Guest Author - Barbara Swiech
When Poland joined European Union, and soon many borders were opened for the Poles to allow them to undertake employment, great exodus began. Great Britain was especially affected, as an English-speaking country (as this is the language with which we have in Poland at least contact from childhood). The Poles took over some of the neighborhoods, factories, shops… but they had also their place of gatherings – most of the time these were Polish churches.
But one must not forget that Polish community existed in Great Britain before the above mentioned exodus. Many of its members were those that emigrated to Great Britain during World War II period. Many of them, especially those from London area, took Fawley Court estate as the centre of their community. It is a country house situated on the banks of Thames River.
Its history is very rich and the court is listed as Grade 1 by English Heritage. But its history for Polish community started in 1953 when the court and its surroundings were purchased by Congregation of Marian Fathers to be turned into school for Polish boys.
The court – that was at that time devastated – was rebuilt with the help of donations from the Polish community overseas. The church has been founded by Stanislaw Radziwill. He was buried in the church’s crypt.
Two other people that have been buried in the surrounding of the Fawley Court were: Jozef Jarzebowski and Witus Orlowski. The first one was a priest that founded the school for Polish boys in Fawley. The latter one was a 14-year-old boy who is perceived by many as a saint. He met priest Jarzebowski in Mexico – where his family fled during the second world war. When father Jozef got sick, Witus started to pray and offered God his own life to cure him. Father Jozef miraculously got over the sickness while Witus died. His mother brought his ashes to England.
The school for boys was closed in 1986 – due to the lack of children of Polish immigrants that were supposed to get educated there. But the controversy arose when in 2008 the Congregation decided to sell the Fawley Court. They decided that there was no longer any missionary need to fulfill by the court. The Polish Community disputed that fact stressing that the court has been rebuilt and kept due to the funds that came from the community.
The controversy was so big that the case was recently brought to a High Court.