A motion to Liverpool City Council that I wrote in April 2006, encouraging the city authorities to welcome new Polish residents. See end.

Draft Motions to Council 26 April 2006.

Welcoming the Polish community.

Council notes the recent horrific racist murder of a new Polish resident in Southport.

Council notes that Liverpool still needs to increase its population and have more people come to live and work here and we welcome all new residents including those from new EU members in Eastern Europe.

Council notes in particular that both Liverpool and Polish cities suffered greatly during the war and that Polish airmen were the largest non-British contingent in the RAF in the Battle of Britain, making up more than five percent of all RAF pilots. The Air Minister Sir Archibald Sinclair stated that without the Poles “our shortage of trained pilots would have made it impossible to defeat the German air force and so win the Battle”. Many of those pilots and their families stayed in the North West to contribute to long established Polish communities. Newer residents are welcome as well.

Council resolves to encourage all members, officers and partners to think of ways that they can help new residents integrate and enjoy the famously generous welcome of Liverpool people.

Proposed by:

Written 4 April 2006 for City Council meeting 26 April 2006.

A month later I was fortunate with my sister and friends to hear Lech Walesa, former Solidarity Trade Union leader, speak at a Liverpool John Moores University Roscoe lecture. 15 May. Three years ago I visited the shipyard at Gdansk which was a central point in the struggle for freedom in Eastern Europe. It was reading Neal Ascherson’s writing about Poland in the Observer (later the Independent) in my late teens that crystallised my interest in Eastern Europe and I’m privileged in the last ten years to have had the chance to work there.

Now many of the Polish residents have gone back to Poland, there are fewer Polish shops in our local streets but Polish beers and some foodstuffs have become staples in our supermarkets. There are some community events and groups, such as Liverpool Polonia, that have encouraged interaction and integration but I think it is a real shame – on both sides – that there has been little actual social and cultural interaction between many of the Polish and other Eastern European working migrants and existing residents. At least that is my experience. I hear negatives as well but think interaction and increased understanding can only be good for us and them. Plus always remembering our cultural links and great war time debt we owe.

I like Poland and have visited several times. I’ve also worked with Polish colleagues in both Ukraine and Georgia. I’ve visited Ukraine more often and recently but only more recently learnt that there are many (not just a few) long established Ukrainian communities in the UK. A reminder that our country is both more mixed and has always had immigrants who have over time integrated while retaining elements of their heritage and culture.