The Norfolk Polish Heritage Group NPHG
Polonijna Grupa z Norfolk 

John Cotton (Centre) with Polish friends Lukasz and Ula

John Cotton's Story

Why did I want to join the Norfolk Polish Heritage Group?  I do not have any Polish family and I have never been to Poland.  I do qualify (with flying colours!) for the Norfolk part, however, as I was born and have lived here practically all my life: my father was born in Norfolk as were both sets of grandparents – you get the picture.

The initial question can be answered with two simple but powerful words ‘Kindness and Friendship’.  There are several Polish employees at my present workplace and I have made many good friends.  The last two years have been difficult for me with both my parents passing away but I have enjoyed nothing but warmth, kindness and support from my colleagues and Polish friends at work.  I was bowled over by their generosity, warmth and sympathy. I have always had great admiration for a people who leave their home country and family, in many cases under extreme adversity.  They arrive here, a foreign country, and learn to speak what must be a very alien language and then be able to use it well enough to live and flourish in this country.

I believe that in the UK we owe a significant debt of gratitude to the many Poles who came to Britain before and during World War II and who made a tremendous contribution to the Allies’ efforts in combatting Nazi tyranny.  That friendly attitude has continued from those coming to this country since the end of the World War II up to the present day which and has forged a strong bond between our two peoples.

It was this that sparked my desire to take on a new challenge: to endeavour to learn Polish, which in turn led me to the Norfolk Polish Heritage Group via an article in the Eastern Evening News regarding Adrian’s father Stefan Żółkowski and Adrian’s desire to set up the group.

Until last year I had only limited knowledge of Poland;  I knew its capital city, Warsaw, its location in eastern Europe and that its football team had beaten England in Chorzow in 1973 and knocked England out of qualification for the 1974 World Cup. I also knew that Poland has a passion for Speedway producing world champions Jerzy Szezakiel in 1973 and Tomas Gollob in 2010.  All in all, not much to show for my 50-something years!

However, since making friends with Ula & Łucasz, Anna and Marek, Sylvia, Małgorzarta, Katarzyna and Anna and joining the NPHG, I have learnt much about the geography and history of this amazing country;  cities such as Szeczin, Gdansk, Wroclaw, Krakow & Leba, the stunning Tatra Mountains and the beautiful Baltic coastline.  Poland’s history and its people have shown resilience against adversity over centuries.

Lastly, I have tasted and enjoyed Polish cuisine, including bigos, pierogi and barszcz, adding to my experience of the Polish culture.

Still working on the language though, that may take some time – but I’m really enjoying the journey

March 2017


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