How it came about
Over the years a number of people had suggested that a board marking the entrance to the main Marsworth Polish Hostel site would be a good idea - both Polish people visiting Marsworth and local residents. In 2018 the Parish Council received an enquiry from visitors who had come looking for the Polish Hostel as family members had been at the site in the 1950s. They had been directed mistakenly to the 8th USAAF Memorial at the entrance to the former airfield and wrote to the Parish Council asking about a memorial for the Polish Hostel.
In October 2018 Marsworth Parish Council agreed that the possibility of having such a sign should be investigated, following a suggestion by Cllr Giles Monks that funding might be available from Aylesbury Vale District Council. The Parish Council felt it was appropriate to acknowledge the large Polish Community who had made their home in Marsworth following World War II and to inform local residents and other visitors of an almost forgotten aspect of Marsworth’s history. An enquiry was made to AVDC and in November 2018 funding to put up an information sign was approved in principle.
In January 2019 a group of three was formed to organise the content of the sign and to liaise with Polish people who were associated with the camp: Giles Monks (for the Parish Council), Sandra Costello (local Marsworth Archivist) and Tony Gabis of Pitstone (himself half Polish). A target date of early October was set for the unveiling of the sign.
Over time they agreed on the content of the sign, photographs to be included and layout. Suppliers were sought and eventually Impact Signs of Aylesbury were chosen.
The proposed site for the sign at what had been the entrance to the main section of the Hostel - Sites 8 and 7 - was at the time very unpromising, with an overgrown bank and lumps of concrete.
However, thanks to the co-operation of local farmer Simon Mead who owns the field, the area which had been the site of the Hostel’s coal storage was cleared and a fence erected.
Planning for the unveiling
Meanwhile contact had been made with Barbara Fryc of Luton who had many contacts in the Polish community. With her invaluable help a programme for the unveiling of the sign was formed. Contact was made with many Polish people in the Luton, Dunstable and Pitstone areas to ensure they were aware, while local people were kept informed through the Marsworth newsletter.
The information board was at last installed on Thursday 3rd October. The unveiling took place on Saturday 5th October 2019.
To coincide with the unveiling of the board, an exhibition was held in All Saints church to tell the story of the Polish Hostel.
Photos of the event - photos supplied by:
We would welcome more photos of the event.
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Click on any of the photos in the gallery to enlarge.
Article written for Marsworth News following the unveiling and exhibition:
Marsworth Polish Hostel remembered
By Sandra Costello
The unveiling of the commemorative board for the Marsworth Polish Hostel was a very special occasion. Some 150 people, mostly Polish but a good few local people too, gathered on Saturday 5th October at this usually unremarkable bend in Long Marston Road, now transformed.
Two days before the sign had been installed by Impact Signs of Aylesbury, but well covered. On the morning of the event this covering was replaced with a white and red cloth representing the Polish national flag; similar bunting was strung along the new fence and more Polish flags and flowers were in evidence.
A leading figure at the gathering was Barbara Fryc of Luton, in Polish national costume, who had played a major part in bringing together the many special elements of this ceremony: Father Stricharski from the Luton/Dunstable Catholic parish, an 82-year-old accordionist and his wife - in national costume; two teenage children also in costume with their teacher of the Luton Polish School carrying the national flag; and the standard bearer, holding the standard of the Polish Ex-Combatants Association.
The ceremony began with Cllr Giles Monks, representing Marsworth PC, who briefly outlined how the sign had come into being. About a year ago Polish visitors to the village had asked where the Hostel had been located and were told that while it was remembered here, there was nothing to show where it had been.
The Parish Council then decided that a commemorative board would be appropriate, and this was accomplished with a grant from AVDC. The task of organising this board and event fell to Giles, Sandra Costello as local Archivist and Tony Gabis, himself half Polish, of Pitstone.
A colourful ceremony
The board was then unveiled by the two children in costume. The accordionist played the Polish national anthem which was enthusiastically joined in with by all those present who knew the words, then Fr Strycharski blessed the sign.
Barbara Fryc spoke a few words and presented a hamper to the Mead family, in recognition of the part played by them as landowners of the site; Simon Mead had cleared the area where the sign now was and had had the fence put in place. He was unable to be present so the hamper was received by his father David Mead, who had in fact been the farmer at the time that the field was cleared of buildings and reverted to farmland.
Sandra Costello then thanked all for coming and made special reference to one present, Stan Jakubas, who had started the day in Poland and had come over especially for the event.
The Attaché Col. Malec then spoke, saying how impressed he was with the gathering and the significance of the commemorative board. He laid a wreath in honour of Polish soldiers who had fought with the Allies and saluted. Later Col Malec said that he had been some eight months in England and had never seen so much awareness of Polish identity as he had that day in Marsworth and how struck he had been by the connection between the Polish and local Marsworth people.