.
Some of the Polish visitors were survivors, having been small children when they were deported to Siberia with their families. The British visitors had relatives - aunts, uncles, mothers, grandparents and they were trying to find out more about what happened to them. Like so many deportees the experience had proved absolutely horrendous, and they were loathe to talk about it, preferring instead to try and bury it all deep within the mind. Our aim was to hold a Who Do You Think You Are theme, and it worked well.
They came and spoke to us telling their stories which were all harrowing as are all our stories. Hopefully we have helped them to carry on searching for their loved ones with the information and advice we were able to offer. Many bought books which related to the same regions as their families were sent to.
The librarian is very keen for us to work with the library, as they have very little information about the Polish community who settled in Manchester after WWII. She confirmed that next year we shall be most welcome to hold our exhibition again in the library. We look forward to it.
Ann Siburuth (Wojturska)
Polish Heritage Day – 6/7 May 2017
London 6 May 2017
Kresy Family made a contribution to the Polish Ambassador’s initiative to hold events throughout the UK to mark the celebration of Poland’s adoption of a constitution on 3 May 1791 and to promote the cause of Poles in the UK.
Helen Bitner-Glindzicz, treasurer, chose the day to launch her book “A Song for Kresy” with an event at the Burley Fisher bookshop in Hackney, east London. A variety of people, both British and Polish, were present including the Consul from the Polish Embassy and her husband and Helen’s family. In an intimate atmosphere, the event was opened by Sam Fisher, one of the shop co-owners.
Against a background of a rich repertoire of classical music provided by talented Oliver Balcombe from Essex, the evening commenced with Mirka Wojnar, Kresy Family chair, who gave an introduction to the work of the Kresy Family organisation and provided a summary of the deportations of people to Siberia from Poland’s Kresy region and events that followed the war.
Nicola Werenowska, a playwright, briefly explained her interest in the impact of those events on people who had experienced them and on their children and grandchildren. She based a play on interviews with survivors and their families, including that of her husband. The play, “Silence”, explores those themes of trauma. She read two excerpts from the play, both soliloquies by a character who had survived. They gave the audience a flavour of those themes: one was set in Siberia and the other in England having settled with a family.
Helen followed by describing the origins of her book. Her husband, Richard, had been one of those who had been deported and, in later years, was persuaded to record his experiences on tape for his children and grandchildren. Following his death, Helen felt his story should be immortalised by being published and she set about completing the unfinished work. She read two passages: one described the suffering that an eight-year-old Richard experienced in a cruel Siberian environment where death was commonplace; and the second, more uplifting, told of the optimism when arriving in Persia (current Iran) finding Polish and not Russian officials in charge of directing the refugees.
Richard’s granddaughter, Helena Miles, continued by reading a few stanzas from “Campo dei Fiori” by Czesław Miłosz, Nobel Prize winner for literature in 1980, written in Warsaw in 1943.
The event being part of the Polish Heritage Day continued with an address from the Consul, Ms Magdalena Miluska. She gave an insight into Poland’s history in passing the Constitution in 1791, the first in Europe, its relevance and subsequent turbulence over the centuries. Britain had been a safe haven for Poles seeking refuge following repression during the 19th and 20th centuries and, more recently, remained a place where Poles could thrive and contribute to British society. However, recent events required initiatives to counter some of the attitudes that had emerged and it was hoped that this weekend would help in that cause. The Consul thanked Helen, Kresy Family and Burley Fisher Bookshop for organising the event and submitting it within the Ambassador’s umbrella initiative, and wished Helen good fortune with the book.
The evening concluded with good wine and conversation by the gathering.
4 May - 7 May 2017 - Isle of Wight
Cowes and East Cowes (Isle of Wight) commemorates the 75th anniversary of being defended by the Cowes-built ORP Blyskawica during WWII.
"3rd of MAY CONSTITUTION DAY" – 3 May 2017
Kresy Family members attended the launch of the Polish Heritage Day at POSK in London on Wednesday, 3rd May 2017.
The event started at 7pm with the formal unveiling by Ambassador Arkady Rzegocki of The New Constitution of the Government of Poland, established by the Revolution, the Third of May 1791. The display occupied the complete window frontage of the POSK building for the benefit of passers-by.
