A Polish immigrant who came to Shropshire 16 years ago has told a Rotary club of how she has helped to set up an organisation to integrate European countries into the British culture. Kate Fejfer, who is chair of the Shropshire European Organisation (SEO) involved in community projects, was a guest speaker at Shrewsbury Severn Rotary Club where she addressed more than 20 members.

Kate, who has a son aged 13 and daughter aged nine, is married to an ambulance driver in the town. He is Polish and they met in Wem. She told Rotarians: “It wasn’t my aim to stay so long. But it is a pleasure to belong to the biggest group of non-speaking English in the country. There are up to 5,000 in the Polish community in Shropshire and we work closely with the Polish government and Polish consulate. They have visited Shrewsbury numerous times.”

But in answer to a Rotarian’s question she said the town’s Polish born MP Daniel Kawczynski, who was first elected to the seat in 2005, didn’t to her knowledge have any contact with the local Polish community. “We do try to promote our culture outside and Remembrance Sunday was very emotional,” she told the Rotary club. She said the SEO’s community work had been recognised through awards from the mayor of Shrewsbury and the Lord Lieutenant of Shropshire. This had resulted in a higher profile for Polish and other international communities in Shropshire.

She spoke of plans to open a community café next year. “It will be the biggest project for next year,” said Kate who told Rotarians that various events are organised to highlight Polish culture and the culture of the other international groups living in the area.

The SEO was set up to support the wider integration of all European groups into local communities and this helped integration across the different groups as well as their wider acceptance into the local host community. The SEO provided support, individual, family, and for business where needed to all European citizens living and working in the area. Often, problems arose accessing key services such as education, social, medical and financial where language could provide a barrier. The SEO was a key support in these circumstances.

Kate was full of praise for the high professional standards of the British police who have been very supportive following an increase in hate crime incidents post Brexit. More recently much of the work and support had been directed at other nationalities living in the county, Romanians, Latvians, Hungarians and Malaysians whose numbers were smaller and support networks less effective. There were 16-20 different cultures in Shrewsbury, but she was promoting the Polish culture. She added that the SEO worked with different inter-faith groups and a wide range of professionals to ensure access could be gained to areas such as mental health, maternity and other specialist services. Demand for services, and advise about access, had dramatically increased during the covid pandemic.

Kate is welcomed to Shrewsbury Severn Rotary Club by president John Yeomans

Julian Wells

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