COMMEMORATIONS took place at the weekend to remember Polish soldiers who fought during the November Uprising of 1830 – who were warmly embraced by the people of Portsmouth.
The conflict, also dubbed the Polish-Russian War, saw more than 100,000 people from both sides killed or wounded after an armed rebellion in partitioned Poland.
Four years later, 212 Polish uprising soldiers were welcomed into Portsmouth when they sailed into the harbour on February 14, sheltering from a storm while travelling to the USA.
They embraced life in the city and went on to start Polish-English families in what is believed to be the first Polish emigration into Great Britain.
Relatives of those soldiers were among those in attendance at the All Souls’ Day commemorations at the Polish November Uprising War Memorial at Kingston Cemetery, Portsmouth on Sunday.
The poignant fixture, which also celebrated the centenary of Poland gaining independence in 1918, saw a raft of dignitaries paying their respects.
Portsmouth’s deputy lord mayor David Fuller, Hilsea councillor Frank Jonas, Polish veteran lieutenant colonel Otton Hulacki, as well as figures from the D-Day Story museum, Polish schools in Portsmouth and Southampton and the Polish community all made appearances.
Councillor Fuller, who attended the service despite being on crutches after falling down stairs, said: ‘It is the first time I have been here for this event and what stood out for me is the community support and how the children have been so engaged by it all.
‘It’s good to remember the people and what they went through and our shared history. It’s that time of year where it is important to remember the sacrifices people made.’
He added: ‘I’d like to thank the organisers for keeping the memories alive and the city council will do whatever it can to help.’
Candles were lit, wreaths and flowers were laid at the memorial and the national anthems of both Poland and Britain were sung as a show of solidarity.
Leader of Portsmouth City Council, Gerald Vernon Jackson added: ‘It’s really important to remember the links between Portsmouth and the Polish people who first came over here in 1834.
‘We have a long shared history of around 180 years so it is vital this is not forgotten. The Polish community fought alongside us during the Second World War and were hugely important in the Battle of Britain.
‘It’s only right to remember those people who helped us preserve our way of life.’