Poland aims to curb xenophobia in UK with cultural festival
In the wake of Brexit, Poles have been targeted with xenophobia and violence in the UK. The Polish Embassy in London has launched a new cultural event aimed at promoting understanding between Poles and Brits.
Poland's government has announced that a new cultural initiative, Polish Heritage Day, will take place in various locations in the UK on May 6-7, 2017 - the weekend after Poland's Constitution Day.
"Celebrations will take the form of numerous events, shows, picnics, and lectures organized by the Polish diaspora in cooperation with local councils, Polish Saturday schools, and Polish-language Roman Catholic parishes," said a Polish government statement.
"I hope this event will encourage Polish and British people to celebrate together because we should know each other better and the best way of integration is to know more about our neighbors," Arkady Rzegocki, Poland's ambassador to the UK, told AFP about the initiative.
Poles are the largest minority community in the UK with around 850,000 members, however they have been victims of rising xenophobia and violence since the June 2016 Brexit vote. After a Polish man, Arkadiusz Jóźwik, was beaten to death in Harlow in August last year, Rzegocki, as quoted in "The Guardian," expressed fear of ongoing attacks. "Unfortunately there is much more after Brexit. We have found about 15 or 16 such situations."
Polish Heritage Day is one means to limit such tensions by promoting better intercultural understanding.
The event's red-and-white checkered symbol is based on one painted on Polish airplanes during the Battle of Britain in 1940 - Polish pilots made up the second-largest contingent of Allied fighters during the campaign. In referencing the fact that the Polish community in the UK dates back to this wartime collaboration and includes a number of anti-communist exiles, the Polish Heritage Day logo aims to promote a long-lasting connection between the two nations that goes beyond the migration wave following Poland’s accession to the EU in 2004.
"A number of city councils have already expressed their support for the project by offering patronage and raising the white-and-red flags on town halls during the festival as a gesture of openness and symbol of sympathy," stated the Polish government.
Depending on how Britain's exit from the EU is negotiated, the Polish government is hoping that its citizens do not face too much uncertainty in terms of their future right to work and live in the UK.
"Freedom of movement is very important for Poles. I hope that our governments - the EU and the UK - will remember that during the negotiations," Rzegocki told AFP.