Aleksandra Podhorodecka: Offering Polish people a helping hand
- Credit: Victoria Belton
A stalwart of Islington’s Polish community, Aleksandra Podhorodecka MBE is organising a ‘heritage day’ at the Parish of Our Lady of Czestochowa and St Casimir in Devonia Road. She speaks to the Gazette.
Aleksandra Podhorodecka MBE has played a central role in Islington’s migrant community for years through her involvement in the Polish church and education.
She and her family fled Poland for London in 1946, aged six, after her father was released from captivity in a German prisoner-of-war camp.
They joined the Parish of Our Lady of Czestochowa and St Casimir in Devonia Road, Islington. At the time, it was a hub for Polish migrants fleeing war, partly because it was affordable.
She has been involved in the church ever since, taking on various roles in the parish leadership from being a Saturday school teacher for 30 years to chairing it – and her current role as the head of the senior citizens’ club.
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This was done alongside a career in teaching.
Aleksandra was also involved in the Polish educational society for 40 years, which supports Polish language and cultural education in Britain. She was made Member of the British Empire (MBE) in 2013 for her services.
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She told the Gazette the church plays a vital role for migrants through its involvement with groups like Alcoholics Anonymous, and having a psychologist and legal advisor come in weekly.
“We help people to cope with difficulties,” she said.
Aleksandra’s church network, she added, helped her integrate into British society. She has tried to recreate the same experience for others.
“You rarely leave your country because you’re unhappy where you are,” she admitted. “You’re typically forced to do so by circumstances.
“Having such a community when you’re a newcomer is so important, and this is what we do for the Poles. This helps them become more comfortable, and resultantly better citizens and better prepared for life in England.”.
She is currently organising a “heritage day” for May 12 at the parish, aiming to bring together Poles and other community members for a celebration involving prayer, food, dancing, music and games of Polish origin.
It marks the centenary of Poland’s independence after the First World War.
Aleksandra says events like this are a great way to show appreciation to Islington residents and wants everyone to feel welcome.