Two of Fowlmere's Polish Resettlement Camp inhabitants reunited after 57 years

PUBLISHED: 12:01 11 May 2019

Theresa Moody and Henry Sterecki at Fowlmere Airfield Museum. Picture: Mark Donagain

Theresa Moody and Henry Sterecki at Fowlmere Airfield Museum. Picture: Mark Donagain

Archant

Two former inhabitants of the Polish Resettlement Camp in Fowlmere have been reunited after 57 years.

Henry Sterecki's Polish Resettlement Camp corner at Fowlmere Airfield Museum. Picture: Henry StereckiHenry Sterecki's Polish Resettlement Camp corner at Fowlmere Airfield Museum. Picture: Henry Sterecki

Two former inhabitants of the Polish Resettlement Camp in Fowlmere have been reunited after 57 years.

Henry Sterecki met with Theresa Moody - née Starenczak - at Fowlmere Airfield Museum in Manor Farm, which features a special display on the refugee camp which existed from 1947 to 1958 in the old American huts and barracks in the village.

Mr Sterecki, whose family was the last to leave the camp, told the Crow: "Theresa was in Folwmere from 1947 onwards with her brother and I was born in 1950 and we grew up together.

"There were 80 families with 60 children and we were all friends - everyone in the camp was friends with virtually everyone else and I still keep in touch with more than 50 of the children, who are now based all over the world."

Fowlmere Airfield Museum. Picture: Mark DonagainFowlmere Airfield Museum. Picture: Mark Donagain

Theresa got married in 1961 to an American serviceman and emigrated to the United States. She travelled back to Fowlmere to see a family member who still lives in the area and visited the airfield museum, which opens once a month.

About reuniting after more than half a century, Mr Sterecki said: "It was brilliant. it literally made my day.

"We spent three or four hours reminsicing about how life was, and her memory was absolutely brilliant - I really did have a big smile on my face and she was full of joy.

"The only history that is left is what is in the museum so people can see how we lived.

Henry Sterecki's Polish Resettlement Camp corner at Fowlmere Airfield Museum. Picture: Henry StereckiHenry Sterecki's Polish Resettlement Camp corner at Fowlmere Airfield Museum. Picture: Henry Sterecki

"Life was very, very hard. When we moved in our parents could only speak Polish, and literally we had no running water, our toilets were half way down the garden in the old American lavatory blocks and there were no dividing walls, just blankets hanging up to divide bedrooms.

"Life was hard but the community was all held around the church, that's the one thing we had.

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"That was the community, everybody was at the church every Sunday, and most of the children were christened there. The only thing we didn't hold in Fowlmere were burials, and I don't know why that was.

"There were no telephones or radio, all you did was play as kids from when you came home from school until dusk.

"As we got older we went to dances all over. The Polish community kept itself fairly solid, even when we left the camp after 10 years most of the families moved to Melbourn, Sawston or Cambridge.

"There are still a few missing, but I'll keep looking.

"There are quite a few Polish families in Letchworth and in Hitchin and they don't know the musueum exists as we've only been going 18 months, but it's brought great interest. 
"It's taken me nearly 10 years to collect the history because most of the older generation have died.

"Photographs are quite rare, but all the children who were there in those 10 years are all in the photographs.

"Most of the families kept in touch so I knew about Theresa even after she went to the States.

"Even when I meet one or two of the older generation who are still around it's as if we are back there. We do still go for a cup of coffee or tea and that bond would never go.

"When I met Theresa I was almost in tears and so was she. It's something I won't forget.

"I've now got her contact details in the States and it made my day - actually it's made my year."
Folwmere Airfield Museum was set up by Mr Sterecki with David Izzard - who runs Fowlmere Joinery in the building where the museum is located - and Mark Donagain, who moved to Manor Farm with his grandparents when he was eight.

The museum is open to the public one Sunday a month, from 10am to 4pm. The next opening day is Sunday, May 26.

Special tours and reunions can be arranged by appointment, call 01763 208598 or email fowlmereairfieldmuseum@gmail.com for more information.

All donations and purchases go to the upkeep of the museum.

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