Following Stalin’s 1942 directive, the Poles inhabiting current eastern Ukraine were displaced from their homes and taken into the heart of the Siberia. After the Polish Army had been created under general Anders’ command, it gave thousands of Poles an opportunity and means to leave the USSR. After an arduous journey through North Africa, they found shelter in an old Podington military camp near Bedford once used by the US Army. They lived there in huge barrels until demobilisation was declared. The majority stayed in Bedford. They found work in local brickworks that the town was famous for and ultimately found a place to live. Their longing for the motherland however, never stopped.
This desire pronounced by the inability to return to Poland, where they would be persecuted by the Soviet Regime. In 1962, these war expats raised funds and purchased the building at 18-20 Ashburnham Road which is now called the Polish House.
The entire elite of the Bedford City Councillors gathered at the opening ceremony of this Polish community centre. The cutting of the ribbon was done by General Wladyslaw Anders, who congratulated the organizers on their great achievement, which, as he said, “is one of the manifestations of our bearing, our will to persevere in Polishness.
Holding back his apparent affection, the then mayor, Mr. Birdwhistle reminded about the “unforgettable, and forever obliging debt towards the Polish soldier and the Polish nation, from the time when the threat of captivity and catastrophe loomed over England and the world.”
In September 2018, the new management puts the Polish House back on the Bedford scene as The New Polish House (or simply The Station House, or The Terminal). Their goal is to welcome the people arriving in Bedford and to create a stopping place for reflection, mutual respect and support in the middle of a friendly community.
It is not only the name that changed. Thanks to our team of big-hearted volunteers, the House’s interiors are getting more and more beautiful combining Polish traditional with modern style. Although much work still remains to be done, we are convinced that the spirit of this place will survive to unite the generations to come and propagate our cultural achievements.
By continuing the vision of the original founders of the Polish House, we aim to keep our Community Centre open to diversity and accessible to all, regardless of their language, creed or the depth of their wallets.