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60th Anniversary of the Polish House in Bedford


How will the celebrations of the 60th anniversary of the Polish House in Bedford be carried out?

The Polish House in Bedford celebrates its 60th anniversary. The celebrations for this Jubilee have been spread over two days.

Saturday, November 12, is dedicated to the post-war generation of Poles who helped to establish the Polish House. Invited guests include the children of the founders, who remember well the year 1962 when General Anders officially opened the Polish House. During this event, there will be an academy, some history and memories, an artistic part where children from two Polish schools in Bedford and the "Vokalinki" ensemble from London will perform, as well as a birthday cake, "Happy Birthday" and a glass of champagne. There will be poignant moments like singing the national anthem together, which will begin the event, reading the letter we received from the Chancellery of the Prime Minister, speeches by former presidents of the Polish House, representatives of the Polish Embassy in London, Lady Jane Clifford - High Sheriff of Bedfordshire. It will be a great honor to receive our Honorary Guest - Ms. Anna Maria Anders - the Ambassador of the Republic of Poland to Italy. As General Anders opened the Polish House 60 years ago, it will be a beautiful continuation of history.

Sunday, November 13, is a day promoting Polish culture, traditions, and us Poles - resourceful, talented, brave, and gifted. At 11:00 a.m. in the Polish church in Bedford, a mass will be held for the intention of the Polish House, and at 12:00 p.m. at the Polish House Station building (near the train station), there will be a fair and performances by local artists. At 3:00 p.m., there will be a violin concert by the "Young Strings" group, after which everyone will receive a birthday cake and a glass of champagne to raise a toast together. As a memento, you can take a photo with the girls in folk costumes. At 5:00 p.m., the "Tomasz & Claudia" duo, a combination of saxophone and singing, will perform. Throughout the day, the Polish restaurant "Magic Pot" will serve Polish dishes, including traditional pierogi. On this day, you can also see an exhibition of old photographs commemorating the 60 years of the Polish House's activity in Bedford.

A beautiful song has been specially written and recorded for the 60th anniversary of the Polish House, which will premiere on this Jubilee weekend. The song refers to history but also has a deep message of modern times. Grzegorz Kowalewski from Bedford and Marcin Ciesiun from Luton are extremely talented people who created this song straight from the heart. We hope that you will also like it.

Who do we expect among the guests?

The Saturday ceremony, due to its nature and the capacity of the venue, will be a closed event. However, Sunday is directed to everyone who wants to celebrate the 60th anniversary of Dom Polski with us.

We invite both young and old, the Polish community not only from Bedford, and people who want to get to know Polish culture and flavors. Many Brits have already announced their presence on November 13th, as a journalist from the Bedford Independent wrote an article about Dom Polski, its history, and the 60th anniversary celebration.

Can you tell me briefly what is the history of the Polish House in Bedford Station?

During World War II, the Soviet Union carried out four major deportation campaigns of Polish citizens. In 1940, on Stalin's orders, Poles living in the eastern borderlands were expelled from their homes and deported deep into Siberia. When the Polish Army was formed under the command of General Anders, thousands of Poles were given the opportunity to leave the Soviet Union. Their journey led them through Uzbekistan, Iran, Iraq, Palestine, Egypt, and from the port of Alexandria to Italy, where they waited for the end of the war after fighting at Monte Cassino and the liberation of Bologna. The British government agreed that they and their families could be transported to the UK, where they were accommodated in numerous US military bases. Some soldiers and their families were sent to two bases in Kempston and Poddington (Santa Pod), where they lived in military barracks called "Nissen Huts" by the soldiers.

Out of nostalgia for their homeland and the inability to return to Poland, the post-war Polonia contributed to the purchase of a building in 1962, which was named 'Dom Polski' (Polish Home). The entire elite of the city's leaders gathered at the opening of this Polonian place, and the opening and ribbon-cutting ceremony was performed by Gen. Władysław Anders, who warmly congratulated the organizers on their great achievement, which, as he said, "is one of the manifestations of our attitude, our will to persevere in Polishness." The then Mayor of Bedford, who spoke with clear but restrained emotion, spoke of the "never-to-be-forgotten and forever-obliging heroic effort of the Polish soldier and the Polish nation during the time when the threat of captivity and catastrophe hung over England and the world."

What is the current activity of the institution under your supervision?