The unveiling was followed by a Musical Gala Concert of Polish music by Chopin, Wieniawski, Karlowicz, Nowowiejski, Panufnik and Lutoslawski performed by:
Magdalena Filipczak on the violin; Piotr Gach on the cello; Anna Bajor- soprano; and Lukasz Filipczak on the piano.
The event was well-attended and a fitting way to launch the Polish Heritage Day project which is to be celebrated across the country over the weekend of 6-7 May 2017 to commemorate the shared history and culture of the UK and Poland.
COMMEMORATION OF VICTIMS OF KATYN AND OTHER PLACES OF RUSSIA
On Sunday, 30 April 2017, the Polish Combatants’ Association (SPK) organised a commemoration in memory of those who lost their lives at the hands of the Russians in both Katyn and other places of the Soviet Union during WW II.
The commemoration was launched with a Mass at the Church of St Andrew Bobola in Shepherd’s Bush, followed by a speech from Ambassador Arkady Rzegocki in front of the Katyn Memorial in Gunnersbury Park, the raising of both Polish and British flags, prayers and the laying of wreaths.
The event was attended by many different organisations, including SPK, the Polish Pilots’ Association, Polish Scouts and Girl Guides, Kresy Family and Polish Saturday Schools.
Kresy Family was represented by Mr Ryszard and Mrs Czeslawa Grzybowscy who laid a wreath on behalf of our organisation.
Article published in Tydzien Polski about the Kresy Family Polish WWII History Group's Who Do You Think You Are event held in April 2017.
Sunday, 2 March 2017 - 77th anniversary of the Katyn Massacres at Manchester Southern Cemetery
Kresy Family Polish WWII History Group and SPPW Friends of Polish Veterans Association commemorated the 77th anniversary of the Katyn Massacres at Manchester Southern Cemetery today in memory of the c22,000 Polish officers and other victims murdered by the Soviets in Katyn and elsewhere in April and May 1940.
A wreath was laid on behalf of worldwide members of Kresy Family.
They live still because we remember them...
The Launch in England of CÓRKA GENERAŁA I PIOSENKARKI by author, Anna Maria Anders at POSK - Saturday, 25 March 2017
The event was opened with a recording of a song sung by Renata Bogdańska, the late mother of Anna Maria Anders. The lyrics were written by Hemar, entitled "Moja córka" about Renata's beautiful daughter, Anna Maria, and about what the future held for her. Anna Maria Anders explained that she was 13 when the song was written.
She recalled Hemar's words after observing her running up and down the stairs of Ognisko Polski on Sundays when her mother would perform while her father played bridge, "Biedactwo, ojciec karciarz, a matka szansonistka" ["Poor child, the father, a cardplayer; and the mother, a chanteuse"]. She originally thought that she would call her book, "Córka karciarza i szansonistki" but, on advice, finally opted for the current version.
The book is about the memories of her childhood and recognising her roots. After a full-time career in business and life as a wife and mother, emphasising several times that her intentions in life had never been 'political' in any way, her journey has finally taken her to her current role, Poland's Secretary of State, Plenipotentiary of the Prime Minister for International Dialogue.
During her presentation, she referred to her responsibilities as Secretary of State which include: to promote the repatriation to Poland of those Poles who for one reason or another had not been able to leave the Soviet Union with her late father's army; to improve dialogue between Poland and the U.S.A., and Poland and the U.K.; and to promote the history of her father's legacy. She frequently visits schools in Poland where knowledge of these events is very scant, if it exists at all.
The second half of the event was formed of a Q & A session where Anna Maria Anders tackled subjects as diverse as the difficulties experienced by particularly the veterans and the elderly in obtaining Polish passports, and the difficulties faced by young Poles seeking to make a life in countries outside Poland, such as the U.K.
There were those in the audience who recalled their own personal and very fond memories of her father, as well as stories from places, such as Syria and Iraq, where the name of General Anders is to this very day recalled with gratitude and pride.
The third and final part of the event was spent with Anna Maria Anders signing books and having personal chats with individuals.
A delightful event, which we were privileged to attend.
Basia and Tadek Wojewódka
Book Festival "Meet the Neighbours" event in Harlow, Essex on Saturday 18 March 2017
Report by Helen Bitner
Mirka Wojnar and I went to the Essex Book Festival "Meet the Neighbours" event in Harlow on Saturday. At the opening welcome address, the Polish Ambassador Arkady Rzegocki spoke of Poland’s long-standing links with Britain and Robert Halfon the Conservative MP for Harlow pointed to the warmth and openness of the community spirit in the town which was always welcoming to newcomers.
