21 May 2017

70th anniversary of Polish Community in Birmingham


On Sunday 21 May, a special event will be held to celebrate 70 years of the Polish community in Birmingham.

At the end of World War Two, thousands of Poles started to arrive in Britain. Some had been taken from their homes in Poland by the Russians to Siberia; others had been taken by the Germans to labour camps or prisoner of war camps in Germany. Those who survived these inhuman conditions, and others who came over as servicemen in the Allied Forces, found their way to Britain, some arriving and settling in Birmingham.

At the heart of this month’s celebrations is a National Lottery funded photographic exhibition at the Millennium House. Made possible by a £10,000 grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF), the exhibition, which is made up of films, documents and photos collected from the local community, will be on display for a month before being displayed in other venues throughout the year.

Beginning with a Mass at St Michael’s Church, the celebration will be attended by the Lord Mayor of Birmingham and his Consort, Bishop Robert Byrne, the Polish Ambassador and the Polish Consul, a representative of the Polish President’s Office, the Rector of the Polish Catholic Mission, the General and the Head of the Province of Poland of the Cannons Regular Order to which our priests belong.

To support the needs growing Polish community in Birmingham, in 1947 the Polish Catholic Parish was founded, based at St. Michael’s Roman Catholic Church in Moor Street, in the city centre. The Poles, as refugees from the ravages of war and the communist regime in Poland, organised themselves into many secular and religious organisations which assuaged their longing for the country they were forced to leave and to which they were unable to return. This also gave them the friendship and support of other Poles. The Parish and the Community grew as the people got married and started families.

The Parish was, and still is, served by Polish priests, who provided the spiritual and religious support through Masses, services and the sacraments. The Polish community has had several big influxes of new immigrants over the 70 years, with the latest one from 2004. Any new arrival has found the support they needed within the Polish community.

In 1962 the Polish community funded and built the Polish Community Centre, Polish Millennium House, in Bordesley Street, run by the Polish Catholic Association. This created a place for Poles to meet for various social, cultural and religious activities. From that time onwards different organisations have found a home there: youth organisations such as scouting, folk dancing group, Catholic Polish Youth group, the Polish Saturday school; organisations for ex-servicemen and ex-combatants; the Senior Citizens, the choir; support groups such as the AA. Many dances, cultural and traditional events, meetings, rehearsals have taken place there. The restaurant (in different guises) has offered tasty Polish food and is now a popular eating place.

The Polish community has always played a big role within Birmingham and the West Midlands and are an important part of the multicultural life of the city. A short display of songs, dances and poems by the youth organisations will precede a formal dinner for our invited guests and members of the community, supported by a grant from the Harry Payne Trust.

The National Lottery funded exhibition, along with further photographs and documents, will become part of an online gallery for all to visit and use for research. It will become an important historical document for the City of Birmingham.

Notes to editors

About Polish Catholic Community Birmingham

The community originated in 1947 with the formation of the Polish Catholic Parish based at St. Michael’s Church, Moor Street Birmingham, which catered for the spiritual needs of its parishioners. To accommodate the growing community, the Polish Catholic Association was created with the main objectives to consolidate the activities of the many groups that were forming and to provide a base for the cultural development of the younger generations that were growing up. With this in mind, the community built its centre which has become known as the Polish Millennium House on Bordesley Street. Since 2004 there has been a large influx of new Polish immigrants into the area, approximately 56000.

About the Heritage Lottery Fund

Thanks to National Lottery players, we invest money to help people across the UK explore, enjoy and protect the heritage they care about - from the archaeology under our feet to the historic parks and buildings we love, from precious memories and collections to rare wildlife. www.hlf.org.uk.  Follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and use #HLFsupported.

Further information

For further information, images and interviews please contact Richard Weber at Polish Catholic Parish Birmingham on 07850170471 or email: richard@ulogix.co.uk

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