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Polish memorial unveiled in Brandon to honour those who suffered during Second World War

PUBLISHED: 17:17 24 September 2017

Polish priest Marek Zajac speaks at the unveiling of the polish memorial in memory of Polish men, women and children who suffered greatly during World War 2. Picture: Lucy Begbie

Polish priest Marek Zajac speaks at the unveiling of the polish memorial in memory of Polish men, women and children who suffered greatly during World War 2. Picture: Lucy Begbie

Archant

They were brave refugees, running from a tyrannical regime after suffering the ravages of war.

Ninety-five-year-old Geneffa Swierdzewski pictured attending the event survived a Siberian Gulag. Picture: Lucy Begbie Ninety-five-year-old Geneffa Swierdzewski pictured attending the event survived a Siberian Gulag. Picture: Lucy Begbie

And yesterday a monument was unveiled to remember the Polish families who arrived in Norfolk after the Second World War.

Suffolk County Councillor Victor Lukaniuk has spearheaded the move to get a permanent monument at the cemetery in Brandon.

His Polish father Wiktor served with the British in the Eighth Army in North Africa – but when the war was finished he was unable to return home.

Mr Lukaniuk, grew up in Weeting Hall Camp, which housed approximately eighty families, during the 1950s.

Jan Chwarszcynski and Mariusz Zawiasa whose families came to Brandon after the war and stayed. Picture: Lucy Begbie Jan Chwarszcynski and Mariusz Zawiasa whose families came to Brandon after the war and stayed. Picture: Lucy Begbie

He said: “It is an emotional day for me but I will hold it together.

“The Poles had a very rough time - they helped win the war but lost their homes.”

Large numbers of Polish people were displaced as a result of invasion and occupation during the war, with many deported to forced labour camps in Serbia.

One such person was 95-year-old Geneffa Swierdzewski who attended the event on Sunday held at the cemetery next to St Peter’s Church in Brandon.

Councillor Victor Lukaniuk speaks to the Reverend Sharron Coburn with St Peter's Church, Brandon, in the background flying the Polish flag. Picture: Lucy Begbie Councillor Victor Lukaniuk speaks to the Reverend Sharron Coburn with St Peter's Church, Brandon, in the background flying the Polish flag. Picture: Lucy Begbie

She said: “For me it is a sad day because it reminds me of the troubles.”

In 1947 the British Government took in thousands of these families and soldiers, and many were sent to Norfolk and Suffolk to live in displacement camps.

These include the Brandon London Road Camp, Weeting Hall Camp and camps at High Ash, near Mundford; Bodney; Riddlesworth and East Wretham.

Mr Lukaniuk said: “It is to remember the Polish families who came here after the war finished in 1947. This year also marks the 70th anniversary of the Polish displacement.

“Many of these people had come from the Gulags in Russia. Not everybody is familiar with the displacement. It is a memorial to those who did not survive and those who did.

“As you go around Norfolk and Suffolk you see memorials to the US bomb groups and the Desert Rats at High Ash. I thought to myself it would be nice to have a memorial to the Polish men, women and children who suffered immensely during the Second World War.”

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