Poles in the UK

Polish butchers shop

The BBC have just published a fascinating article about how Britain and Poland came to be intertwined.

“Britain entered World War Two because of Germany invading Poland. But it failed to save the country from Stalin’s clutches in 1945. So has a feeling of historic debt affected Anglo-Polish relations over the years?

I hear someone speaking Polish every day. On the train, in a shop, in the street. Ten years after Poland joined the EU, no-one knows for sure how many Poles live in the UK. The 2011 census estimated it at nearly 600,000.

But that doesn’t include those who stayed after the end of World War Two, or their offspring – people like me. In total, the UK is probably home to a million or more people who regard Poland as their ancestral home in some way. Yet Britain and Poland have no long standing historical ties, like Britain and Ireland or Poland and France. The 1931 Census showed only around 40,000 Poles lived in the UK. Poland did not open an embassy in London until 1929. So how and why did we all end up here?

When Britain declared war on Germany on 3 September 1939 it did so for only one reason – Germany had invaded Poland, and Britain had guaranteed to support her ally. The diplomat and writer Sir Nicholas Henderson, himself a former ambassador to Poland, called it “a fatal guarantee”.

It was unprecedented. Britain had never given such a pledge to an eastern European country. There had never been a special relationship with Poland. Even Winston Churchill was amazed.

“His Majesty’s Government have given a guarantee to Poland. I was astounded when I heard them give this guarantee,” he told MPs in May 1939, when still a backbencher.

So why did Britain do it? The answer of course …. … ”

The rest of the article can be read here:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-28979789

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