Borders MP John Lamont called during a Westminster Hall debate this week for securing the rights of Polish-speaking residents of the region to be a priority in Brexit negotiations.
The Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk MP praised the contribution the 1,300-strong Polish community makes to Borders life and spoke about the historical ties between the region and their homeland.
“After the fall of France in May 1940, the 1st Polish Armoured Division was established in Duns, in my constituency,” Mr Lamont told fellow MPs.
“The division trained in Berwickshire before taking part in the Normandy landings.
“After the war and the Communist takeover in Poland, many of the Polish soldiers in the west were unwilling to return and many settled in the UK, including a relatively large number in the Borders.
“A famous Polish migrant was Wojtek, the beer-drinking, cigarette-eating, ammunition-carrying brown bear who was officially enlisted to the Polish army and fought in the Italian campaign before being stationed near Hutton in Berwickshire. In Duns, which is twinned with the Polish town of Zagan, a statue of Wojtek stands as a reminder of the important link between our communities.
“To this day, there remains a sizeable Polish community in the Scottish Borders. Their contribution cannot be overstated. They work hard, integrate well and add some cultural diversity to the Borders.
“Hawick’s Saturday Polish school, which offers courses to Polish and English-speaking adults, is a great example of a community doing well integrating while also maintaining and promoting their own culture.
“I know there is some anxiety among this community about their future as the UK leaves the EU, and ensuring that Poles continue to feel welcome here is an absolute necessity.
“I am pleased that securing the rights of EU migrants is one of the first priorities of the negotiations, and I look forward to this being resolved quickly and to the satisfaction of all.”