Initial concern turns to welcome
At first the small village of Marsworth (pop.300) was concerned at the prospect of having three times that number as part of their community, but they quickly found that the newcomers were families, many traumatised by recent events, who wanted to make a new home for themselves and were grateful to have found a refuge in Britain.
Many community activities were carried on at the Hostel; a hut was converted to a chapel and another was used as a hall with a stage. The people of Marsworth were able to attend the dances, cinema and other entertainments at the Hostel and mix with the Poles, who were keen to learn how people lived in a British community.
Article in Bucks Herald 23 December 1949
I have very fond memories of my childhood in the Polish camp in Marsworth. The people of Marsworth village were very friendly and helped in any way they could. Jan Baliszewski
The Polish men used to drink at the Red Lion – but not at the White Lion. The Poles were very nice people to get on with. Rex Jeffrey
Mr Jeffrey spend four years delivering coal locally with his father (W F Jeffrey of Wilstone) during the post-war years. Coal and coke was delivered to various coal bunkers at the camp. They delivered 16 tons of coal a week and 1 load of coke a day.
The Jeffreys also used to act as
removalists when the Poles moved to homes elsewhere,
taking their furniture. He remembers going to Berkhamsted, Hemel Hempstead and Pitstone. The last ones went from Site 12.
Having the Polish children at our school did not seem strange to me. They had come to live in our village and therefore would quite rightly go to our school. We had to get used to strange names like Lonia, Yashia and Lutek but we also learnt some Polish words – at seven years old, learn three words of Polish and you consider yourself to be fluent!
The Polish people kept themselves to themselves in many ways but once they had settled in and were able to speak more English they joined in with village life as far as school events were concerned. We were always jealous of their wonderful national costumes which were worn for dancing displays or sometimes in the school productions.
What we didn’t think about of course was that they were living in what amounted to huts, although they made them very comfortable. They must have been very difficult to keep clean and were undoubtedly very cramped. Margaret Johnson
About 1949/50 long huts with thick corrugated roofs (Nissen) were built in fields on the outskirts of Marsworth which were occupied by Polish families. Each hut was only divided by curtains; very hot in summer, bitterly cold in winter. The children taught in local schools often had to translate for their parents. We soon learned Polish names for essential foodstuffs which we provided. Eggs (aika) and duck eggs (catchika aika) they consumed in large quantities.
The cook to the priest looked after him very well. She
once gave me a very large cake for Christmas which was so rich in cream and a load of spices it lasted until nearly Easter.
We were not used to such rich cakes.
Many of the women crocheted mats and bedspreads which
were very colourful.
Men cultivated their small gardens to grow vegetables and herbs; fennel was very popular. They used more primitive garden tools than we do. Mabel Goodliffe
My father knew several of them as they all came to him
for their medicines and toiletries
[to his chemist’s shop in Tring]. Dad always said that even if their English was limited the Poles were wonderfully polite and so grateful to be living somewhere where they felt safe.
Our English neighbours were well-disposed and friendly to the camp’s residents. Young people did go to the local pubs sometimes, everyone behaved well and there was no friction that I can recall.
People felt happy and safe at Marsworth, it was a good, peaceful life. On leaving that quiet, homely place Marsworth, where we had been so happy and settled, everyone experienced a certain regret. Even years later, on meeting friends who had been at the camp, we would still speak with great affection and nostalgia about the time when we lived in the ‘barrels of laughter’.
It was such a close community, many of us stayed in touch and lived within easy reach of one another. There are still some of us living in and around Luton, Dunstable and surrounding areas, as well as our children and their families. It should be remembered that the post-war years were very hard for everyone. Britain was devastated by the war, yet found room for thousands of us who needed help and refuge. For this we were, and are, very grateful. Bronislawa Glinska
The years he (Edward Buczak) spent in Marsworth were happy ones. The photos capture his youth in Marsworth and speak of his freedom in this country. Lilian Buczak
PHOTOS OF MARSWORTH IN THE 1950s
Marsworth village shop in Vicarage Road - 1950s
House in Church Farm Lane - may have been demolished before 1948
Marsworth village, between the Red Lion and the School 1956
Vicarage Road, Marsworth - winter 1957
Vicarage Road, Marsworth - winter 1957
The lock keeper's cottage at Lock Four on the Aylesbury Arm, overlooking Sites 7 and 8 1960