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Help needed to identify Polish nationals buried in 'forgotten' St Andrews Hospital cemetery

PUBLISHED: 14:21 11 February 2018 | UPDATED: 11:10 12 February 2018

Mariusz Wojtowicz, from the Polish Heritage Group, is looking for information about the Polish people buried at the former St Andrew's Hospital cemetery.
Picture: ANTONY KELLY

Mariusz Wojtowicz, from the Polish Heritage Group, is looking for information about the Polish people buried at the former St Andrew's Hospital cemetery. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

Archant Norfolk 2018

Two amateur historians are aiming to shine new light on a "long forgotten" burial ground hidden away inside a business park near Norwich.

Mariusz Wojtowicz, from the Polish Heritage Group, is looking for information about the Polish people buried at the former St Andrew's Hospital cemetery.
Picture: ANTONY KELLYMariusz Wojtowicz, from the Polish Heritage Group, is looking for information about the Polish people buried at the former St Andrew's Hospital cemetery. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

Known locally as the “Polish cemetery”, it is thought to contain the bodies of more than 1,000 patients from the former St Andrews Hospital.

However, very little information is known about those interred within the site.

The cemetery, which is located off Memorial Way in the Broadland Business Park, was officially opened in 1903, is also believed to contain the remains of three Polish nationals.

And it is those individuals which caught the interest of 33-year-old Mariusz Wojtowicz, who has spent the past three months attempting to find out more about them.

Mariusz Wojtowicz, from the Polish Heritage Group, is looking for information about the Polish people buried at the former St Andrew's Hospital cemetery.
Picture: ANTONY KELLYMariusz Wojtowicz, from the Polish Heritage Group, is looking for information about the Polish people buried at the former St Andrew's Hospital cemetery. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

But having since discovered their names and burial records, he is appealing for the public to help.

Mr Wojtowicz, who lives in Norwich, said: “Most of the graves are anonymous, with two bodies buried within each plot. These were the inpatients of the hospital, who died whilst there and had no family to collect the body.

“The research has taken us in different directions, but we are slowly getting to a point where the opportunities to find out more, presented by the Internet, are being exhausted.”

Mr Wojtowicz, who works in education and has a keen interest in history, has been working on the project with fellow researcher Evelyn Simak.

Mariusz Wojtowicz, from the Polish Heritage Group, is looking for information about the Polish people buried at the former St Andrew's Hospital cemetery.
Picture: ANTONY KELLYMariusz Wojtowicz, from the Polish Heritage Group, is looking for information about the Polish people buried at the former St Andrew's Hospital cemetery. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

He said records from the hospital burial registers confirm that 1,400 people are buried in the cemetery. It is believed the graves were once marked with metal discs, while metal crosses indicated the Catholic graves.

However, it is thought in 1968, the St Andrews Hospital board decided to sell the markers for scrap. Then, in 1973 the cemetery was closed.

While the graves are no longer marked, a memorial was installed in 1995 partly thanks to campaign by retired nurse, Betty Willgress, who used to work at the hospital.

A plaque on the memorial reads: “In special memory of the Polish community who first came to St Andrews when it was a military hospital during the Second World War.”

Mariusz Wojtowicz, from the Polish Heritage Group, is looking for information about the Polish people buried at the former St Andrew's Hospital cemetery.
Picture: ANTONY KELLYMariusz Wojtowicz, from the Polish Heritage Group, is looking for information about the Polish people buried at the former St Andrew's Hospital cemetery. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

Mr Wojtowicz said: “We only know of three Polish citizens who are definitely buried there, although based on what a former nurse said, the number is likely to be much, much larger.

“Still, what’s puzzling is, considering the small number we know of, why the cemetery was known as the ‘Polish cemetery’.”

The three graves believed to belong to Polish nationals are:

• Mykola Zaluckyj, from Huntingdon, buried November 7, 1951, aged 29. Grave 631.

St Andrews Hospital, formely known as Norfolk County Asylum, Norfolk War Hospital, Thorpe Asylum and Norfolk Mental Hospital. Dated October 1969. Picture: Archant LibrarySt Andrews Hospital, formely known as Norfolk County Asylum, Norfolk War Hospital, Thorpe Asylum and Norfolk Mental Hospital. Dated October 1969. Picture: Archant Library

• Dmytr Teluk, from Sleaford, buried October 12, 1955, aged 45. Grave 657

• Wladyslaw Pawel Bartnicki, from Thorpe St Andrew, buried December 1 1960, aged 64. Grave 688

A small stone within the cemetery, which is officially called Memorial Gardens, is dedicated to a Hipolit Zaniewski, who died in 1997.

Mr Wojtowicz said although he died in Norwich, only his ashes are buried on the site.

The front entrance to the old St Andrews Mental Hospital. Picture: Julie DwyerThe front entrance to the old St Andrews Mental Hospital. Picture: Julie Dwyer

“The placement of his commemorative plaque in this cemetery suggests a connection with St Andrew’s hospital, presumably dating from world war two when, as a war hospital, it also cared for patients who were Polish refugees,” he added.

Research by Evelyn Simak shows Wladyslaw Bartnicki had been living at the hospital for more than 11 years, and died from bronchiectasis.

Meanwhile, Mykola Zaluckyj, who was suffering from a mental disorder and from tuberculosis, had been admitted to the hospital in August 1950, and Dmytr Teluk died from a brain tumour.

Mr Wojtowicz “First hand accounts from staff [who used to work at the hospital] are telling me of a whole ward that was occupied by Poles.

“I also heard of close of 40 individuals living there in the early 80s. It is however unclear why they were there, or who they were. It appears that it was a mixture of ex-servicemen and refugees, who either had no family left, or could not go back to Poland after the war because of the political climate at the time.”

The hospital closed in April 1998 and the land, including the cemetery, was sold off in 2000/2001.

For nostalgia join our Facebook groups Lowestoft and Beccles Remembers, Great Yarmouth Memories and Norwich Remembers.

• If you are a relative of the dead, or know more about them, email luke.powell@archant.co.uk or call 01603 772684

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