Tuesday, 13 August 2019

Fifty years on, Stella Plage, my last kolonia

Fifty years. Rites of passage. The summer of 1969; I had just finished Oaklands Road Primary School and was ready to start my secondary education at Gunnersbury Grammar School in September. But first, I was about to leave my zuchy (scout cub) gromada (pack) and be inducted into the 3rd London Polish Scout Pack, Błękitna Trójka.

My last kolonia (summer camp with the zuchy) was in northern France, in the resort town of Stella-Plage. The kolonia was based in Maison Maternelle, a former maternity hospital that had been bought by the Polish community of northern France; the Polish scouts and girl guides (harcerki) would holiday here. Indeed, my parents spent part of their honeymoon here in 1952.

My family first came here in 1967 with friends; I was to return in 1969 for the kolonia in which I would be pasowany (inducted) into the scouts (harcerze).

Below: a group photo of the zuchy, taken by my father; so many familiar faces here - Stan and Adam who were to start at Gunnersbury with me weeks later and stay there for the next seven years; my brother near the front there, my father's dentist for the last 20 years or so, Andrzej and his twin brother Ryszard; there's Rysiek, AdTheLad and both his brothers, boys from my class in Polish Saturday school; and a few here who moved to Poland after 1990 - faces, memories. I'm not in this shot, neither are several more boys who were soon to become harcerze in Trójka.


Fifty years. The Rolling Stones were no. 1 in the pop charts with Honky Tonk Women. Ford had just launched the Capri (my father would later have a 1.6 GL in red; we'd return in it to Stella Plage in 1971) and London Transport had just launched single-decker, one-man-operated E-buses (E for Ealing), the E1, E2 and E3, with a flat-fare, turnstyle payment system (6d adults, 3d children).

This was the cusp of two ages; the sixties, in black and white, were yielding to the colourful seventies; glam rock, Hot Wheels, tank tops and stack shoes. Childhood was giving way to adolescence, primary school to grammar school and cubs to scouts.

It was a momentous time, I could feel the changes coming on. Changes that come in waves, roughly ten years apart. In the summer of 1979, I'd finished my studies at Warwick University; in the summer of 1989, I was visiting Poland just as communism was toppling; by 1999 I was living permanently in Poland.

This time six years ago:
Grodzisk Mazowiecki's pretty station

This time seven years ago:
Exorcism outside the President's Palace

This time eight years ago:
The raging footsoldier - a story about anger

This time nine years ago:
Graffiti and street art 

1 comment:

Adelaide Dupont said...

What a read.

I had always wanted to know more about Polish Scouts and their holidays].