“I am proud to be a British Pole”, says George Byczynski following #PolishHeritageDays – VIDEO

The Polaron citizenship company organised a webinar on the occasion of the “Polish Heritage in the UK”. George Byczynski, editor-in-chief of British Poles and founder of the British Polish Law Association, spoke with Eva Hussain from Polaron about the history of Polish immigrants in the UK, their legacy, and the future of the Polish diaspora. Here is a report of his main remarks. 

Eva Hussain began the interview by asking about how it feels to be a Pole living in London.

“It’s good to be a Pole in the UK […] There is such a fascinating history to learn about famous Poles […] coming to the UK over the centuries. […] If you are Polish, many people should be thankful for […] what your ancestors did during WWII, and what Poland did to defeat Communism with the support of the British. You immediately feel you are part of a family” –  George Byczynski explained.

“We are an almost one million-strong community in this country. Just in London, I think there are about 200,000 Poles, so you hear the Polish language pretty much everywhere. […] Paradoxically, today’s hard times with the war in Ukraine make us closer to the UK. Poland and Britain are the leaders in supporting Ukraine. So despite the difficulties […], it’s an exciting time to be a Pole in the UK” – he continued. 

George Byczynski was then asked by Eva Hussain about how he became an advocate of Polish-British relations.

„I thought I had a special mission to be here in the UK, a land of opportunity […] I strongly believed that the Polish voice in the UK should be strengthened. […] So I decided to create British Poles. […] We talk about Poles in the UK, but we also promote other incredible initiatives, both in Polish and in English,” – he explained. 

„My parents […] taught me a lot about history and being proud of one’s roots and one’s history, and how it can be used to build better relations in today’s world. I’m very proud to be Polish. I’m very proud to be a British Pole. I think I help to connect the two countries together […] I meet incredible veterans […] and they tell me ‘thank you for what you are doing, for spreading the message and telling our story” – Byczynski continued.

When asked if he initially expected the British Poles to gain such popularity, George Byczynski admitted that he “did not anticipate” the popularity of his news portal. He explained that British Poles started as a Facebook page publishing interesting memes. He later realised the growing interest of the public, who were keen on reading news about Poland and Poles in English.

When talking about the importance of the historical context of Poles in the UK and of their heritage, British Poles’ editor-in-chief emphasised the incredible contribution of Poles to the UK and the whole of Europe. The examples given included the Battle of Monte Cassino, the defence of the Isle of Wight, Krystyna Skarbek, Joseph Conrad, Ignacy Paderewski, the 303 Squadron during the Battle of England, General Władysław Anders, and the Polish cryptographers who deciphered the Enigma code among many others. 

George Byczynski further spoke about the grudge many Poles do still feel towards the UK, dating back to the disappointment of 1939 when Britain failed to help Poland to defend itself from Nazi Germany. He mentioned several differences between Brits and Poles when it comes to matters such as temper, food, and humour. 

When asked to describe his fellow countrymen (and women), he referred to Poles as “hard-working and passionate gentlemen” and Polish women as “feminine, caring, and the best mothers”. He concluded by praising the amazing efforts recently displayed by Poland and the UK in support of Ukraine.

The whole interview is available here.


Image: British Poles

Author: Sébastien Meuwissen


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