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24 September 2014
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You are in: Stoke & Staffordshire Polish Community »
Leek's "little Warsaw" - a forgotten community? The project to remember it
The Polish Eagle
The Polish Eagle - a national symbol for Poles
North Staffordshire & South Cheshire are home to a surprising number of Polish communities.
BBC reporter Ros Chimes decided she wanted to uncover their story... she describes how it happened.

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Many people associate struggle and persecution during World War Two with the Jews.

But Poles too faced violent evictions from their own homeland, as well as years in Russian labour camps.

After the war, many of the Poles were resettled across Europe - many choosing to come to Britain.

In this region, they settled in Stoke on Trent (in Longton particularly), in Crewe, and ... in the Staffordshire Moorlands town of Leek.

quoteThe Polish community had a huge impact on Leek after the war, but many of the faces, customs and stories are being forgotten.

Together with the community, we've created an archive of audio, video and photos - which can them be used by anyone who wants to know more about the Polish community in the town.
Ros Chimes
BBC Stoke Reporter

Resettlement camp
Just outside Leek, at Blackshaw Moor, was the Anzio army camp.

This was converted into a resettlement camp for many Poles, who then made Leek their home.

In my daily work as the district correspondent for the BBC in the Staffordshire Moorlands, I came across many of those people who had to come to this country for safety - and a life.

To hear Ros's reports on life for the Polish who had to seek safety in Britain
Click here

The project was meant first to simply look at the life of those early Polish refugees - the history, why they came to Leek, what life was like at the camp, the problems and prejudices they faced, and why many decided to stay and make Leek their home - but it grew and grew!

Compact Disc...
The big building society based in Leek, The Britannia, heard of the project and asked if they could become involved too.
In the end, they agreed to sponsor an audio CD, to the tune of £120, which is a recording of all the interviews I undertook - and which will be distributed to libraries and schools all around the area, as a teaching aid about the local Polish heritage.

... and school involvement
The local primary school near to the old Blackshaw Moor camp heard about that, and teachers organised an art competition there to see if one of the pupils could come up with a design to figure on the CD cover.
(Click here to see the children's designs)

We even had a party to celebrate the completion of the CD - which will be released next month.
(Click here for more about the party)

And, it won't stop there.
Some people have become so enthused, that they are now determined to put down their memories on paper to work beside the CD.

If there are enough entries on the messageboard accompanying this project, they too may be added!

And the BBC Learning Centre in Stoke on Trent has agreed to lay on Polish language classes to help all those second and third-generation Poles, who want to learn the tongue of their ancestors.

But I'm not bowing out completely.
It's a project that I personally have got so much out of that I'm keeping in touch with everyone who was involved.
Which is why, if you have thoughts to add, I want you to contact me. I'd love to hear from you!
Ros Chimes (click here to mail Ros)
Top | Polish Community Index | Home
Polish Stories
Leek's Little Warsaw
The towns of Staffordshire and South Cheshire are home to a surprising number of Polish communities...

Henryck's story
As a young man, Henryck and a friend decided to flee to France and join the Polish Free Army.

Christina's story
Christina was born in England - at the Blackshaw Moor Re-settlement camp for the Polish near Leek.

Audio archive
Community Audio Archive
We're building up an audio archive of interviews with members of the Polish community...

Contact us...
Send your stories and pictures to us at:

BBC Stoke and Staffordshire

tel: (+44) 01782 221281


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