ULA SZWABIAK'S  PERSONAL RECOLLECTIONS of life in the camp.

 

My father Wiktor Szwabiak  was sergeant in General Anders Army (5 KDP) Like most Polish soldiers that survived the WW2, he did not talk a lot about  deportations and the hardships of war.  He was very patriotic, and although we could not return to Poland he  ensured that I was brought up in true Polish spirit.

Wiktor Szwabiak marching through Milan caring the banner.

 

Polish soldiers in Milan1946

Ula and her mother Olga in Tilshead 1946
 

In 1946 my mother  and I travelled by train from Italy to join  my father who left Italy earlier with  the  Polish Army. We  were placed   in Tilshead camp in Wiltshire, were we stayed  briefly before moving on to Checkendon in Oxfordshire and Middlezoy in Somerset.  In 1948 my father was demobilised from the army and we moved again this time as a family to  Springhill Lodges camp in Gloucestershire.  This become our home for the next ten years.

 

Our home in Checkendon 1947 one of Ula's first home in England

Olga Szwabiak  by her  Nissen hut

Ula on he first trice

 

Springhill camp lay in a bowl shaped area in the Cotswolds at the cross roads of the A44 and the , B4081. Broadway was about 2 miles away, Chipping Campden 2.5 and Moreton in Marsh about 5 miles from the camp. Snowhill Manor, still a tourist attraction now, lay about 2 miles  the other way. An idyllic, beautiful setting with honey coloured houses and farms all around.

 

We were one of the first families to arrive in Springhill,  the camp was initially used as a military camp holding German soldiers as prisoners of war utilising polish soldiers as guards.  Although there were no prisoners left, I remembers the top part of the camp being fenced off with barbed wire where, I was told, the prisoners had been housed before being repatriated.   

 

From approx 1948 onwards the camp was filling up with wives and children of the polish soldiers. All families were housed in either rooms in barracks or Nissen huts. A family of three was allocated one room in a barrack in the top part of the camp next to a larch wood. I was about 6 or 7 years old at the time and  still remember the scent of the larch trees and being afraid of what seemed like a large dark forest. We lived in this one room for about a few  years before we were then given accommodation, consisting of 3 rooms in a barrack near the main gate.

 

 

At the beginning there was a communal canteen where we all had our meals, the National Assistance Board who run the camp, employed people from the camp  as cooks and auxiliary staff  in the kitchens.

 

In time communal feeding was fazed out as cookers were installed in the barracks for anyone who wanted to cook for themselves. Eventually everyone had their own cooking facilities. After 4 years or so, as more space became available, they were allocated three rooms in a barrack close to the main gate.

Danusia  Aleksandrowicz Ula Szwabiak and unknown girl, with barracks and Nissen Huts in the background 1949

 

Some 3 miles away was Northwick Park camp.  The residents of the two camps knew each other well, you could walk from one camp to the other in less than an hour, and they went to each other’s dances and other social events.  The camps’ children shared the primary school which was located first in Springhill and later moved to Northwick. This is where Zosia Biegus, nee Hartman and I first met and  kept in touch to this day. Once our English was good enough to go to mainstream English schools we were sent to local  primary schools in Blockley and Chipping Campden. In the early 1950s teenaged  youth were sent to Polish Boarding Schools coming home to see their families only in holiday times. I remember great excitement in the camp when the buses bringing home the teenagers from their schools arrived and also the sad departures when the holidays ended. By the time I became a teenager the Polish schools were closed and my generation were sent to local secondary and grammar schools in Moreton in Marsh and Chipping Campden. boarding schools, coming home to their families for the holidays. There used to be great excitement to meet the buses both for departures and arrivals.

 

My First Communion

 

Danusia Remizo Ula Szwabiak Marysia Flondra Unknown.

Ula Szwabiak Krysia Stawiarska,

and Serafin Potoczny OFM.

MY FIRST HOLY COMMUNION 1952 Marian Zubek, Jan Szyszkiewicz ME Ula Szwabiak Krysia Stawiarska, Stasio Chołaj, Wladek Wiechec, with Fr. Serafin Potoczny OFM.

 
A bicycle was a must for a teenager in that remote setting and I had her own faithful steed which took me over hill and dale in those carefree days.  The bike had been assembled by my father, Wiktor Szwabiak, from parts salvaged from the tip.  A service much appreciated not just by me but also by many of Springhill’s children who relied on my father “Pan Szwabiak”, the fixer extraordinaire, to mend their bikes and toys.
 

Ula out side her home in Springhill 1956

Some of the younger children with Ula and her bike about1952

Krysia Stawiarska, Ewa Demitrów and Me, Ula Szwabiak with our favourite toy.

 

A number of dignitaries visited the camp and  I particularly remembers a cold day in 1953 when, dressed in her national costume and with a welcoming bouquet of flowers in my hand, we waited for the arrival of gen. Władysław Anders.  I remembers presenting him with a bouquet of flowers before he was formally greeted by a senior official from the camp.

 

General Anders in Springhill 1953

 

Ula proudly displaying  her new Chipping Camden Grammar school uniform.

Ula  with her English friends Janet Lock, daughter of Mr. Lock headmaster of Moreton in Marsh Secondary School and Stella Kay daughter of Mr Kay who had the chemist shop in Blockley

 
I took part in all the National day and church celebrations and in most of the plays  that Mrs. Grosicka produced in the camp and later in Leicester, were many families and  she moved to.
 

It was a lovely time and place to grow up and as some of us have met up, we still say it never rained at Springhill, it snowed - proper snow - a good 2-3 feet, but otherwise we always had sunshine. Ah! the memories of children. No worries, just play, fun, laughter and sunshine

 
We stayed in Springhill  until it was announced that the camp would be closing down. This must have been 1957, parents bought a house in Leicester and we  moved tout of the camp  but a lot of people stayed and they were moved to another camp, Northwick Park, which was about 4 miles away.
 
Many thanks to Ula Turowicz 'nee' Szwabiak for her thoughts and photos.
 
 
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