Forgotten Force - Polish Women in the Second World War

Forgotten Force - Polish Women in the Second World War Forgotten Force is an oral history project aiming to give first-hand evidence of the past by audio and video recording stories of Polish women survivors of the Second World War who have been residing in the UK for the past seventy years.

Operating as usual

Perks of working from home. 😀While organising a pile of old newspaper cut-outs we found a  short story about Valivade  i...
11/01/2021

Perks of working from home. 😀While organising a pile of old newspaper cut-outs we found a short story about Valivade illustrated with two pictures of kids who took a long journey to India on MS Batory. Maria Wylot wrote about this voyage in her diary - you can see a postcard of MS Batory in her journal. It would be great to learn who the little ones on the photos are, so that we could put names to the faces. They all look very smart dressed as Batory's mates.

Yesterday we said goodbye to Irena Słomnicka, whose last of many journeys started from Church of Christ the King in Balh...
15/12/2020

Yesterday we said goodbye to Irena Słomnicka, whose last of many journeys started from Church of Christ the King in Balham, the very parish that she and her family helped to established. Irena's life was a path full of hope, love and adventure. It was an incredible honour for us to have met Irena and to have been able to listen to her story and present it as a part of the Forgotten Force. We are privileged to share with you the eulogy we heard at yesterday's beautiful service: Irena's granddaughter Helena's heartfelt farewell to her Babcia.

"Hello, thanks for being here. In your order of service there’s a brief history of my grandmother’s quite incredible life. I won’t repeat it now. I have a feeling that nearly everyone in this room has heard that story quite a few times before… with a lot more flourish than I could possibly do justice to. It was very important to my Babcia that people heard it, that they knew her history, her story. When I gave her a hug goodbye on Thursday 19th I had a word with her, and I let her know we’d all keep telling people about it. I’m going to have to brush up on the details before I do – as I’ve grown up she’s talked me through it so many times I’ve let it go in one ear and out the other. Sorry Babcia :)

But the thing is, though I know she has travelled through Siberia, though Uzbekistan, though Africa, the Babcia I knew is firmly based here – in Balham. At 24 Cheriton Square. She’s sitting at her treadle sewing machine in her brilliant cellar. She’s drinking a black coffee in her garden – her little jungle. She’s taking me to get our nails done at Julie’s (and loudly telling everyone in the salon that I’m her granddaughter), then stopping off so we could get McDonalds on the way home. If you’re wondering, she liked a ‘deli of the day’.

There are lots of things Babcia wanted me to learn. Like sewing: She was a very stylish lady, with a brilliant eye - she was often telling me what ‘the fashion’ was (somehow ‘the fashion’ always seemed to be that I should wear shorter skirts). She had been a talented seamstress, making beautiful clothes for me and before that for my mother (what was it, a fur trimmed white crushed velvet gown for your 21st?), and she had her shop Libra Fashions on the high road. We made one pencil skirt together when I was 14, then I discovered Topshop. She would have loved me to learn Polish: My vocabulary extends to ‘truskawki’, ‘pivo’ and ‘pilnik’ – that’s strawberry, beer and nail file – which makes for quite a short conversation. And as I’ve said, she wanted me to document her life story. But that’s been done brilliantly by various others, including Olga Topol, my father, and Irena Macielinska on her voice recorder.

But though I’ve failed her miserably in those regards, there are a few things she may not have realised she’s taught me. Independence: Babcia managed on her own for 21 years after my Dziadzio died; she cared for him for the years he was unwell, kept the house spick and span – even broke her leg falling off a ladder doing some DIY. Now, I’m 28 and living with my parents, but I’m sure the message is sinking in somewhere… Generosity: She dedicated a great deal of time to this church, in fact, and the Polish club in Balham, and as many of you will know at her birthday parties she asked for donations to charities that were important to her; oh and it was impossible to tell her you liked anything in her house without her exclaiming ‘take it!’. Resilience: She survived war, freezing cold, loss, heart attacks, all with a determined grit that I think kept her going. And love: Her family mattered to her above all else. And I don’t just mean her blood relations. She loved being around ‘young people’ - I remember my boyfriend Ian and I went to visit her in hospital a few years ago, and when we got talking to some patients in the beds nearby, Babcia stage-whispered ‘don’t talk to them, they’re so OLD’. Despite what she might tell you she had a great many visitors. Her honorary grandson Alex, Aurora, Natalie, Jessica, among others. All ostensibly volunteers, but who went on to form real lasting relationships with Irena. And then of course there’s the dog who she loved most of all. (Maia sends apologies, she couldn’t be here today).

