Friday, April 08, 2005

JP2 Pt3

JP2 #7
Originally uploaded by StefZ.

One of the other distinguishing features of the Polish kids at school was that their parents were sometimes quite old. When my Dad was in his early forties, the Polish kids Dads were in their early to mid fifties. Again, it took a while for the penny to drop.

No matter how cute their wives or girlfriends were a lot of the Poles in England took a while before they got round to starting families.

They had their reasons.

Without rehashing a huge swathe of history, many of the Poles who fetched up in England after the War had already experienced more than a lifetime's worth of hardship. Fleeing the German invasion in 1939 many Poles made their way to France then had to flee all over again when France was invaded. Some were captured by the Russians in 1939 and released to the British in 1941. Poles fought and died in the Battle of Britain, at Cassino, at Normandy, at Arnhem and dozens of other battlefields.

And, at the end of it all, the survivors did not have a home to go to. The Russians had taken over, as per an agreement with the British and the Americans. In the run-up to the Russian take over, all sorts of dodgy deals and atrocities had been committed. The massacre at Katyn, the conveniently accidental plane crash of the Polish Prime Minster in exile, the Russians sitting back and watching the Polish Home Army being slaughtered on the other side of the Vistula by the Germans in Warsaw. Yup, after six years of fighting for the Allied cause the Poles got screwed royally.

Curiously, few English history books or commentators remind us that the British joined the war supposedly to help out Poland, nor do those books or commentators mention that there were fewer European democracies left at the end of the war than at the start.

I do not think the Poles have forgotten. Whilst we are at it I do not think the Czechs or the Slovaks have forgotten that the British turned their country over to the Germans in 1938 either. I am pretty sure of this because I have sat in the company of drunk Poles, Czechs and Slovaks when the subject of conversation has drifted to these matters.

Yup, my country shat on their countries big time. True, this all happened 50 or more years ago but the residents of those countries and their exiles have been living with the consequences for much of that time.

Some of them are, understandably, a bit chippy ...

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