As Diana Forster and Josef Butler explain in this interview, hundreds of thousands of people were displaced from Poland during the Second World War. They left – or were forcibly expelled – for a variety of reasons, and their journeys took them in many different directions. As a result of the changing dynamics of the war and Britain’s past colonial activities, thousands ended up settling in the UK, including many in Fife where the University of St Andrews is based.
We are grateful to both the University of St Andrews and Imperial War Museums for sharing some materials from their collections which complement the story told by Diana Forster’s new artwork ‘Somewhere to Stay‘. Our aim in curating these items is not to offer a comprehensive account of Polish exile history during and after the war; we leave that to the experts, some of whose publications you can find outlined here. Instead, we have picked out a small sample of photographs and oral testimony to sit alongside and enlarge the family history that Diana Foster’s artwork narrates. As with all the media on our website, we hope that these images, objects and accounts offer valuable insights into the variety of experiences that forced migrants face, struggle with and find solutions to, whether Polish or Syrian or Yemeni or Congolese or any other nationality, past and present.
The maps below represent just two of the many thousands of different journeys taken by people displaced from Poland during the Second World War. On the left, we can see the route taken by Anna Sokulska Forster, when she was taken prisoner by Soviet forces and deported from her home in eastern Poland in 1940,… Read More
The story told by Diana Forster in her artwork ‘Somewhere to Stay’ narrates a series of displacements, as Polish deportees were moved from one place to another, with no control over their destination. However, it also records some periods of respite from the relentless journeying, when they found refuge in unexpected places. For Diana Forster’s… Read More
Each time forced migrants cross another border, there are new challenges to wrestle with. Another language; different rules and regulations; new support systems to learn. Paying for food and shelter is a perennial challenge, not least because finding (and being granted the right to) work can prove very difficult. And even once you have secured… Read More
By necessity, forced migrants must familiarise themselves with other cultures and learn new languages, as they cross borders and put down roots in countries far from home. Knowledge exchange can flow in both directions, however, with local people in turn learning something about the places where their new neighbours have come from. Above: Advert for… Read More
As the numbers of Polish servicemen and their families increased across Britain, the University of St Andrews became one of a handful of universities that accepted Polish Army students for further education across the humanities and sciences. The Dean of the Faculty offered space for student soldiers to continue their studies at the university. Close to… Read More
Soldiers-students at the University of St Andrews engaged in a wide range of activities beyond their academic pursuits. For example, archive footage in the University’s collections shows art classes, supported by the Committee for Education for the Forces, where soldiers learnt to create woodcuts and woodcut prints: Polish soldier-students and their instructor in a woodcutting… Read More