Polish London

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Essential Information Guide Helping Young People Move To London For The First Time.

Poles in London

The Poles in London are traditionally divided into several distinctive 'generations'.

The 'Oldies', who arrived in England after the Second World War, ex-servicemen who fought in the war with the Allies, and did not want to go back to the new Communist Poland, waiting for the old pre-war order to be restored, and when this did not happen, they settled here. They are now in their 70s and 80s, they live to a large extent in the past, reminiscing about old, long gone Poland of their youth. They are still very active in various combatant organisations, holding regular meetings and social events.

The children of the WWII immigrants, born in the UK, who, nevertheless, have amazingly strong emotional ties with Poland. I think it is best to let one of them try to explain what contribution they make to Polish society in the UK. So below is a short message from one such person, born in the UK, to Polish post-war immigrant parents;

"There is a whole generation of Poles living in Britain who can only be recognised as such when you see their surnames, or when they suddenly change from speaking native English into Polish when they meet a new Polish person. We were all born in England and naturally hold British passports, but our cultural and social allegiances are within a Polish tradition. This generation is currently in the 40's and 50's age group and was brought up on a "diet" of Polish Saturday Schools, Polish youth organisations and Polish student and graduate groups, all of them established "na emigracji".

This is the first generation to be born in England who were children of the political war emigres , who ended up here after fighting with the allied forces on various fronts, such as Italy, Tobruk and the Battle of Britain. Initially our parents' generation had hoped that the Communist government would fall within a few years and that they would then return to a democratic country. As it became clear that this was not going to happen, they then transferred their efforts into maintaining a Polish pre war culture and political opposition abroad. Although many of these emigres were educated professionals, they were obliged to accept menial jobs in England, because their qualifications were not accepted by the British. However, education was seen as a means of improving the lot of their children and so a large percentage of our generation were educated in British Universities. Examples of our generation would include the current chairman of POSK and the winner of the British Oscar award for the film Tsotsi, Piotr Fudakowski, the producer.

Naturally, some are more interested in Polish matters than others but quite a number still attempt to pass on a Polish tradition and the Polish language to their own children. As a matter of interest, the percentage of our wedding guests (20 years ago) belonging to this generation and their parents was about 95%, with a handful of English friends as the remainder."

Another distinctive group among London Poles is the 'Solidarity Generation', who happened to be in the UK at the time when the Marshall Law was declared in Poland in December 1981. They were all allowed to stay in England as refugees, and were given full rights to live and work here. They are mostly in their early to mid 40s now. The majority have thrived on the challenge and the opportunity to make a new life for themselves in the new country. Most of them have become entrepreneurs and they run successful small businesses. Very often there is a strong Polish slant to their professional activities, as they open Polish travel agencies, bars, restaurants, shops, or they import Polish products to the UK.

The 'New EU Immigrants'. It is probably too early to analyse this group to any great extent as it sprung into existence almost overnight when Poland joined the European Union on 1 May 2004. It is now the most clearly visible group of Poles in London. It is virtually impossible to spend a day in London without being served by a Pole at least once, whether it is at a coffee shop, sandwich shop, bar, pub, or restaurant.

Each of these generations keeps mostly to themselves, as they come from different backgrounds and they have had very different experiences and goals in their life as immigrants. That is why there is often talk about several Polish communities in London, and England, not one.

Social Clubs

There are a few Polish clubs in London, in areas where most Polish immigrants live, Ealing, Hammersmith, Balham.

Polish Cultural and Social Association POSK

POSK website

Traditionally the place where most Polish visitors to London take their first steps . It is situated in 236 King Street in Hammersmith, W6, Just 2 minutes walk from Ravenscourt Park Station. The name - acronym stands for Polish Cultural and Social Institute. It houses a restaurant, a bar, a theatre, library, and a nightclub.

White Eagle Club Balham

Out of the way place, unless you live in South London. The club is situated in Balham High Road between Balham and Tooting Bec tube stations.
The club traditionally closely linked to the local Polish Catholic church and seen as the parish social centre, was leased out to new managers, Magda Harvey and her partner in early 2005. The club is now undergoing major renovation work, long overdue and welcome. Saturday night 'zabawa' (dance) remains one of the main attractions here, drawing Polish crowds from all over London, with live band playing Polish pop and folk music, and vodka flowing freely. Definitely an experience, and a chance to get a glimpse into a traditional Polish style entertainment. The Poles themselves who stumble into a zabawa for the first time are often in a state of amused disbelief, as the atmosphere takes them straight back to typical Polish weddings or family occasions, when everybody dresses up, there is lots of heavy drinking and ballroom dancing to the rhythms of songs everybody learned in childhood. There is a strong undercurrent of nostalgia, and a feeling of stepping back into a lost world, slowly consigned in Poland itself to the pages of social history.

