Ealing Polish Lives, exhibition until 23 January 2011

This exhibition tells the stories of different generations of Polish residents in Ealing, comparing their lives and experiences.

The invasion of Poland by Nazi Germany at the beginning of World War 2 led many Poles to flee their native land. Many came to Britain, often by long and dangerous routes. Polish pilots soon joined the RAF squadrons based at Northolt and became famous for their bravery during the Battle of Britain. In 1948 a war memorial was put up at Northolt to commemorate them and is now one of the local landmarks overlooking the A40.

The Soviet occupation of Poland after the war meant that large numbers of Poles stayed in Britain, many of them settling in Ealing and Hammersmith. Families came to join them and new generations were born here. With the entry of Poland into the EU, in 2004, a new wave of immigrants arrived and they, in turn, are settling and having families. The Polish community is making a big impact on the area. Numerous Polish shops have appeared in our high streets and queues can be seen outside the Polish churches on Sundays.

To record this important community and its influences, Ealing Local Studies Library, supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund, set up a project to interview some of the local Polish residents and find out about their histories, their experiences of Ealing and what cultural traditions they have brought with them.

The exhibition at Gunnersbury Park Museum includes text panels on different themes illustrated by quotations from the interviews. There are objects and memorabilia from families who escaped to Ealing during the war and articles from the Polish Parish chronicle and from the Polish branch of the St John Ambulance. Photographs of King George VI’s visit to Northolt, the unveiling of the war memorial and copies of documents from the Polish school set up in Ealing in 1940, have been lent courtesy of the Polish Institute and Sikorski Museum.

The exhibition runs until January 23rd 2011. Admission is free.

The museum is open every day 11am – 4pm