A forgotten life – that needs remembered
By Dani Garavelli
At a funeral in Glasgow (2017), a Polish woman was buried. There was no family there but DANI GARAVELLI discovered the life of Bronislawa Francuz was extraordinary, sad and unforgettable.
FRESH from work, their hair scraped back in ponytails, five care home assistants file into the front pew of St Helen’s Church in Langside, Glasgow, to mark the passing of elderly resident Bronislawa Francuz. Behind them the rows are packed, not with relatives — she had none in the UK — but with parishioners, who didn’t know her, yet have come to mourn. Pall-bearers, assembled at short notice, carry her coffin to the front, where it stands in quiet dignity as her past is laid before them: a parable of our times.
Broni was never able to testify to her own experiences. Born with a physical disability, her communication skills were limited, though those who spent time with her believe she remembered most of what had happened in her 94 years. But her life story — related now by the priest conducting the service — is timeless and universal. It is a story about how war shapes and shatters, how it splits families, scattering them haphazardly across continents, and how it reaches down the generations, so those born long after the peace treaties have been signed are still touched by its destructive power.
This is a BBC Radio Scotland programme, broadcast on August 10th 2016.
The full programme is available using the player below.
Polish-Scottish Heritage Project website
The Polish-Scottish Heritage aims to promote a greater awareness of Poland and Scotland’s shared heritage. It is especially important now that the Polish community in Scotland is larger than ever before (67 000), to discover those long lasting connections, preserving and celebrating the shared histories of places, events and people for present and future generations.
The project is gathering historical information and sharing it through a variety of formats on their website. A wide range of audio, video, text and pictures are already availabe on their recently opened website. The clip below from their website tells the story of Polish troops who found themselves in Scotland after WW2. It includes contributions from two of our club's members, Martin Stepek and Robert Ostrycharz, who are also on the advisory board of the project.
Polish Scottish Heritage Project website
Polish women soldiers in Gullane
One of the great pleasures of wasting an idle hour looking at archive film is the electric jolt of surprise that causes you to fall off your chair.
In my case it was this clip of around 100 female Polish soldiers drilling somewhere in Scotland in 1943. It is silent, black and white, a bit long for a short at 11 minutes, and nothing to tell you where or why someone bothered to film them in the first place.
The first clue was in the name "Marine Hotel" at the side of the building where the women flock to at the end of the parade. Beryl Robinson's very good history of the building shows that it is now the Scottish Fire Services College and is pinpointed here by the Britain from Above project.
The Marine was requisitioned at the start of the war as was Greywalls Hotel and Archerfield House, either of which could have been the starting point for the march.
Article by Chris Holme of the History Company. Link to the full article
For There Is Hope - Book by Martin Stepek
Martin Stepek (member of The Sikorski Polish Club) has written this astonishing poem which is at once a monument, a meditation, a prayer and an epic. It is a memorial or monument, in the first place, to the fate of his Polish family in the 1940s, a fate they shared with hundreds of thousands of Polish civilians deported to the Gulag or the Asian wastes by the Soviet invaders in 1940. It is a meditation on life and death; his grandfather died as
a Resistance fighter against the Nazis, while his grandmother survived her escape from the Soviet Union by only a few months. Their children survived the war and settled in Scotland; they used to the full the chance of a long life in a peaceful country, but now they in turn are
Copies can be purchased from www.ettadunn.com or through Amazon. Our Society will also have copies available - please ask at the bar.
Paperback: 128 pages. Publisher: Fleming Publications (14 Nov 2012)
ISBN-10: 0955650739 ISBN-13: 978-0955650734
|The Kresy-Siberia Virtual Museum
The Russians deported up to 2 million Polish people from Poland, from the Kresy, the Eastern borderlands, on the orders of Stalin himself in 1940, removing people to slave labour camps, gulags, in Siberia and other parts of Eastern Asia. This site is dedicated to research, remembrance and recognition of the Polish citizens deported, imprisoned and killed by the Soviet regime during the Second World War.
|The museum is a unique, web-based, multi-media experience to commemorate and educate about the experience of these Polish Citizens during and after World War II. Once fully operational it will present stories through words, photos, paintings, maps, sounds, films and interviews for a compelling visitor experiences.
If you or a member of your familly lived through experience of Siberia please get in touch with the Foundation Kresy-Syberia to share your memories and contribute to the creation of the Kresy-Siberia Virtual Museum.
Web Site Kresy-Siberia Virtual Museum
It is indeed a big project to RESEARCH, REMEMBER and RECOGNIZE the experiences of our families and their incredibly courageous generation. Please consider giving a donation to Kresy-Siberia VM.
Thank you in advance for helping to take forward this important work which touches all of us and our families. It is up to all of us to make sure that the stories of our families and other Polish citizens who went through the war like them are never forgotten.
Stefan Wisniowski, President, KRESY-SIBERIA FOUNDATION.
UK donation form
| © 2021 The Sikorski Memorial House Scottish Charity SC046143.
Polish Social and Educational Society