We are so grateful to the people who showed Babcia such care and kindness at the end of her life – thank you Dorota & Marek, Mirka, Simone and Caroline.

So, from Grodno to Samarkand to Teheran to Tengeru to Balham. (Why did she settle in Balham – we could be doing this in East Africa, much better weather!) And now on somewhere else. Probably bending my grandad’s ear. She was a surprising woman. In my boyfriend words, not what you’d expect from a ‘stern Polish lady’. Loyal, determined, generous, stubborn, spirited, loving, forthright, resourceful, a fan of a loud animal print, and glasses altogether too dark to be worn indoors.

I’ll keep telling people about her.

And I will miss her very much. I already do."

The  "Windrush Poles’ listed their last country of permanent residence as Mexico. They were ‘Alien Passengers’, whilst t...
11/11/2020
The Windrush Poles: From Deportation to New Life

The "Windrush Poles’ listed their last country of permanent residence as Mexico. They were ‘Alien Passengers’, whilst the ship’s other passengers were listed as ‘British Passengers’. There was also only one adult Polish male on the ship, with the rest women and children." Worth a read if you can spare a moment.

https://culture.pl/en/article/the-windrush-poles-from-deportation-to-new-life

A symbol synonymous with post-war migration to the United Kingdom, the HMT Empire Windrush and its historic 1948 passage marked the start of an immigration boom that would change British society forever. Arriving at Tilbury Docks in Essex, hundreds of its passengers from the Caribbean seeking a new....

Thank you to our panellists Magdalena Paczocha, Michael Sagatis and Zofia Wyszomirska-Noga and all of you who joined us ...
20/09/2020

Thank you to our panellists Magdalena Paczocha, Michael Sagatis and Zofia Wyszomirska-Noga and all of you who joined us yesterday to discuss the #ForgottenForce . We talked about the importance of memory and remembering, listening to the stories that need telling and touched on a subject of visual narrative - be it a photograph, documentary or art - that supports and transforms the process of recalling into a heartfelt experience that triggers our empathy. Thank you all for tuning in and above all thank you to all of the women who shared their stories with us. ❤️

September 17th is an important date in the #ForgottenForce calendar. We mark today yet another anniversary of the Soviet...
17/09/2020

September 17th is an important date in the #ForgottenForce calendar. We mark today yet another anniversary of the Soviet invasion of Poland without a formal declaration of war. It is also the day we commemorate hundreds of thousands Polish citizens that we deported to Siberia by the Soviets. According to some sources around 55% of the deportees to Siberia and Soviet Central Asia were Polish women. Let us remember them today.

13/09/2020
Józefa's Letters (EN)

"Jòzefa's Letters" is a moving documentary by Michael Sagatis introducing a story of his great grandmother who displaced and uprooted wrote a series of letters from Kazakhstan to her family. Michael will be joining us for #HeritageOpenDays discussion on Saturday the 19th at 3 PM. You can watch his touching film
https://vimeo.com/353994141

In 1940, Józefa Bujdo writes a collection of barley legible GULAG letters in an obscure borderlands dialect. In 1972, Józefa's grandson composes…

Please take a minute to read through all the fascinating stories of women you sent us for the #HeritageOpenDays. Thank y...
12/09/2020
Force of Memory — Forgotten Force: Art & Memory

Please take a minute to read through all the fascinating stories of women you sent us for the #HeritageOpenDays. Thank you very much for sharing memories of loss, fear, love and hope. Whether they are recollections of a young child experiencing war through rationing and daily fear of bombing, a combatant, a schoolgirl whose life was disrupted by exile, all the memories are precious. You can find these tales on our 'Art and Memory' website:

Force of Memory: your storiesForgotten Force tells the stories of six remarkable women who went through times of turmoil and upheaval of the Second World War. These extraordinary women were swept by a tsunami of events affecting the lives of millions of people around the world. We asked you to share...

We are excited to share with you a short documentary by Magdalena Paczocha that was developed for #ForgottenForce: https...
11/09/2020
Forgotten Force - Polish Women in the Second World War

We are excited to share with you a short documentary by Magdalena Paczocha that was developed for #ForgottenForce: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xtSSMmyt_3E&t=1s We will be discussing the video, the project, and the stories you sent us in an online meeting on Saturday 19th September during #HeritageOpenDays Please PM if you would like to join us. We are grateful to the Polish Embassy UK and National Lottery Heritage Fund for their support.

Forgotten Force is an oral history project by the Piłsudski Institute of London giving first-hand evidence of the past by audio and video recording stories o...

