Powerfully poignant photographs reveal incredible remains of abandoned memorabilia in neglected club for WWII Veterans
Incredible photographs of priceless Polish historical memorabilia abandoned in a neglected club for Polish WWII veterans have been published by a British explorer of abandoned ruins.
The abandoned memorabilia from the Veterans' House in Manchester, UK, include veterans' banners, Polish flags, paintings, books and documents belonging to the post-war Polish community in the city.
The hand-embroidered veterans' banners decorated with patriotic slogans would have accompanied Polish veterans at all ceremonies and are objects of immense pride to ex-combatants.
The author of the photographs, Matt, published them on his urban exploration Facebook page ‘Lost Places and Forgotten Faces’.
He told TFN: “I was in complete shock and awe with not only how many items were still in the building, but also what the items represented.
“It was incredible to see it all, almost like finding a lost treasure.”
Matt has a Polish girlfriend, so the discovery had an added interest and poignancy.
He said: “It's was shame to see the state of the place, not only the vandalism but the amount of books and religious materials still left sitting in there.
“I could see as well that much of it was still in very good condition, and needed to be salvaged and given back to the Polish community before it was lost forever.”
Matt's photographs were immediately shared by Polish internet users, eventually reaching Polish diplomatic authorities in the UK.
The Polish Consulate General in Manchester said yesterday that its staff were at the site.
Matt’s photographs have come just in time to save the abandoned items. The building has been sold to a developer and in April 2002, planning permission was granted for the re-development of the site, which includes demolition of the building.
Why the Association of Polish Veterans left all these things behind after the sale of the building remains unclear.
Matt said: “It seems that when the building closed, the community was never given the chance to retrieve these items. I feel it's not too late for them to be collected, and placed in Polish churches and museums for future generations to enjoy.”
The club had a large concert hall, games room, information office, lounge, library, restaurant, welfare offices and later a Saturday school was opened.
By 1996, the building was suffering from structural issues, resulting in one section being closed. Due to a lack of funding for maintenance, the rest of the building was sealed by the end of 2007, and has remained derelict ever since.
The club’s members were some of the 150,000 Polish soldiers and their families decided to stay on the Islands. They decided not to return to Poland for fear of repression by the communists.
The Polish Veterans’ Association was divided into regional branches and opened veterans’ clubs and Saturday schools in cities including Glasgow, Manchester, Sheffield and London.
The clubs allowed Poles to meet together, strengthen the Polish community in the UK and maintain their Polish culture.