Death – Documentary photography by Czesław Siegieda


Documentary photographer Czesław Siegieda recorded life in a Polish community in England from 1970 to the 1980s. The Poles of my parents’ generation held a strong sense of being part of a community, and had faith in life after death. Whenever someone died, it would become even more evident to them that one day they will die too. They acknowledged death as something natural and to be expected, especially in old age. For this reason, death was often part of a daily discourse.

My parents mentioned death on various occasions. They reminded us that we could enjoy health, by the grace of God, but there would come a time for all of us to depart. The older they grew, the more often they touched upon that topic as if they were getting ready for that journey to the other side. They instructed us what we should do, once they are gone. They talked about it as if it were something ordinary.
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Katyń Memorial at Gunnersbury Cemetery, Chiswick, England – Documentary photography by Czesław Siegieda


Documentary photographer Czesław Siegieda recorded life in a Polish community in England from 1970 to the 1980s. Bearing the date 1940 and dedicated on 18 September 1976, this Katyń memorial was the first in the world. It was erected in the face of opposition from both the Soviet and English governments.

During the period of the Cold War, successive British governments objected to plans by the UK’s Polish community to build a major monument to commemorate the massacre. The Soviet Union did not want Katyń to be remembered, and put pressure on Britain to prevent its creation. As a result, the construction of the Katyń memorial was delayed for many years. After the local community had finally secured the right to build the memorial, no official representative from either government was present at the opening ceremony in Gunnersbury Cemetery, London (although some Members of Parliament did attend the event unofficially).

The Katyń massacre (“zbrodnia katyńska”) was the mass murder of
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Newark Cemetery, England – Documentary photography by Czesław Siegieda


Documentary photographer Czesław Siegieda recorded life in a Polish community in England from 1970 to the 1980s. Each year, on the last Sunday in October, Polish Airmen who gave their lives in the 2nd World War are remembered at the All Souls ceremony in Newark, England. The service of remembrance is organised by the Polish Air Force Association and Newark Town Council.

During the Second World War there were a number of R.A.F. stations within a few miles of Newark, from many of which operated squadrons of the Polish Air Force. A special plot was set aside in Newark Cemetery for R.A.F. burials and this is now the war graves plot, where all but ten of the 90 Commonwealth and all of the 397 Polish burials were made. The memorial cross with the words – For Freedom – remembers their sacrifice..

A memorial cross to the Polish airmen buried here was erected in the plot and was unveiled in 1941 by President Raczkiewicz, ex-President of the Polish Republic and head of the war time Polish
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Fawley Court – Documentary photography by Czesław Siegieda


Documentary photographer Czesław Siegieda recorded life in a Polish community in England from 1970 to the 1980s. Fawley Court is a country house near Henley on Thames. In 1953 it was bought by the Marian Fathers, a Polish clerical congregation, to be used as a boarding school for boys of Polish descent. In its heyday, Fawley Court had up to 140 boys between the ages of 10 and 16.

Every Whit Monday, Poles from all over the UK gathered in the grounds for a religious service followed by social events. The school closed in 1986.
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St Briavels Polish Scout House – Documentary photography by Czesław Siegieda


Documentary photographer Czesław Siegieda recorded life in a Polish community in England from 1970 to the 1980s. In 1952, Polish scouts from the ‘Szczecin’ region (a scout group based in south west England) first camped in the fields of the Wye Valley. Just 3 years later, a camp for 11 cubs and brownies took place at Prospect Cottage, near St Briavels.

The following year, a larger building was needed to accommodate the cubs and brownies and a local farmer let them use a building called Woodside House – now the Polish Scout House. American forces who were in the process of dismantling their facilities in Wye valley and returning home, kindly offered to transport camping equipment, beds and other materials to the new site to enable it to be used.

In 1961 the site and buildings were put up for sale by the owner. The UK Polish Scouting Association did not have the necessary funds to buy the facility. Fortunately, a number of people who recognised the huge potential this site offered
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Laxton Hall – Documentary photography by Czesław Siegieda


Documentary photographer Czesław Siegieda recorded life in a Polish community in England from 1970 to the 1980s. Laxton Hall is a Grade II* listed building located between Laxton and Corby, Northamptonshire and is a residential care home for the Polish community.

Since the 1970s, Corpus Christi events have been held at Laxton Hall where a mass usually takes place in the afternoon and then followed by a procession in the grounds. These annual gatherings had not only a religious significance, but were also important socially for Poles in England.
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Pitsford Hall – Documentary photography by Czesław Siegieda


Documentary photographer Czesław Siegieda recorded life in a Polish community in England from 1970 to the 1980s. Each year around Whitsun (the eighth Sunday after Easter), pilgrimages were organised from most Polish communities throughout the UK to two Polish boarding schools, one at Pitsford Hall for Girls, Northamptonshire, and the other at Fawley Court for Boys, near Henley on Thames. These annual gatherings had not only a religious significance, but were also important socially.

Pitsford Hall was a private residence and estate until it was sold to the Polish Order of the Holy Family of Nazareth, which set up the Holy Family of Nazareth Convent School in 1947, run by the Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth, as a Polish school for emigrant children.

The school closed in 1984 and the estate was subsequently sold to the Northamptonshire Independent Grammar School Charity Trust Ltd, which opened a new school in September 1989, the Northamptonshire Grammar School (now Pitsford
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