Poles show off their lives in Britain at exhibition

As football fans slug back the beer, slurp sauerkraut soup and cheer England on at the Euro 2012 tournament in Poland a special exhibition featuring Poles in the UK opens in Bradford.

The experiences of Polish people closer to home are revealed in photographs by one of Yorkshire’s leading photographers, Tim Smith and a film by Magdalena Oczkowska.

Britain’s long established Polish community began in earnest with people displaced during the Second World War.

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Despite their vital role in the defeat of the Nazis in 1945 they were unable to return to a Soviet-controlled Poland, and became the largest group of political exiles ever to settle in Britain. The majority of Poles now living in Britain came from a free and independent Poland, leaving after the country joined the European Union in 2004, and are the biggest group of economic migrants ever to arrive in Britain. The pictures by freelance photographer Mr Smith were taken at events all over the country, and range from big celebrations attended by thousands of people to small family gatherings.

Photographs of people at work, at school, at prayer and at leisure give insights into the vibrant mix which makes up Britain’s Polish communities today.

His interest in Polish affairs began over 20 years ago when he covered the collapse of Communism in Europe. He said: “The Poles are very warm and hospitable people and at some point during the day it is likely they will bring out the vodka.”

The exhibition runs at Shipley Focus’d Gallery, in Market Square, until the end of July.