This bank holiday weekend I attended Oxford Polish Association’s Diversity Picnic at Blackbird Leys.
Despite the cold weather, there was a good turnout for the various activities.
The ‘Polish dance’ led to Cllr Ray Humberstone, the Lord Mayor, myself and many from the Association feeling we had done our work out of the day. There was also a very competitive tug of war- especially when the children challenged the adults! Children enjoyed making ‘pierogi’ (traditional potato dumplings), and building a ‘city’ out of recycled materials, with the help of Wrocław’s architecture school.
A new innovation for this year was the involvement of Wrocław, one of Oxford’s newest twin cities. Children could enjoy Polish chocolates after completing a quiz, and learn about the lives of children growing up in Wrocław. This included a special box every baby is given containing a book modelled on the UK’s ‘home-start’ system to encourage reading and writing, and often a copy of the Polish translation of that book beloved of British children, ‘The Very Hungry Caterpillar’.
The Wrocław link to Oxford is appropriate given its rich history- explained ably in a book by the historian Norman Davies, an honorary fellow of St Antony’s College, Oxford. Wrocław changed hands more than any other city in Europe throughout its history. Like Oxford it is thronged with students and beautiful architecture.
It has been great to see exchanges between our schools, local colleges and their equivalents in Wrocław.
Today we need to celebrate these links more than ever. Too often I have spoken to Polish people living in Oxford who are considering whether or not to stay in the UK, following the Brexit vote. Regardless of how people voted in the referendum, I know that Oxford residents support our diverse population and do not want people to feel unwelcome- but sadly that has been the case for some.
My office and I are supporting EU nationals who are living in the UK and want to remain here after Brexit, and I have been pressing the Government to ensure that the settled status scheme is fair and accessible. The volume of queries from the public is increasing, as Brexit uncertainty continues.
I will continue to argue for and work towards a better outcome than we are currently being presented with on Brexit. In my view, that needs to include a confirmatory vote on any Brexit deal. But, above all, it needs to make sure that the rights of local people are protected- and that includes of Oxford’s Polish population.