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Second-Generation Voices of the Polish and Ukrainian Diaspora in Northern Britain, 1948-1998

Grombir, Frantisek


Frantisek Grombir



In the immediate aftermath of the Second World War hundreds of thousands of migrants came to rebuild post-war Britain. The arrival of the so-called Windrush generation presented, in the words of Trevor Phillips, the irresistible rise of multi-racial Britain.1Yet whilst hundreds of thousands of non-white migrants did indeed transform the demographic profile of the UK, and have been the subject of an ever-expanding historiography, the arrival of white European workers during this period has received scant attention beyond seminal studies by Kathy Burrell. Even aboard the fabled RMT Windrush, hundreds of Polish settlers landed at Tilbury on 22 June 1948 –and yet they remain a chapter of Britain’s island story that remains underexplored.
This study seeks to remedy this lacuna, not by focussing upon the first generation, but instead by using a plethora of oral histories, associational culture and regional archives deposited across Northern Britain to record the voices of their children. The transpennine milltowns were demographically transformed by migrants from the New Commonwealth. Yet these post-industrial towns and cities, especially Huddersfield, Bradford, Rochdale, and Hull, also became a home to thousands of white migrants who saw themselves in time as either British or European, or somewhere in between. Recovering the experiences of the forgotten second-generation Ukrainian and Polish diasporas in comparative perspective reveals that the children of migrants occupied liminal spaces in the shadow of anti-migrant xenophobia during the divisive Cold War.
Ethnically white, they could evade some of the race hatred that post-war scholars have traditionally focussed upon. Being non-Jewish, they also evaded the periodic bouts of antisemitism that surfaced in urban Britain. Yet during the Cold War aspects of their identities were purposefully preserved indoors to evade political prejudice. The memories of those five decades of living liminally are discussed here, including: the role of religion in preserving ties to pre-war Europe, the hybridity of white diasporas living in small towns and cities in northern Britain, the rediscovering of Polish and Ukrainian culture as the Cold War thawed, and the role of the second generation as cultural organisations decline in the twenty-first century.


Grombir, F. (2022). Second-Generation Voices of the Polish and Ukrainian Diaspora in Northern Britain, 1948-1998. (Thesis). University of Hull. Retrieved from

Thesis Type Thesis
Deposit Date Oct 25, 2023
Publicly Available Date Nov 3, 2023
Keywords History
Public URL
Additional Information Department of History
University of Hull
Award Date Oct 4, 2023


Thesis (2.2 Mb)

Copyright Statement
© 2022 Frantisek Grombir. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced without the written permission of the copyright holder.

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