Early Sunday afternoon is also a busy time at the club, as people come for a quick drink or Polish lunch after the mass at the Polish church across the road. As this club is the only one of its kind in the area, it attracts Poles people from all over South London.

The Polish folk song and dance group Orleta meets at the club every Tuesday 7.30pm and the junior group on Thursdays at 5pm. The group managed by Basia Klimas-Sawyer, was established in 1973. Children between 4 and 14 and young people 15 to 30+ are welcome to join the group for weekly practices of Polish folk dancing and singing.
The club is open daily at lunchtime and in the evenings 6pm-11pm.
Address: 211 Balham High Road, London SW17 Tel 0208 672 1723

Ealing Polish Church Hall

Once again Very much a place for the locals, this time West London Poles, as it is situated, literally, at the end of a tube line, in Ealing Broadway. As with almost all Polish clubs in England, this one is closely connected to the Polish church, it is in fact situated in the parish hall. Address: 2 Windsor Road, London W5

Polish Saturday Schools

The main reason for the existence of Polish Saturday schools in the UK is to teach Polish language, history, geography, literature, culture and traditions to the children of Polish immigrants. The school year follows Polish rather than British pattern, which means it runs from 1st of September till end of June. As a rule there are no half term breaks.
Polish Saturday schools in Great Britain are managed by the Polish Educational Society

Angel/Islington: 175 Carlingford Rod, London N15
Balham/Clapham: 50 Nightingale Lane, London SW12 8TE, Tel. 020 8673 4177
Lessons from 9.30am till 1.30pm every Saturday.
Nursery class for under 5.
Polish Scouts meetings after school from 1.30pm till 3pm
Chiswick: 198 Murray Road, London W5
Croydon-Crystal Palace: 8 Oliver Grove, London SE25 6EJ
Ealing: Polish School Ealing, PO Box 54155, London W5 9DP
Forest Gate/Ilford: 16 Devonshire Road, Hornchurch, Essex RM12 4LQ
Fulham: The London Oratory School (Polish School), Seagrave Road, London SW6 1RX
Lewisham: 8A Waldram Park Road, Forest Hill, London SE23 2PN
Putney-Wimbledon: 65 Cambridge Road, SW20
Willesden Green: 116 Finchley Lane, Hendon, London NW4 1BB

Polish Consulate and Embassy in London

Polish Consulate:
Address: 73 New Cavendish Street, London, W1W 6LS
Tel. 0870 7742 800, 0207 2913 900
Website: Polish Consulate in London
Email: consulate@polishconsulate.co.uk

Polish Embassy:
Address: 47 Portland Place, London, W1N 4JH
Tel.: 0870 774 2700
Fax: 0207 291 35 75 or 0207 291 35 76
E-mail: polishembassy@polishembassy.org.uk

Restaurants and Bars

Baltic
74 Blackfriars Road, London, SE1 8HA Tel. 0871 3328875.

Barometer
114 Greyhound Lane, London SW16 5RN Tel. 020 8769 7888

Daquise
20 Thurloe Street, London SW7 2LT, Tel. 0207 589 6117

Café and restaurant, outside South Kensington tube station.
The oldest Polish restaurant in London, established in 1947.
A charming place, if frozen in time in terms of both the decor (1970s? older still?) and the type of customers who have stayed loyal to it over the years. All the old Polish favourites are there - galabki, bigos, pierogi, placki, pork knuckle, beetroot soup.

Erebuni
36 Lancaster Gate, London W2 3NA, Bayswater Tel. 020 7402 1101

Lowiczanka Restaurant
inside POSK
238-246 King Street, Hammersmith
Near to Ravenscourt Park tube

Na Zdrowie
11 Little Turnstile Street, Holborn London WC1V 7DX Tel. 0207 831 9679
Bar and café. Large selection of Polish vodkas and beers.

Ognisko Polskie - Polish Hearth
55 Princes Gate, London SW7 9PN, Tel. 0207 589 4635

A distinctively posh, slightly pretentious, 'aristocratic' feel to this restaurant located on the ground floor of the building which used to serve as one of the main meeting places for Polish immigrants in the years immediately after the Second World War. Pricey too, especially if compared to Daquise, also in the vicinity.
A place worth visiting if you want to capture a faint air of past glory. Something nostalgic about the place, helped by a gallery of old photos, memorabilia and portraits of prominent members of Polish post-war London society.