Mirka and I took part in Nicola’ Werenowska’s presentation of her play-in-progress SILENCE where the British and Polish audience heard an overview of the joint invasions of Poland in September 1939 during which Soviet Russia in the east, proceeded on her policy of ethnic cleansing through the deportations of 1940-41 and the Katyń massacre. Then Adrian Palka read his father’s very moving prose poem about his experience in Siberia and Nina Finbow shared her daughter's letter expressing her appreciation of her Polish heritage. Poet Aneta Debska recited her wonderful poem “Showing through” conveying the conviction that certain world-shattering events are impossible to gloss over, rather they leave behind an indelible mark that will always show through. Aneta gave the audience a copy of her poem with a lovely abstract painting in shades of soft pastels “Nostalgia and Oblivion by Ihsan Adham which expressed the same idea. I read a few paragraphs from A SONG FOR KRESY describing the effects of scenes of death on an eight-year-old boy as he watched the daily funeral processions pass his hut in Guzar in 1942 and of how he had flashes of his crossing the Caspian Sea when he later studied Dante‘s Inferno at school.
Nichola Werenowska read two very dramatic monologues from her play SILENCE. Her delivery was simply excellent and she had the audience spellbound.
All in all, I had a wonderful experience that was much more than just a day at the Book Festival.
Friday 10 March 2017
UK Launch of Życie Codzienne Zołnierzy Polskich Sił Zbrojnych na Zachodzie 1939-1947 – Mariusz Gąsior, Jan Szkudliński, Artur Wodzyński.
On Friday, 10 March, at the Sikorski Museum, Mariusz Gąsior launched this book with a detailed powerpoint presentation. The event was held at The Sikorski Museum and introduced by Wiktor Moszczyński from the Friends of Polish Veterans Association (SPPW) and the chair of A Million, Joanna Gos.
Mariusz Gąsior is the curator of Polish photographic material at the Imperial War Museum in London; Dr Szkudliński and Artur Wodzyński are curators of the World War II Museum in Gdańsk.
The book depicts everyday life of the Polish soldier from unusual angles previously rarely seen, for example, entertainment, living quarters, on exercise, everyday hygiene, interaction with the liberated civilian population, just to mention a few, and Mariusz Gąsior displayed a selection of these photographs. In producing the book, the authors went to great lengths to research the background of the photographs to provide commentary and information which Mariusz Gąsior shared in his talk.
He has expressed agreement for Kresy Family to submit a request for a selection of images for use on our website, and this work is now in hand.”
Report written by Basia & Tadek Wojewodka
For Photographs click here
Saturday 18 February 2017
Commemoration of the 77th anniversary of the forced deportations from Kresy borderlands to Siberia
On Saturday, 18 February 2017, in POSK's Łowiczanka restaurant, Kresy Family Polish WWII History Group commemorated the 77th anniversary of the deportations to Siberia. An estimated 1.7 million Polish citizens were deported by the Soviet authorities between 10 February 1940 and June 1941.
A lunch was held for Kresy Family members and friends, members of the former OROK (Ognisko Rodzin Osadników Kresowych) and distinguished guests. Present were the new Polish Ambassador in the UK, Pan Arkady Rzegocki, Pani Karolina Kaczorowska, wife of the late and last President of the Polish Government-in-Exile, as well as members of several other well-established Polonia organisations. Amongst the participants were veterans and Siberian survivors, their children and grandchildren, non-Polish spouses and friends and other members of various nationalities. Some had travelled from afar – Poland, U.S.A., Sweden, Ireland, Edinburgh, Southport, Manchester, Oldham and Colchester – a total of nearly 80.
Mirka Wojnar, chair, welcomed everyone and introduced the programme. She invited all to share memories and information during the course of the afternoon. The first speaker was Pani Eugenia Maresch who, deported as a child with her family, had experienced the harsh reality of forced exile and the Siberian winter. She spoke about the history of Siberia and of the beauty of the Siberian wilderness that she had re-lived during a recent journey in 2016. With the help of her children and local guides, she found locations that had been her prison 77 years earlier. Siberia remains a part of her.