The goal of the founders of the Polish House was to create a socio-cultural place focused on integrating the Polish community, preserving Polish traditions and language, as well as promoting intercultural integration. Over the past 60 years, notable individuals such as General Anders, Canon A. Hume, Paweł Hęciak, Bishop Szczepan Wesoły, and famous figures from the arts scene such as Bohdan Łazuka, Ewa Kuklińska, Sławomir Pietrzak, and Andrzej Rosiewicz, have graced the institution with their presence.

Currently, as in the past, the institution organizes events aimed at integration, providing entertainment, promoting Polish culture, and facilitating intercultural exchange through dance, music, and cuisine. In addition to recurring events such as the Polish Christmas Tree Decorating, Children's Day, Back-to-School Fun Day, and Women's Day, the institution also hosts entertainment events such as stand-up comedy and themed parties like the 70s, Biesiady, and New Year's Eve celebrations.

The Polish House also offers its facilities for private events, including celebrations such as birthdays, anniversaries, communions, and christenings, as well as solemn occasions like weddings and funerals, both for adults and children. Over the years, the institution has also hosted recitation, theater, and poetry competitions. During the Great Orchestra of Christmas Charity events, various Polish artists such as De Mono, Małgorzata Ostrowska, Zakopower, Poparzeni Kawą Trzy, PIersi, Czesław Mozil, Proletaryat, Norbi, and Skiba have visited.

Moreover, during the events, the institution also collaborates with small businesses owned by Poles, providing them with the opportunity to promote their products and services. Personal development workshops, various treatments, and body work are also offered. All events are regularly updated and announced on the institution's Facebook page, fb/StacjaDomPolski.

What are currently the biggest tasks and challenges of your organization?

For many years, the Polish House in Bedford managed on its own thanks to the goodwill of people, but current needs exceed our capabilities. For the past 4 years, we have been investing in renovations with our own resources. The help of friends who work with us charitably is invaluable, but unfortunately, the needs have started to exceed our physical and financial capabilities. The first stage of renovating the House was made possible thanks to the Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs project "Polonia Infrastructure 2020," as well as the support of the Polish Embassy in London and the cooperation with the 'Polish Community' Association. Unfortunately, it is just a drop in the ocean of needs. The next stage is the replacement of the leaking roof, which floods three floors during heavy rainfall. The old, leaky windows result in much higher heating bills. This pursuit is our biggest challenge because we must seek sources of financing, and that is very difficult in today's times. However, we believe that our determination and persistent work will make a miracle happen, which we strongly believe in.

It would certainly be worth mentioning the individuals who contribute to the existence of the Polish House in Bedford. Who is currently involved in creating the Polish House station?

Oh yes - Dom Polski is a social place and without the joint work and commitment of many people, it would not have survived for so many years. Undoubtedly, at every stage of the development of Dom Polski, there were people for whom the fate of the Polonia community was not indifferent. The first Polish shop, Polish school, and scouting were created at Dom Polski. Times have changed, but the need for co-creation still exists. Therefore, since 2018, when I have been managing Dom Polski, I have been striving to always create a space for joint activities.

The anniversary, as well as other Polonia events, would not have been possible without the exceptional team of people whom I am grateful to for their generous hearts, invaluable support, donated time and engagement, thanks to which we have jointly achieved another milestone in the development of Dom Polski, maintaining the continuity of its history. Out of respect and gratitude, I will mention them by full name: Tomasz Zienkiewicz, Zbigniew Wereszczyński, Andrzej Gąsienica, Magdalena Gołuch, Katarzyna Piechowiak, Izabela Wróbel, Magdalena Kowalska, Mateusz Nawieśniak, Piotr Parandowski, Justyna Urbaniak, Marek Jamroz, Ela Walenda-Kozimińska, Grzegorz Kowalewski, Monika Witkowska, Artur Smoła, Wiola Miądowicz, Damian Panka, Piotr Honisz, Kasia Komaniecka, Roland Jabłoński.

There are also companies that supported us in various ways during these celebrations - Osborne Law, Polish Village Bread, Pol-Plan, Extend Finance, KG Personel, Sunshine, Magic Pot Restaurant.

Where can one find information about the celebrations and activities of the Polish Home in Bedford?

You can find information about the celebrations and activities of the Polish House in Bedford on our Facebook fanpage fb/StacjaDomPolski and website, which after 60 years of our Polonian place's existence will see the light of day for the first time today ;) www.stacjadompolski.org.uk. I also think that thanks to your kindness, the news about the existence of the Polish House in Bedford will reach an even wider audience.

Polish House Station
18-20 Ashburnham Road
MK40 1DS

The best way to get to Bedford from London is by train from King's Cross St Pancras station (2 stops, 38 minutes). After leaving the train station, the first building on the right is our Polish House.