Ukraine : How Melton’s Polish community have been impacted

Members of the Polish community in Melton have spoken emotionally about the Russian invasion of Ukraine and how the crisis has brought back bad memories of the Second World War for some of the older people.

By Nick Rennie
Wednesday, 2nd March 2022, 4:28 pm
Updated Wednesday, 2nd March 2022, 4:36 pm
Rafal and Sylwia Orzech, members of the Polish community in Melton EMN-220203-093709001
Rafal and Sylwia Orzech, members of the Polish community in Melton EMN-220203-093709001

There are an estimated 1,000 people from Polish families currently living in the town, generations related to the Poles who settled in Melton after the war in a collection of barrel-shaped Nissen huts.

Many of those who came over from Poland in the 1940s were originally from a part of the country, to the east, which was annexed by Stalin at the end of the conflict and which is now part of Ukraine.

Rafal and Sylwia Orzech, who are prominent members of Melton’s Polish community, say there has been widespread shock at their Sandy Lane church and in their households.

Rafal, who is chair of The Polish Heritage Academy, a group which promotes the nation’s culture and values, told the Melton Times: “Most people in our community are very upset and scared about what is happening.

“There are quite a lot of people in the Melton with links to people living near the border with Ukraine.

“We came together at the church on Saturday to pray for Ukraine and for peace and we have organised some collections of toiletries and medicines to send to Poland for the refugees gathering there from Ukraine.”

Many Ukrainians are fleeing the main cities to seek refuge over the border, with Polish families taking them in.

The unpredictability of President Putin and the Russian regime is worrying for neighbouring nations and the people who live there.

Sylwia said: “You can’t predict what will happen, whether Poland will be the next one to be invaded and then the rest of Europe maybe?

“Where I was brought up was 70 miles from the Ukrainian border and they are panicking there.

“There is no fuel and no money in the cashpoints because people prepare for the war. It is absolutely shocking, people are really afraid.”

The crisis is particularly harrowing for older members of the community who were children living in Poland or whose parents were there during the Second World War.

“They try to avoid the subject because it makes them emotional,” added Rafal.

“They remember their parents being sent to Siberia and Russians treating them badly.

“It is unbelievable for them to see this happening again in the 21st century.”

The Polish Heritage Academy is organising collections for Ukrainian refugees in Poland and donations of toilteries, medicines and food can be taken to St Francis School, in Dalby Road, Melton, on Saturday from 9am.