As a councillor for Ravenscourt Park Ward I am very proud to represent POSK, the Polish Social and Cultural Association’s centre in King Street. I was appalled to discover today that the building has been attacked with racist graffiti.
The attack may have been prompted by the referendum result. There has been a thriving Polish community making a wonderful contribution to west London for many years before the UK joined the European Union. It will continue for many years after we have left.
The vote on Thursday by the British people was not a vote for bigotry. Any bigot who took comfort from the result and felt offered any kind of endorsement of their hatred should be swiftly disabused of any such misunderstanding. I wrote yesterday that any suggestion that those EU nationals settled here would be required to leave as a result of Brexit was the most pernicious nonsense. I was pleased that Andrew Slaughter, the Labour MP for Hammersmith, today acknowledged:
“EU citizens will always be welcome here.”
The Poles in London have a proud history of fighting the totalitarian forces of Nazism and Communism. The Polish Government in Exile was established in London in 1940. During the Battle of Britain it is often said that we stood alone. Not exactly. 35,000 Polish airmen, soldiers and sailors had made their way to Britain. That included 1,600 Polish pilots. The 303 Polish Squadron was the highest-scoring Polish RAF unit in the Battle of Britain.
There wasn’t too much backchat about “Polish immigrants” at the time. Now the grandchildren of these heroes are left to deal with clearing away graffiti.
After the war came the dark decades of Soviet oppression. After the Katyn massacre in 1940 of 22,000 Poles by the Soviets, this meant the Polish Government had to remain in exile. A bitter disappointment to those who had fought bravely alongside us.
The Polish Centre was founded in 1967, at the initiative of Polish engineer, Roman Wajda. It houses the Library of Poland in London, which was founded in 1942.
I would urge local residents to sample the traditional Polish cuisine on offer in its restaurant. Or to try the Jazz Bar.