|News release 7th March 2011
||For immediate release
POLISH VETERANS MINISTER VISITS WAR HEROES AND PRESENTS MEDALS AT DEVON’S ‘LITTLE POLAND ’
On 3 March, the Polish Government’s Minister for Veterans Affairs, Dr Jan Ciechanowski, took time out from a five day visit to the UK to present ‘Pro Memoria’ Medals at the Service Personnel and Veterans Agency (SPVA)’s Ilford Park Polish Home (IPPH) near Newton Abbot, Devon . The home, known locally as ‘Little Poland’ cares for former members of the Polish forces who served under British command during World War II. It is the legacy of a promise made by Winston Churchill to repay the debt of gratitude owed to the Polish forces who helped us win the war. The Minister was assisted by Polish Consul-General to the UK , Mr Zaborowski.
Those presented with medals and certificates were IPPH manager Mrs Clare Thomas, Care Manager Jos Rice, Nurse Manager Linda McVeigh and care Assistant Mrs Helen Johns. Helen grew up at Ilford Park as a child and has now given over 30 years of her working life to looking after the residents.
A Medal and certificate were also presented to World War II fighter pilot and former Prisoner of War Mr Mieczyslaw Juny MBE (98), who is now Chairman of the IPPH Residents Committee. After the presentation, Dr Ciechanowski and Mr Zaborowski spent time talking to other members of staff and residents at the home.
Dr Jan Ciechanowski said:
“My award of the Pro-Memoria medal today is to give thanks to the people who take care of Polish veterans in the UK . These veterans fought for the freedom of Great Britain and Poland during the war and could not return home afterwards.”
Clare Thomas, Manager of IPPH said:
“Receiving this award was a real surprise and I’m very honoured.
I accept it on behalf of all the staff as recognition of the valuable work that they do. Our staff here work extremely hard to look after our residents, many of whom took great personal risks to defend the UK during World War II. The Minister’s visit means a lot to everyone at IPPH and I’m so pleased he was able to take the time out of his schedule to come and see us.”
Helen Johns said:
“It has been an honour to meet the Minister and accept this beautiful Medal from him. My Motherand father were residents here at Ilford Park when it was known as Stover Polish camp. Working at IPPH has enabled me to give something back to the veterans and receiving this Medal means a great deal to me”.
The silver ‘Pro Memoria’ Medal was instituted in 2005 by the Polish Government’s ‘Office for Combatants and Oppressed Individuals’. It is conferred in a single class to honour individuals who have contributed to commemorating the people who fought for the independence of Poland during and after World War II.
Notes to Editors:
1. Polish Consul-General Mr Zaborowski, Minister for Veterans Affairs - Dr Jan Ciechanowski, Mr Mieczyslaw Juny MBE
2. L-R DR Tarczynski, Linda McVeigh, Jos Rice, Mr Zaborowski, Clare Thomas, Dr Jan Ciechanowski, Helen Johns, Mr Mieczyslaw Juny MBE
3. Pro Memoria Medal and Certificate
Mr Mieczyslaw Juny MBE
1. Mr Juny was born in Lwow , Poland on 1st January 1913. At the age of 26, he took part in the Polish Campaign of 1939, escaping to Hungary before being taken a Prisoner of War. He escaped and joined Polish forces in Syria where he joined the Polish Carpathian Rifle Brigade in 1940. In 1942, he transferred to the Polish Air Force in the UK where he served until 1946 as a Flight Lieutenant. He was decommissioned in 1948. He later became deputy manager of IPPH before retirement in 1977, after which he was awarded an MBE for his service to Polish people in the UK . Mr Juny now resides at Ilford Park and is the longstanding chair of the Residents Committee.
Mrs Helen Johns
2. Helen John’s father was in the 2nd Polish Corps and fought in Europe during the Second World War. Helen was born in Trani , Italy in 1946 and came to Ilford Park (then known as Stover Camp) as a child in 1948, under the terms of the Polish Resettlement Act 1947. Helen spent 15 years at IPPH before moving to the local town of Newton Abbot with her parents and two sisters. She married a local man in 1966 and returned to IPPH in 1975 to work as an office assistant, working closely with the Occupational Therapy Unit. Prior to the new home opening in 1992, Helen was appointed as a care assistant. After spending her childhood at IPPH, she has now dedicated over 30 years of her working life to helping and caring for the Home’s residents.
Background to Ilford Park Polish Home (known locally as ‘Little Poland ’).
3. After the Second World War the majority of Polish troops who had fought alongside the western allies, and came under British Command, were not able to return to a communist dominated Poland . For many, because of political changes, their region in their homeland had become part of the Soviet-controlled territory. Many also feared being taken as political prisoners.
4. Due to the immense war efforts of the Poles, they were seen by the UK Government, and perceived in the wider community, as a 'special case'. Churchill singled the Poles out as 'special' when in a House of Commons speech he declared that:
5. “Her Majesty’s government will never forget the debt they owe to the Polish troops who have served them so valiantly and for all those who have fought under our command…”Tony Kushner and Katherine Knox (1999); Refugees in an Age of Genocide.
6. The Polish Resettlement Act was passed in 1947 (also known affectionately as the Winston Churchill promise). The Act placed upon the then Assistance Board (falling now the MOD) the responsibility for meeting the needs, either by cash allowance or maintenance in camps or hostels, of certain classes of Poles and their dependants. 45 resettlement camps were set up across Great Britain , of which Ilford Park was one. Ilford Park Polish Home (IPPH) is now the last remaining home run by the MOD under the Polish Resettlement Act 1947.
For Further Information
For further information, please contact David Johnson, Service Personnel and Veterans Agency press office, on 07717 882014.