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   Inside Out England: Monday November 13, 2006

Polish immigrants

 
 

Think of Reading - and the Madjeski stadium is one of the major landmarks that comes to mind.

John Madejski owns Reading football club.

He had a Polish father - who like so many others - fought for us in the Second World War.

Evidence that for this town - Polish immigration is not new.

It's just the numbers that are different now.

Polish roots

The Poles have long associations with the south of England.

Look at Reading cemetery, for example, and you'lll sea scouts tending the graves of Polish soldiers.

Scouts are the English descendants of the Polish community that settled in the area after the war.

The Poles who fought for the Allies found themselves stateless when eastern Poland was handed to Russia, as Masia Nicpon, whose father fought for the Allies, explains:

"We settled in camps... lived in them for 12 years… became British ... but never forgot Polish traditions."

The original Polish community in Reading numbered around 1,000.

With the new influx, it's now 10,000.

The growth in the number of Poles has led one local paper to bring out a weekly Polish edition.

This church is the centre of the community and the first point of contact for many new Poles.

Despite a welcome for the newcomers, there are some tensions, as one of the earlier immigrants explains:

"I came over here eight years ago… new arrivals get better resources than me... I don't understand."

There's no doubt the new influx has influenced the old community in other ways.

The Polish Saturday school used to be a way for the English born children to learn Polish language and history.

Now it's full of Polish-born children learning most subjects - in their own language.

The Polish social club is also a mixture of old and new.

Business is booming - new Poles have revitalised church and social centre .. just adapting to doing things differently.

And Reading's adapting too. Just this month - one local paper decided to produce a polish edition - every week.

Have your say...

Join the debate - email our Inside Out England message board in English or Polish and we will publish your comments.

Email insideout@bbc.co.uk

We want your comments and experiences.

How do old Poles feel about new Poles and the limelight on them?

What are the concerns and worries of old and new Poles?

What's happening back in Poland?

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