The families of Derby’s Polish refugees, who came to Britain after WWII, are remembering their loved ones at a special exhibition hosted at the Council House this week.
It is running today (Thursday 17th November) and tomorrow from 9.30am to 4.30pm.
The exhibition will feature personal stories, maps and photographs of people who were sent to war camps and those who fought for freedom and peace and later settled in Derby.
“I think a lot of people do not realise that Polish people fought alongside the allied forces during World War II.
“The Polish Airforce’s Squadron 303, made up of 37 men, were one of the most successful allies Britain and the USA had, and many never came home.
“Sadly they were not allowed to take part in the victory parade for the fear of offending Stalin, but were later recognised for their bravery in the 1990s.
“By then, a few of the survivors settled in Derby so it was a very proud moment for our community.”
She said the Polish community has been strong in Derby for 70 years and contributed to the city in many ways.
She added: “We are proud of our heritage and want to share it at a very important time when we remember the people who lost their lives through war.”
Born and bred in Derby.
Her father Josef Hofman was taken prisoner in Siberia and condemned to 50 years of hard labour. After being freed by Russia as part of the peace treaty, Josef Hofman joined the American allies and travelled through the Middle East and fought for General Anders in Monte Cassino.
Her mother Anna was placed in a German labour camp. She was liberated by the Americans and taken to Italy where she met Josef. The couple moved to the UK and settled in Derby.
She said: “My father taught me to respect my country (England) and to work hard and to be proud of my heritage.
“Today is an opportunity to show people our pride for our parents and grandparents, for what they went through and how they found hope. It is also to celebrate the present and what we have achieved since then in Derby.”
“This exhibition is important on so many levels. War is still happening and people are still being uprooted from their lives.
“My parents were both in war camps – it was a very hard life – but afterwards they came here and had three children and built a community here in Derby.
“We want to show people that even after war there is hope. My generation and those that followed are proof of that.”
The exhibition takes place at The Council House, Corporation Street, Derby, DE1 2FS.