Poland, to Zambia, to Warwickshire: Sanctuary in Africa

My Grandmother, Anna Sitek, standing outside her home in Mbala (Abercorn)
Image courtesy of Jan Matecki

One night in early 1940, my mother and her family we woken by Soviet soldiers. She was six at the time. They were told to gather their belongings and were marched to a nearby waiting train. They were herded into cattle wagons and exiled to Siberia, where the adults and older children were forced to work in the forests. As part of the Sikorski-Majski agreement, in mid-1942 my mother’s family were allowed to leave Siberia and they made their way to Tehran, where my grandfather joined the Polish Forces under British Command. They were one of the last Polish families to leave before Stalin went back on the agreement.

Shipped to all corners for their safety

The wives and children of the Polish men that joined the Polish Forces in Tehran were shipped to all corners of the British Commonwealth for their safety. My mother and her family were sent to Mbala in Zambia. At the time Zambia was called Northern Rhodesia and Mbala was called Abercorn.

My mother spent six formative years of her life in this part of the Commonwealth, and always speaks very fondly of her memories of growing up there as a child. They left Zambia to make their way to the UK to be reunited with my Grandfather, who came to the UK with the rest of the Polish soldiers serving under British Command after the war. On 10th June 1948, at the age of 14, my mother arrived in Southampton where, soon after, she and her family were soon finally reunited with her father in a Polish resettlement camp in Staffordshire, and where she met my father and I spent the first five wonderful years of my life.

Moving to Warwickshire

After this, we moved to Shropshire. Later in life, as I was working in the automotive industry, I moved to Warwickshire – first Wellesbourne, and then Warwick in 1998 – and have stayed here ever since.