Please join us for Heritage Open Days this September. We are asking for your submissions to add to Forgotten Force. Art ...
12/08/2020
Events | Heritage Open Days

Please join us for Heritage Open Days this September. We are asking for your submissions to add to Forgotten Force. Art an Memory project. We would be honoured to present your family wartime stories to commemorate all courageous women - British and Polish - who lived through the Second World War either caring for their families at home or being on the frontline of events. If you think you have a story to tell and would like to see it on Art and Memory please get in touch.
We will be talking about our project during an online discussion panel that will take place on 19th of September at 3 PM. You are invited to watch a video of #ForgottenForce project by Magdalena Paczocha that will premiere during HOD. We have asked @Michael Daniel Sagatis to present his multimedia project ‘Jozefa’s Letters’ about his great-grandmother. Magdalena Paczocha, Olga Topol and Zofia Wyszomirska Noga will join the discussion to talk about Forgotten Force and your submissions. Message us if you would like to be a part of this event.

The Forgotten Force project is kindly supported by the Polish Embassy UK and the National Lottery Heritage Fund

https://www.heritageopendays.org.uk/visiting/event/forgotten-force.-art-and-memory

◄  Back to previous page Forgotten Force. Art and Memory. London, Greater London Join us for an online talk: artists Zofia Wyszomirska-Noga and Michael Daniel Sagatis, researcher/videographer Magdalena Paczocha and curator Olga Topol discuss Forgotten Force. Art and Memory project. Send your own...

Find below a story shared kindly by Nuna Staniaszek of her extraordinary mother who took part in the Italian Campaign an...
02/06/2020

Find below a story shared kindly by Nuna Staniaszek of her extraordinary mother who took part in the Italian Campaign and celebrates today her 98th birthday. We send her our best wishes - happy birthday Tola! ❤️
'My mother Teodora (Tola) Turska, nee Styraniec, celebrates her 98th birthday on 2 June 2020. Tola was born and lived near Ustrzyki Dolne in Poland with her parents Stefan and Maria and her 2 brothers and 3 sisters. They were deported to Siberia in February 1940 where my mother worked in a saw mill. After the amnesty in 1941 the family travelled South and ended up in Uzbekistan, and from there my mother joined “Szkola Junaczek” created by General Anders which evacuated young people first to Iran and then moved to Palestine. Tola had to take 2 years off her age in order to join the school and so she is actually 2 years older than her “official” birth date. Tola and a friend eventually decided they were bored of studying while others were joining the army, so they joined up and trained with Kampania 102 to do a driving course and became an “Ochotniczka Pomocniczej Sluzby Kobiet” (PSK) in the 2nd Corps of the Polish Army in 1944. Driving Ford trucks with troops and supplies in the desert in Egypt, they reached Italy in November 1944 to support the Polish troops fighting at Monte Cassino and elsewhere on the Italian front.
Towards the end of the war, schools were set up for soldiers and volunteers of the 2nd Corps who had had their education interrupted by the war, so that they could complete their education. Tola attended the Gimnazjum in Porto San Giorgio where she was among the best pupils. Tola met Jurek Turski, an officer in the 25th Uhlans, when they were both on leave after the end of the war in September 1945, very romantically at lake Como. They were married in February 1946 in the cathedral at Cesena and spent their honeymoon in Rome. My mother fell pregnant shortly after and was in a maternity home while preparing to be transported to the UK. She and my father travelled separately to England – Tola in November 1946 in the hospital ship HMS Atlantis where my sister was born somewhere in the Bay of Biscay. When they were reunited, they lived in various camps including Wallingford and Howberry Park in the south of England until they were demobilised. My father studied accountancy and got a job in a commodities firm in the city, so they moved to London, eventually to the house in Acton in 1959, just before I was born. Tola lives there still.'

We are very excited that our new virtual exhibition Art & Memory has finally launched! The new website is part of the Fo...
15/05/2020
Forgotten Force: Art & Memory

We are very excited that our new virtual exhibition Art & Memory has finally launched! The new website is part of the Forgotten Force project and presents artworks by Zosia Noga that were inspired by our heroines' stories. The exhibition is our way to contribute to the virtual Polish Heritage Days and was kindly supported by Polish Embassy UK and National Lottery Heritage Fund.
https://artandmemory.uk/

Yesterday, on the eve of the 75th anniversary of VE Day, one of our extraordinary ladies, Irena Godyń, turned 95! On thi...
08/05/2020

Yesterday, on the eve of the 75th anniversary of VE Day, one of our extraordinary ladies, Irena Godyń, turned 95! On this day when we remember those who lost their lives in the conflict let us not forget about all exceptional people who experienced the tragedy of war and are still among us. When we called Mrs Godyń yesterday she sounded as optimistic, full of life and joyful as ever, being a true example to all of us in these difficult times. We would like to wish a happy #VEDay to our entire #ForgottenForce and to all of you ❤️

