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Polish refugees on board the Windrush at Tilbury Docks 

prior to disembarking in June 1948.  My husband's family are among them.

The Windrush Poles

The Windrush Poles were a group of 66 Polish refugees who came to England after WW2 on the now famous ship, Empire Windrush. Unlike the Caribbean passengers who were also on board, the arrival of the Poles passed largely unnoticed.


Their disembarkation marked the end of a 24,000-mile odyssey, which had begun in Poland eight years earlier, in 1940. They had been wrenched from their homes at 4am by Russian soldiers, put on cattle trucks, and sent to Siberian labour camps. After two years they had escaped and travelled around the globe, finally ending up in Britain.

When I discovered that my husband’s family had been among the 66 I began to record his mother Janina's testimony as a memoir for my children. I could not have dreamed of the epic wartime story that I would uncover. 

After years of research, the memoir grew and will be published as a book as soon as I am able to finish it. Publication has been delayed due to the full time support I have needed to give my disabled son in transitioning to a new care placement. However work is now underway again. 

I have written a feature for Windrush Day 2024 which you can read here.

Jane Raca


The book won't be ready for Windrush Day 2024, but you can read a feature I have written for the day, here.

Setting Janina's memories to a backdrop of Polish and British WW2 history  has required months of research. Although this is not an academic book, I want it to be as accurate as possible: there are currently  200 references. Translation of Polish documents has been an issue, although my painful efforts have been speeded up by AI.

Janina's language is also a factor; she described tortoises as 'turtles' since she didn't know the correct English. I spent fruitless hours trying to work out which sea she was near on her travels when she ate them, whereas they lived in rocky crags inland.

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