Krystyna Szopis

Born: 6th February 1931

Lwow, Poland

Date of interview: 16th May 2006

Map showing where Krystyna Szopis came from

Who told you you were going to England?

Well it was all arranged with the army. Don't forget we had nowhere to go back to. That our country was cut in two during the war and then my place, my home town was somehow given away to Russia because our eastern part of Poland the Russians couldn't give back. They gave us some places on the western side from Germany but my home town has never returned to Poland, and it's not in Poland now it's in Ukraine now. So there was nowhere to go. England had accepted refugees and then from England we had a great choice, there is no way about it, we could go to America, to Mexico, to Southern America, to Australia, to anywhere we wanted to and they would have transported us and hopefully given jobs and so on.

Somehow England was the nearest to our own country and we always hoped that one day we will go back which has never happened. Well probably some people did go back but Poland, Poland's government was so communist that a lot of people who went back were just sent back to Siberia and there was no, we had nowhere to go. Our home town, our home, the house, everything was in Russia.

So we stayed, my parents stayed on the camp outside of Reading. Well we actually arrived at the airport and my father was in Kingswood Common Camp outside of Reading. There was still army camps, they were still in uniforms then, so my mum went to join him and I was fortunate to go to the school. At this stage in England there were four grammar schools, two for boys, two for girls. They were supported by Polish Education Committee [sighs] well I can't tell you for sure but there was some money that belonged to the Polish Government before the war and don't forget that in England we did have Polish Government in exile which was situated in London, and it has existed quite a longish time, but then you know politics are politics and that has ceased to exist even though we did have one to the bitter end, till Poland became really free and independent as it is now. But the money for the schools, at the beginning, was the money that belonged to our country. Then later on probably the English Education Authorities has taken over. But I was fortunate to be there go as far as to Higher Schools Certificate, so called Matura, in Polish. We did first we did some kind of GCSEs and then higher. By the time I have reached lets say the sixth year we were told we have to sit English Certificate of Education, was difficult because in most of our lectures lessons were in Polish some we have tried to learn English language but is not an easy way to learn a language, you know, being surrounded by Poles. Anyway we did our best. And so my year was the first year that had to sit English GCSE and at this stage you had to do five subjects. If you failed one you couldn't repeat it, you, it was nullified. You had to do it over and over again and fortunately enough I've managed to do it and then we didn't, what year that be? 195...1. I went, in 1951 I went to Leicester, City of Leicester Teachers Training College.