MEMORIAL: Anthony Kendall unveils the plaque at the BlackShaw Moor campsite. Picture: Leanne Bagnall
A MEMORIAL to honour Polish refugees of the Second World War has been unveiled at a campsite.
The plaque is a tribute to the country’s soldiers who fought alongside the British Army and were unable to return home when Stalin’s Russia occupied Polish territory.
Around 18 months ago, Anthony and Sheila Kendall, who work at Blackshaw Moor Caravan Club, started working with Zosia (Sophie) Biegus and Zbyszek (Tony) Hryciuk, two members of the Polish community in Leek, to uncover the history of the site.
Camp warden Mr Kendall said: “This all started last year when Tony told us that he and his family had lived here in the 1960s. From the club’s point of view, I see it as a great opportunity for us to present the site in a different light.
“This unveiling is a chance for old friends to catch up with each other – in some cases members have some historical connections.”
He said there were 195,000 Polish soldiers left homeless after the war.
“The soldiers had to find homes and they were given the right to settle in this country,” Mr Kendall said.
“Blackshaw Moor housed many after 1946 and camps grew into communities and people were born here and the father’s worked in the local area.
“The last inhabitants left in 1964 and the site was left empty until the Caravan Club bought it in 1979.
“I would like to thank the Caravan Club for funding the project and for Nettlebank for donating the stone.”
The unveiling of the plaque event was attended by many Polish people and relatives.
Damusia Burgess, of Cheddleton, whose parents were both Polish, said: “When my mother was about to give birth to me she had to be taken as far as possible on a sledge to Leek hospital because of the snow. When the road got better, she was picked up by an ambulance.
“My mother said we always had to respect English tradition, although Poland was their home. We had a wonderful time on the camp and a lovely childhood. Dad arranged visits to football matches and we had dances and a social club.
“Dad was wounded in the war and had shrapnel in his back, but he managed to work all his life.”
Another visitor to the ceremony was Ingrid Gwilliams, who now lives in the Peak Forest.
The 60-year-old said: “I was born in hut 51B on Camp Two here in Blackshaw Moor.
“My father was Yugoslavian. This was an absolutely wonderful camp to live in. We had freedom. The hut was beautiful and warm and we had plenty of food.
“It is a great idea to have a plaque installed with memories of the site.”
Christina Milaszkiewicz, aged 66, of Leek, said: “My parents were Polish refugees, but I am British by birth.
“I lived on Camp One. We thought it was wonderful. There was a nursery school, chapel and shop on the site.
“I think it is fantastic to have a plaque erected. People came here with nothing and put in barracks. Now we have a historical memorial.”