Jerzy was one of last Polish post-war generation

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Jerzy was one of last Polish post-war generation

Jerzy Kowalczyk, possibly the last surviving member of the immediate post war Polish generation to arrive in Peterborough, has died at the age of 89. Peter Waszak pays tribute.

Born on April 5, in 1932, Jerzy was fortunately too young to experience service during the Second World War.  After the war he was in Germany for five years and had served as a Polish paratrooper.  For part of 1944 the Free Polish Forces had been based in Peterborough and Stamford and some returned to the area after 1945 which may have influenced his decision to come to the UK. 

He arrived in Peterborough on May 3, 1949, and lived in a hostel for migrant workers at the former RAF Sibson near Wansford.  There were a number of Polish families in the camp and he was the first Polish Scout Master. 

After seven years at Sibson, he moved into Peterborough in December 1956.  He was one of the early members of the Polish Club at Sibson and when the hostel closed the club opened almost immediately in Eastgate Peterborough at the former Britannia Inn c1957. 

Jerzy worked for a number of years at Dow Mac Tallington making concrete railway sleepers where he recalls working a 42-hour week.  For 20 years he was at Perkins Diesel and after retirement became for 10 years the manager of the Polish Club in Stanground (and was called back several times after further retirement to sort out the clubs affairs). 

In 2012 the Peterborough Museum had an exhibition on the Peterborough Polish Community.  It included the history of the Polish Association in Peterborough.  Two ‘Video Kombataci’ recordings were made in which the then Polish Saturday School pupils interviewed Jerzy and two other Poles, Jan Czwortek and Teresa Ambroziak.  The Movie Clip lasts for about 50 minutes and is dated 23 11 2011. 

Jerzy, who was married to wife Sofia, died on February 15, 2022. He was a regular at the Polish Mass at St Peter and All Souls in Peterborough.

For more memories from Jerzy see Peterborough Local History Society Magazine No 42 October 2012, The Polish Community. 

Pictured top are Jerzy and Sofia at a Polish event in the 1990s and, below, Jerzy soon after his arrival in Peterborough in 1950.