The Polish community in the United Kingdom since the mid-20th century largely stems from the Polish presence in the British Isles during the Second World War, when Poles made a substantial contribution to the Allied war effort. Most of the Poles who came to the United Kingdom at that time comprised military units reconstituted outside Poland after the German and Soviet invasions of Poland.

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  • The Polish community in the United Kingdom since the mid-20th century largely stems from the Polish presence in the British Isles during the Second World War, when Poles made a substantial contribution to the Allied war effort. Most of the Poles who came to the United Kingdom at that time comprised military units reconstituted outside Poland after the German and Soviet invasions of Poland. However, exchanges between the two countries date back to medieval times, when Britain and Poland were linked by trade and diplomacy. A notable 16th-century Polish immigrant to England was the Protestant convert, John Laski, who influenced the course of the English Reformation. Following the 18th-century dismemberment of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth in three successive partitions by its neighbours, Russia, Prussia, and Austria, the trickle of Polish immigrants to Britain increased in the aftermath of two 19th-century uprisings (1831 and 1863) which forced much of Poland's social and political elite into exile. In mid-century London became a haven for the burgeoning ideas of Polish socialism as a solution for a future independent state as it sought international support for the forthcoming Polish uprising. A number of Polish exiles fought in the Crimean War on the British side. In the last quarter of that century Russian pogroms, and famine in Galicia (ruled by Austria-Hungary), forced many Polish Jews to flee their partitioned Polish homeland; most emigrated to the United States, but some settled in British cities, especially London, Manchester, Leeds, and Hull. In the 20th century, a resurrected sovereign Poland enjoyed less than 21 years of relative peace before it was divided in 1939, in a fourth partition, between Germany and the Soviet Union. For the duration of the war Poland moved its government abroad, first to France and, after France's fall, to London. After putting up a determined fight in France, Poland's reconstituted armed forces — troops evacuated from Poland to Romania and Hungary in September 1939, augmented with recruits from France's Polonia — continued the struggle against Nazi Germany at the side of Britain's armed forces. Polish Air Force pilots played a conspicuous role in the Battle of Britain, and the Polish Navy conducted operations under the command of Britain's Admiralty. In the wake of Germany's June 1941 invasion of the Soviet Union, General Władysław Anders was permitted to raise an army (the Polish Second Corps) from the hundreds of thousands of Poles whom the Soviets had deported to Siberia and Central Asia. The Second Corps was evacuated from the Soviet Union to the Near East, and campaigned at the side of the Allies in the Eastern Mediterranean and in Italy. Farther west, General Stanisław Maczek's armoured division, part of the Polish First Corps, fought with conspicuous gallantry in France (before France's fall, and in Normandy during Operation Overlord), in the Netherlands, and in Germany. The Yalta Conference (February 1945) sealed Poland's fourth partition, exchanging Poland's pre-war eastern third, including two of the country's premier cities, for two major eastern German cities and somewhat less former German territory, and de facto placing Poland firmly within the Soviet sphere of influence. The great majority of Polish military veterans stranded in western Europe decided against returning to former parts of their homeland that had, in November 1939, become part of Byelorussia and Ukraine. These Poles and their families—many of whom had experienced deportation to the Soviet Union—subsequently formed the nucleus of the postwar Polish community in Britain. The Polish Government in Exile, though denied majority international recognition after 1945, remained at its post in London until formally dissolved in 1991, after a democratically elected president had taken office in Warsaw. A much smaller wave of Polish migration to Britain occurred with the imposition of martial law in Poland (1981–83), when individuals, mainly students and intellectuals who had been visiting the UK, chose not to return to Poland. The European Union's 2004 enlargement, and the-then UK Government's decision not to restrict immigration from the new accession states, encouraged educated and skilled Poles to migrate to the UK rather than to Germany. As of 2016, the number of Polish-born UK residents was estimated at 911,000, making them the UK's largest foreign-born community, having overtaken Indians. Additionally, the UK's Polish-descended population includes descendants of the over 200,000 Poles who had settled in Britain after the Second World War. The Polish language is the second-most spoken language in England, and the third-most spoken in the UK after English and Welsh. About 1% of the UK population speaks Polish. (en)
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  • The Polish community in the United Kingdom since the mid-20th century largely stems from the Polish presence in the British Isles during the Second World War, when Poles made a substantial contribution to the Allied war effort. Most of the Poles who came to the United Kingdom at that time comprised military units reconstituted outside Poland after the German and Soviet invasions of Poland. (en)
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  • Poles in the United Kingdom (en)
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  • British Poles (en)
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