Our catalogue 'Forgotten Force. A Journey of Memory' is finally out. It was supposed to be launched during our event at ...
25/03/2020

Our catalogue 'Forgotten Force. A Journey of Memory' is finally out. It was supposed to be launched during our event at the Polish Embassy on the 20th of March, but due to the current situation we were unable to hold a meeting. We hope to celebrate our wonderful and courageous interviewees and our project later this year when, hopefully, all is back to normality.
We would like to give our heartfelt thanks to all off the amazing people that made our project and the book possible:
Irena Godyń, Danuta Gradosielska, Danuta Pniewska, Marzenna Schejbal, Irena Słomnicka and Maria Wylot. Thank you for giving us the privilege of listening to your stories. It was a life changing experience.
A big thank you to Zosia Noga - your illustrations made the book beautiful - and Clare Mulley for the heartwarming foreword and constant support. ❤️
Last but not least we would like to acknowledge National Lottery Heritage Fund for backing our project and giving us wings.
We still have plenty to do. We are working on a virtual exhibition featuring Zosia's works and on our documentary which was filmed and is currently being edited by Magdalena Paczocha. So please stay in touch and watch this space.

California 1918 - Red Cross sisters taking care of patients infected with Spanish flu.https://www.facebook.com/169301163...
13/03/2020

California 1918 - Red Cross sisters taking care of patients infected with Spanish flu.

https://www.facebook.com/169301163525421/posts/922848834837313/

1918, Kalifornia, siostry wolontariuszki z Czerwonego Krzyża opiekują się chorymi na „hiszpankę” w zaaranżowanej na tymczasowy szpital miejskiej hali. Pandemia grypy obejmie 1/3 ludności świata i będzie kosztować życie kilkudziesięciu milionów osób, głównie w sile wieku – wielokrotnie więcej niż liczba ofiar krwawej I wojny światowej. Na ziemiach polskich choroba pojawia się stosunkowo późno i nie budzi większego zainteresowania organów rodzącego się państwa. Komisja dla Zdrowia Publicznego wydaje uspokajający komunikat o potrzebie mycia rąk i unikania skupisk ludzi, wyjaśniając zarazem, że „innych środków ochronnych nie znamy i też ich pewnie szybko nie poznamy”. Podobny spokój panuje w mediach – krakowski Ilustrowany Kuryer Codzienny donosi co prawda o „epidemii influezy w coraz groźniejszej postaci”, ale dopiero na piątej stronie, wykorzystując przy tym notkę do uderzenia we władze miasta, które tolerują „zbiorowiska gnoju po pryncypalnych nawet ulicach”. Tymczasem hiszpanka w samej tylko Warszawie zabije przynajmniej 1200 osób (zarejestrowanych) i wielokrotnie więcej na prowincji (bez jakiejkolwiek ewidencji), doprowadzi też do zdziesiątkowania jeńców wojny polsko-bolszewickiej po obu stronach granicy. W obliczu rangi biegnących równolegle wydarzeń politycznych, epidemia nigdy nie zapisze się jednak szerzej w historiografii naszego kraju. Zdjęcie: Edward A. "Doc" Rogers/Oakland Public Library/domena publiczna

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Forgotten Force - Polish Women in the Second World War

Forgotten Force is an oral history project by Pilsudski Institute of London aiming to give first-hand evidence of the past by audio and video recording stories of Polish women survivors of the Second World War who have been residing in the UK for the past seventy years. Gathered stories will be archived, interpreted and presented to public by various means: a multimedia display at the Institute, talks, social media and radio broadcast. The subject is particularly important on the eve of the 80-tieth anniversary of the world war outbreak as we are at risk of losing living heritage. Women’s contribution to society, often overlooked, was paradoxically made more visible by wars usually perceived as a masculine domain. Once they left the confinements of domesticity, women became increasingly involved in struggle for freedom on the fronts of all wars but they also kept protecting their families on home fronts. Blurring the lines of gender divisions the unsung heroes served wherever required from hospitals and driving ambulances to serving in kitchens and shedding blood in trenches. We wish to reveal a host of fascinating and inspirational stories to help remember the bravery of those long forgotten. Due to the living history aspect the project is of utmost urgency. We believe that the stories we want to tell are universal and will help to piece together missing parts of wartime story and secure it for the future. The aim of this multimedia project is first and foremost to give voice to those who feel underrepresented in history, but also to create an easy available resource to support research into women, refugees and war.

The project is kindly supported by The National Lottery Heritage Fund.

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really pleased to know this project is happening - it's important and time-sensitive!