Following lunch, Helen Bitner-Glindzicz announced the publication of her book “Song for Kresy”, a title which came to her when amongst family in Ireland. Her late husband had recorded his memoirs on tape in order that his grandchildren and their children should learn of the story of their ancestors. Following his death, Helen needed time to fulfil his wishes; she came to the view that the story warranted a wider audience; she transcribed the tapes and published the book.
The event came to a close with an enthralling performance by the young and talented baritone singer, Pan Przemysław Baranek who, accompanied by Pani Raya Kostova on the piano, sang a selection of patriotic songs which included pieces composed by Poles born in the Kresy borderlands. Members of the audience joined in with songs that stirred the blood and brought a tear to the eye. Indeed, Pan Przemysław himself described how, whilst researching information to include in his introductions, he discovered that “Czerwone Maki na Monte Cassino” had been composed on the night of 17-18 May 1944, hours before the final attack on the monastery. The words were written by Feliks Konarski and music by Alfred Schultz. Both were soldiers of the 2nd Corps under General Anders. Pan Przemysław confided that he had been moved by this discovery. He concluded with a fine performance of the Stanisław’s Aria from the opera “Verbum Nobile” by Stanisław Moniuszko. The audience expressed their enthusiastic appreciation with lengthy applause.
On 18 March, Kresy Family will have a presence at the Essex Book Festival in Harlow for a short performance of the play “Silence“. This play explores the effects of war and displacement through the lens of the UK post-war Polish community. On 6-8 April, Kresy Family will again have a stand at the “Who Do You Think You Are LIVE” exhibition at the NEC Birmingham which everyone is encouraged to attend and, on 6-7 May, Kresy Family will actively participate in the UK-wide National Heritage Day initiated by Ambassador Rzegocki.
Kresy Family MC
Click here for photographs of the event.
For more photos click here.
For Tydzień Polski article click here
Kresy Family Polish WW II History Group
Our Christmas get-together held on Saturday 17 December 2016 at POSK, was highly successful for a number of different reasons.
In addition to the following Management Committee members: Mirka Wojnar, Eva Szegidewicz, Helen Bitner, Basia & Tadek Wojewodka and Janusz Zajaczkowski, we had the privilege of being joined by the following people:
Jerry (Sławek) Kubica
Helena, our Helen’s granddaughter
Maria Hutton, (Painter, including icons/Printmaker)
Maryla Podarewska Jakubowski (Architect/Interior Designer)
Iwona Pietraszewska, (Lawyer)
Mirka welcomed everyone and in particular the new people who had joined us for the first time and gave a brief update on our activities during the past year and our plans for 2017.
Helen gave an update on our upcoming 3-day exhibition at 'Who Do You Think You Are?' which will be held on 6-8 April 2017 at the NEC in Birmingham. Our celebrity guest has been confirmed as UK born film Director/writer Piotr Szkopiak. Piotr’s family were deported to Siberia and his grandfather was murdered in Katyn. Piotr is currently working on a new film on the Katyn massacres called ‘The Last Witness’ which will be shown in UK cinemas next year. We will have our member Janusz Jarzembowski with us again and a number of authors.
Helen’s new book “A Song for Kresy” will be published in the New Year and will be available to purchase at our 2017 events so please watch out for it. Helen has very generously agreed for the proceeds of the sale of 100 copies of her book to be donated to Kresy Family.
The afternoon was very casual and enjoyable. People felt relaxed, enjoyed the food and engaged readily and easily in conversation with their immediate neighbours and were also happy to present themselves and their history to the whole group. As usual we had a selection of newly published books available to purchase and a number of copies were sold.
Janusz Zajaczkowski promised to provide his list of research links to be uploaded on to our website, which he has now done and we are very grateful to him for this.
Rysiek Grzybowski gave permission for extracts from the book, 'Stalin’s Ethnic Cleansing' to be used on our website.
Jerry Kubica is recovering well from his stroke back in April 2016 which hospitalised him for almost three months, two months of which were spent in a hospital in Warsaw. He mooted a desire to work with us, details of which are still to be discussed and agreed.
