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Page last updated at 14:50 GMT, Friday, 22 October 2010 15:50 UK
Swindon Polish Community mark 60 years of living in town
By Kelly Jobanputra
Reporter, BBC Wiltshire

Swindon Polish Folk Dance Group
The Swindon Polish Folk Dance Group 'Oberek'

The Swindon Polish Community are celebrating the 60th anniversary of their arrival in the town this weekend.

Organised by the Polish Roman Catholic Mission, the landmark event will be marked with a concert, exhibition and masses at the Polish Community Centre.

The group's chairwoman Halina Chudzik has lived in the town for over 50 years after arriving in 1957 as a schoolgirl.

"It was great," she said. "We went to English schools, learned the language and had English friends."

She added: "We mixed with them and worked with them all the time."

Ms Chudzik was just 12 years old when she arrived in the town with her mother, father and brothers.

Now aged 65, she has still managed to maintain her Polish identity.

"We have a split personality," she said. "My generation sticks to the Polish traditions - we speak the language and read and write in Polish.

"We go to mass and we gather around the Church."

Forcefully uprooted

It was during World War II that many Poles left their homeland.

Many were forcefully uprooted by the Russians in what was Eastern Poland and transported to central Russia as virtual prisoners of war.

Others were taken by the Nazis into forced labour or put into concentration camps in Poland, Germany and Austria.

Procession of Corpus Christi
Children taking part in the procession of Corpus Christi in 1993

When the war ended, with the Polish territory annexed by Russia, the majority of serving Polish soldiers and their families didn't return to Poland.

In Britain, those who wanted to remain in the country were housed together in redundant military camps known as hostels by the British Government.

Many of the hostels, which included schools, churches and resident doctors, were situated in the Fairford and Stratton St Margaret areas of Swindon.

The first of the Polish families began to settle between 1947 and 1948. As more Polish family members found employment, more left the camps and moved into the town.

Ms Chudzik's family was one of them. Relocated from the Fairford Polish hostel, the family moved into housing in Walcot.

Anniversary events

Sixty years on the Polish community are still in Swindon and celebrating at the weekend with a number of commemorative events at the Polish Club in town.

On Saturday a Holy Mass will be held at 10am whilst pupils from the Polish Saturday School will be performing a concert.

Sunday includes a celebratory Holy Mass at 11am followed by lunch and a concert presented by various local groups.

There will also be the chance, over the two day celebration, to view an exhibition detailing the past 60 years of the Polish Roman Catholic parish in the town.

The 60th anniversary of Polish people in Swindon will run from Saturday, 23 October through Sunday, 24 October.

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