Following the Russian occupation of Poland in 1939, many Poles were forcefully transferred to Russia while others were massacred in their homeland. In what was then Eastern Poland in the area of Kaytn it is now recognised that thousands of soldiers and officers were murdered in 1940. It was at this time that Poles came in great numbers to Britain, many serving in the British Army and Airforce, not least as pilots in the Battle of Britain. It is from this date that the now substantial Polish community in Britain developed, particularly in West London.
In Gunnersbury Cemetery in West London there stands a substantial memorial to those Poles murdered in the forests of Katyn. The memorial is a striking black obelisk, erected (controversially at the time) in 1976, though the massacre it commemorates was acknowledged by the Government of the U.S.S.R. only in 1990. This 1990 acknowledgement is recorded on an additional plaque ( as shown in one of the photos below).
All Saints Day ceremony at the Polish cemetery in Gunnersbury (London). 2.11.2008.
To add to Polish woes, there was an air crash in 2010 near the city of Smolensk ( in West Russia – see on map) killing all 96 people on board. Among the victims were the President of Poland Lech Kaczyński and his wife Maria. The flight was carrying many high-ranking Polish officials to ceremonies marking the 70th anniversary of the Katyn massacre. The site of the massacre is approximately 19 km west of Smolensk. There was a memorial service at the Katyn obelisk in Gunnersbury cemetery to mark the tragic crash, as here.