Please make a note in your diaries of our next event in February which we confirmed with Lowiczanka Restaurant in POSK, London. We are commemorating the 77th anniversary of the deportations to Siberia on Saturday, 18th February 2017. The minutiae still need to be discussed and agreed and details will be announced shortly.
And, finally, we wish you all and each other Wesołych Świąt i szczęśliwego Nowego Roku. Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
To view photos of the event please click here.
The Management Committee
Kresy Family Polish WW II History Group
RIP LESZEK KOT
It is with sadness that we announce the death of Mr Leszek Kot on Friday, 14 October 2016. Mr Kot was the President of the Junacka Szkoła Kadetów Association and Deputy President of Katyń Families Association in the UK, He died at the age of 86 after a severe illness.
Read more about the life of Leszek Kot
Sunday, 31 July 2016: Commemoration of the 75th anniversary of the signing of the SIKORSKI-MAYSKI Pact
Guest Speaker Halik Kochanski AND Guest Singer Katy Carr
See photos and read about the event in Tydzien Polski
English translation of the article:
On Sunday 31 July 2016, the international Kresy Family Polish World War II History Group held a commemorative lunch at Lowiczanka Restaurant, POSK, London to celebrate the 75th Anniversary of the signing of the Sikorski-Mayski Pact which took place on 30 July 1941 granting an “Amnesty” to all Polish citizens detained on Soviet territory.
Over 60 people attended the event. Among the honoured guests were Consul Ines Czajczynska-Da Costa representing the Polish Embassy, and renowned historian Dr Halik Kochanski whose compelling work 'The Eagle Unbowed' details Poland’s wartime heroic military record as well as the country’s political and diplomatic difficulties. Dr Kochanski elucidated the political discussions that complicated General Sikorski’s negotiations with Ivan Mayski, the Soviet Ambassador to the United Kingdom, in order to obtain release of the Polish citizens. Dr Kochanski reminded us that most of the people present in the room would not be here today if it wasn’t for the signing of the Sikorski-Mayski Pact.
It was a privilege to hear Pani Irena Godyń speak movingly of her family’s deportation in April 1940 from their home in Łabnie near Grodno (now in present-day Belarus). Deported to Siberia, they were made to work as slave labourers clearing the taiga near Irkutsk. When Irena was eventually freed from Soviet enslavement, she found herself an orphan in Isfahan Persia (now Iran). Pani Irena has worked tirelessly in education and, in December 2012, she received the Polish Educational Society’s Medal of the National Education Commission.
“…it really is humbling listening to the stories of people who were there and experienced the horror of it all” was the response of a British guest who was visibly moved to tears by Pani Irena’s story.
Another guest commented that they enjoyed a “ beautifully-spent day in a marvellous atmosphere with marvellous people. Thank you to the organisers not only for the delicious lunch but above all for the historical-artistic programme. Thank you for one of the loveliest Polish days on foreign soil.”
One of the guests was Leokadia Majewicz, author of 'Slaves in Paradise', who came all the way from Bydgoszcz. Leokadia very generously donated copies of her book to the Kresy Family Group. 'Slaves in Paradise' is available in both Polish and English. Kresy Family member from France, Krystyna Mew, has published her father’s wartime Journal. 'Lost Between Worlds' by Edward Herzbaum is now available in the original Polish language as well as in English. Krystyna also made a very generous donation of the books to the group.
Guests came from Poland, France, Sweden and Germany and closer to home from Scotland, Manchester, Southampton and London. All contributed to the success of this historically-important commemoration.
The Kresy Family Group particularly appreciated having with them survivors of the deportations and former members of Ognisko Rodzin Osadnikow Kresowych (Association of Kresy Family Settlers), and it was most heartwarming to see members of the younger generations whose grandparents and great-grandparents were Sybiraks.
Kresy Family wishes to gratefully acknowledge the financial sponsorship for the event received from the Polish Aid Foundation Trust and to thank guests from the various Polish Associations for their continued encouragement and support over the past two years.
The enjoyable afternoon was brought to a close by the lovely and talented singer and songwriter Katy Carr who sang a number of songs, including: Dziś do Ciebie przyjść nie mogę, O mój rozmarynie, Wojtek and Czerwone maki na Monte Cassino.
One of the audience remarked “I feel honoured to be here today at this splendid gathering. If only there were more such wonderful people and artists, such as Katy Carr, uniting generations to the history and love of Poland and her culture”
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