Polish Social Centre - a short history.
The Polish Social Centre ?White Eagle Club?, is located near the Bury Town centre at Back East Street serving not only Polish Community in Bury and surrounding area but also attracting members from local English population and other minorities.
Many of you readers may have come in contact with Polish people socially, attending on some occasion your friends a wedding, birthday party, some other anniversary, leisure activity or fund raising event held at the Polish Social Centre and wondered why such club exists and for what purpose.
After World War Two and events at Yalta, when Poland fell under communist dictatorship and Russian domination, servicemen and women in Allied Polish Forces found themselves with no home to go to for the well-founded fear of persecution and oppression, away from families and homeland, as exiles. They have settled in many free democratic countries around the world including United Kingdom.
Learning the English language and getting started in a new life, work or business was not easily achieved and it took time. In that period, all over the UK in nearly every city or town new Polish ex-servicemen clubs, churches and social centres were founded to cater for the need of social contact, friendly chat over a coffee or drink, or a meal, keep national identity and exchange of information with each other as well as to keep abreast of what was going back in Poland where their families and friends lived.
The first main group of Poles came to Bury September 1946 on a detachment of the Polish Army Second Corps to guard the Army barracks situated at Lowercroft. After demobilization, some of the troops decided to stay joined by the main influx of Poles into Bury during 1948. Many of the disabled ex-servicemen were placed in ?Remploy Hostel?, Radcliffe attached to a furniture manufacturing factory. Able bodied ex-servicemen found either private accommodation or into their new homes having obtained work in cotton mills, brickworks, quarries, tanneries or paper mills.
During 1948, the families of many ex-servicemen began to arrive in Bury from various camps and orphanages scattered over Africa, India and Europe predominately young ranging 10 ? 18 yeas of age.
In 1949 permission was granted by the Bishop of Salford to celebrate Mass at the Chapel of Bury Convent by the Polish priest following meeting of all Poles resident in Bury who formed earlier Self-help Committee to help these with difficulties with finding accommodation and employment.
In 1958 there were number of wives with older children began to arrive from Poland after agreement was reached between British Government and Polish Communist Government to allow family reunification.
As the number of Poles in Bury increased, the lack of Community Centre became keenly felt. Polish community in Bury held general meeting 1959 with view to establish Polish Community Centre to cater to the needs.
Polish community in Bury is small compared to neighbouring Manchester the Club was founded relatively late in 1961 following the purchase by a general subscription of the dilapidated British Legion Club, Back East Street. After many months of hard, unpaid and dedicated work on building repairs and internal renovations. Polish Social Centre was formally opened in 1962. From that time life of the Polish Community began to revolve round the ?Polish Club?. As the Polish Club grew in popularity not only with the Poles but with the local British and other ethnic population loans and debts were paid and Club began to prosper. It became apparent that it was far too small even with later additional extensions to meet the needs of the community. Decision was made to build new premises in the grounds. Following completion of the new building in 1969 and formal dedication by the Bishop S Wesoly the old building was demolished to make way for the large car park with all the activities moved into new modern premises. Polish Clubs popularity grew among all the local inhabitants and Poles alike.
From early 1970?s Polish Social Centre started slow process of decline, neglect and loss of revenue. New dynamic Committee was elected 1977 during the AGM comprising of mainly second generation young Poles under led by E Fiedziuk who undertook task of turning club around financially and modernising interior over period of 3 years attracting large membership from English and other minorities. Due to successful turnaround it was found that the Polish Social Centre was too small for its needs. Plans were drawn and approved for the extension on the ground floor. Building work was completed 1979 however the final interior work and refurbishment was completed extension formally opened in 1982.
Vacated top floor with direct access from the street has been converted to serve Polish community as RC Chapel following the closure of the Chapel at Holy Cross Convent used for Services by Polish churchgoers for many years. Now at dedicated RC Chapel regular services are taking place throughout the week and are well attended.
Regretfully most of the original founder members have either moved out or passed away leaving legacy to their children and grandchildren and to the younger generation of Poles who came to work and many of them have now settled permanently. Polish Social Centre is in a way memorial to the older generation, many of them passed away, to their vision, determination, dedication and hard voluntary work for the benefit of the Polish community which also serves community at large. New changing situations, economic problems, recession are one of the challenges in these difficult times to remain open to continue serving now 3rd generation Poles and the members from other communities.
It has to be said with sadness that most of 2nd and 3rd generation Poles fail to appreciate their parents and grandparents tremendous effort, determination, their hard work and input they made to have their own centre that gels Polish community together, be independent of others, to maintain its proud history and identity, place where they can meet socially and can attend Services in their own Chapel. They think that somehow it will keep running on its own and will not require any input to remain open. This situation is not unique to Bury, there are other towns and cities where Polish Social Clubs and Centres closed and Poles and their descendants found to their own cost what they have lost due to lack of foresight and have nothing of value to pass to their own children.
One of the original founders and organisers of the Polish Social Centre and still serving as the Chairman for 2010/11 is Mr. M Tomaszewski who served longer than any other Chairman in the Club?s history. It has to be said that many other members of the Polish community in Bury has served for years giving up their valuable time for the benefit of all and still do to this day despite their frailty and advanced years. It is encouraging that some of the young Poles who have arriving recently from Poland having settled in Bury are starting to take active role by joining committees
|Past elected Chairmen:|
|M B Tomaszewski||1961-1965, 1969 -1972, 1979 -1984, 1988 -2016, now Honorary Chairman for Life|
|E Fiedziuk||1977-1979, 1984 -1987, 2016-2018|
Polish Social Centre caters for its members, pensioners, has active day centre, sporting activities take place. In the past it boasted renown in the North West choir, excellent Sunday League football teams, men?s and ladies netball teams, and table tennis teams winning promotions and cups. It is also extremely important centre for the religious, cultural and social activities of the Polish Community.
In addition the club always helped financially and provided facilities for charities for fund raising events such as cancer research, children in need, famine aid, medical aid and many other worthwhile events. Beside the above mentioned The Polish Social Centre serves locals as a club, organizes events, has weddings, christenings and birthday and retirement parties in order to be financially viable since it does not dependant on any grants or subsidies. Other minorities and organizations are well catered for and are welcome making valuable contribution to the ever growing costs of the upkeep and maintenance.
It boasts large dance floor second largest after Bury Town Hall Elizabethan Suit, has good size kitchen facilities, stage, bar and in comfortable surroundings members lounge. It has all the facilities and good access including for the disabled as well as the large free members car park. Its spacious capacity can cater up to 200 people for the weddings, christenings, social and charitable fund raising events. In-house catering is available by the professional chefs and staff at reasonable prices or outside caterers can be brought in for those requiring refreshments, buffet or a-la carte meals.
Polish Social Centre became integral part in the life of Bury MBC community and Poles are proud of that. Membership is mandatory to those who wish to enjoy in full its privileges and facilities, in line with other clubs and associations.