Polish War Veteran Celebrates 101st Birthday In UK
Many Poles living in the UK are new or fairly new to the country, often as a result of migration when both countries are part of the EU. But that certainly does not apply to Isle of Wight resident Otton Hulacki.
Colonel Hulacki has just celebrated his 101st birthday on the island, having moved to the UK shortly after the Second World War. After settling he married, helped establish a Polish school in Portsmouth and also worked on setting up a memorial at the city’s cemetery for the UK’s first wave of Polish migrants, the Isle of Wight County Press reports.
No doubt his need for a Polish interpreter was greater then than now, as unlike Poles who came to the UK after their country fell in 1939 and fought with the British, Col Hulacki was initially a member of the Polish resistance and was captured by the Soviets before being sent to a detention camp in Kazakhstan.
However, after being freed by the Soviets later in the war he fought in Italy and attained the rank of Colonel. Once the war ended, however, he moved to England rather than returning to Poland, which by then was under Communist rule.
His time on the Isle of Wight he helped establish the Friends of the ORP Blyskawicka Society, commemorating a Polish warship that helped protect Cowes during the Blitz.
Commenting on Col Hulacki’s great age, Poland’s ambassador to the UK Piotr Wilczek said: “Col Hulacki has been instrumental in campaigning to keep alive Polish heritage and values in the UK post-war and is an integral part of our community.”
Needless to say, much has changed in the Colonel’s time in the UK, not least the size of the Polish community. According to UK government data, Polish has been the largest non-British nationality of UK residents since 2007, with an estimated 682,000 Polish-born residents living in Britain in June 2021.