Members of Polish community in London flock to celebrate reopening of Ognisko Restaurant in Exhibition Road, By James Brewer
Some 700 members and supporters of London’s Polish Hearth Club, known as Ognisko Polskie, gathered during two days of celebrations to mark the opening of the Ognisko Restaurant following refurbishment.
The invitation to evenings of Polish delicacies, vodka cocktails and prosecco was extended by the chairman and executive committee of the club, and restaurateur Jan Woroniecki.
The club, which occupies a splendid building in Exhibition Road backing on to Ennismore Gardens, has for 73 years had a warm place in the hearts of the Polish community and their many British friends. Established by the British Council on in July 1940, it was a meeting place for Polish officers during World War II and a symbol of the valiant struggle of Poles to regain their independence against mighty odds.
After agonised debate in 2012 over the future financial direction of the club, a proposal to sell the property was defeated. Members rallied round, and enthusiasts including the portrait artist Barbara (Basia) Kaczmarowska-Hamilton, and Lady Belhaven and Stenton, embarked on a fundraising and events drive.
Forthcoming events at the club include a talk by actress Rula Lenska on October 10 promoting her autobiography. Born in England as the eldest daughter of Major Count Ludwik Maria Lubienski and Countess Elzbieta Tyszkiewicz, Ms Lenska was christened Roza-Marie Leopoldyna Lubienska. The count and countess came to the UK from Poland as refugees in 1946.
Festivities for the restaurant re-opening coincided with an exhibition in the premises entitled Young Creative Poland: 4 Years On, and a ‘pop-up shop’ selling craft and design items. The exhibition from September 16-22 was part of London Design Festival 2013, and featured contemporary Polish furniture, architectural textiles, home accessories, lighting pieces and graphic design. The title of the exhibition referred to its organisation by the Adam Mickiewicz Institute and Creative Project Foundation as successor to two Young Creative Poland exhibitions in Milan.