Patio Restaurant
5 Goldhawk Road, London W12 Tel. 020 8743 5194
Shepherd's Bush, Near to Goldhawk Road

Polanka
Polish Delicatessen, Sandwich Bar and Restaurant
258 King Street, Hammersmith, London W6 0SP Tel. 0208 741 8268

The Knaypa
268 King Street, W6 0SP Tel. 020 8563 2887

The Spitfire Restaurant
93 Fulham Palace Road, London, W6 8JA Tel. 020 8748 7272
Near to Hammersmith tube

White Eagle Club
211 Balham High Road, Tooting SW17 Tel. 020 8672 1723

Wodka Restaurant
12 St. Alban's Grove London W8, Tel. 0207 937 6513

Shops

Food Stores

Polish Specialities
226-228 King Street Hammersmith W6
Polish Specialities is quickly becoming a shop of choice for London Poles. A chain od Polish Specialities shops have been popping up in the South London soon after Poland joined EU in 2004. Branches also:
Streatham High Road (close to St.Leonard's Church)
73 Stockwell Road SW9 9PY

Kujawiak
255 Caledonian Road
N1 1ED London
Tel. 020 72789279

Korona
30 Streatham High Road, Streatham London SW16
Continental Delicatessen.
Good selection of Polish meats, sausages, pickles, vodkas, cakes, confectionery and cooking ingredients.

Polanka
258 King Street, Hammersmith, London W6 0SP, Tel. 0208 741 8268
Open 10am-10pm Monday to Saturday and 11am- 8pm on Sundays.
Polish food shop, offering good selection of meats and sausages, pickles, cakes and confectionery.
A restaurant at the back is nicely decorated in Polish wooden country style and offers comforting, filling food at reasonable prices.

Bookshops

Centrum Publikacji Fundacji Veritas
63 Jeddo Road, London W12 9EE Tel 020 8749 4957
Email: Thomas@veritas.knsc.co.uk

Polish bookshop at POSK
238-246 High Street, Hammersmith W6 0RF
Tel 020 8748 5522

Orbis Books
66 Kenway Road SW5 0RD Tel 020 7370 2210
Email: bookshop@orbis-books.co.ukPolish Books - online shop
http://www.polishbooks.co.uk/

Churches

Kosciol Matki Boskiej Czestochowskiej
2 Devonia Road, London N1 8JJ. Tel: 0207 226 3439
Tube station: Angel
Website:
http://www.parafia-angel.com
Students' mass at 12.15 on Sundays; students meetings every Friday at 20.15

Kosciol Chrystusa Krola
234 Balham High Road SW17 Tel. 0208-767-5695
Tube station: Balham

Kosciol Sw. Andrzeja Boboli
1 Leysfield Road London W12 9JF Tel. 0208-743-8848
Tube station: Hammersmith

Kosciol NMP Matki Kosciola
2 Windsor Road, Ealing London W5 5PD Tel. 0208-567-1746
Tube station: Ealing Broadway
Social meetings for students, also special students mass on Sundays at 7pm, social events, weekend retreats. Please call for details.

Little Brompton Oratory
Brompton Road, South Kensington, London SW7 Tel. 0207-589-6664
It can be tricky to find this church, as it is situated next to the Brompton Oratory, with a side alley entrance.

Dance Groups

ORLETA POLISH FOLK SONG AND DANCE ensemble
Orleta is a performing Polish folk song and dance company.
Basia Klimas has been running the Orleta (aged 15 to 30+) and Junior Orleta (5-14 years old) dance groups since 1973.
Junior Orleta meet every Thursday evening from 5pm at the Polish White Eagle Club at 211 Balham High Road. Orleta meet on Tuesdays. Both senior and junior groups entertain the local south London Polish community a few times a year with regional and national Polish dances and songs. Orleta also take part in various shows and charity events all over England, and International Folk Culture festivals both in England and abroad. The group welcomes new dancers and musicians, so if you are interested in joining please contact them.
If you would like to book them for a performance or would like more information, please check out their web site
www.orleta.co.uk or contact Basia Klimas on basiaklimas@freezone.co.uk

Tatry
Tatry was founded in 1962 and is based at Posk in Hammersmith. They run beginner's and intermediate classes on Tuesdays in Posk and children's and advanced classes in Posk on Fridays. They have performed all over Britain (even before the Queen) and on television.
Tatry website:
www.tatry.org.uk
Tatry contact email is to Leszek Bojanowski: leszek@tatry.org.uk

Zywiec
Zywiec was established in 1965. Founded by Ks. Kazimierz Grzymala and Pani Irena Rozycka. Rehearsals are on Monday evenings from 8pm at POK in Ealing. They are also holding regular all-day dance workshops on selected Sundays. Their favourite 3 dances are Sadeckie, Rzeszowskie and Goralskie. Over the years they have been taking part in Polish Folklore Festivals in Britain, and several Ealing community events.
They work closely with the Polish parish in Ealing. Have done shows for charity events,private functions and have put on shows in POSK in Hammersmith.
More information about the Zywiec group can be found on their website
Zywiec Dance Group website