(l-r) Lukasz Lutostanski, Consul General; Zbigniew Kiedrowski-Scott, WWII veteran; Gosia McKane
A community champion who has helped strengthen bonds between Polish people and the wider population in Liverpool has been honoured by the President of Poland.
Gosia McKane, founder of Merseyside Polonia, has been awarded one of Poland’s highest honours – the Polish Civil State Award: Silver Cross of Merit.
The Cross of Merit (KrzyÅ¼ ZasÅugi) is a Polish civil state award, established in 1923, to recognise services to the state. It is awarded to citizens who go beyond the call of duty in their work for the country and society as a whole.
Gosia, who arrived in Liverpool from Poland in 2000, set up charitable organisation Merseyside Polonia in 2008 to develop positive relationships between the Polish Community and local residents. The initiative has grown quickly and earned praise in 2009 from the Prime Minister of Poland, Donald Tusk.
Now, Gosia’s work has been officially recognised by the Polish Government, with the President of the Republic of Poland, Bronislaw Komorowski, designating her as a worthy recipient of the Silver Cross.
Gosia received the Order at a special event celebrating Polish Independence Day on 12 November, at the Polish Consulate General in Manchester. Gosia joined Polish armed forces heroes and civic dignitaries for the event.
The award was presented by the Consul General of the Republic of Poland in Manchester, Lukasz Lutostanski.
Gosia said: “I would like to thank Mr. President for such an honour. It was a great privilege to receive it in the presence of so many great war heroes. I’m very happy that the work we do with Merseyside Polonia has been recognised and I accept it on behalf of the whole of the Polonia team.”
Merseyside Polonia has been a huge success in bringing together people of different cultural backgrounds and helping new Polish arrivals engage fully with Liverpool life
Monthly events at a range of venues in Kensington and the city centre across the city are opening up Poland’s heritage, history and culture for everyone, giving people the chance to enjoy Polish films, food, art, photo exhibitions and stories.
Hundreds of people have attended the events, including Polonia’s hugely popular Christmas and Easter celebrations. As well as giving people the opportunity to get to know Liverpool’s Polish community better, the events serve as a platform to develop new ideas and projects, discuss community issues and share information about local services.
There has been a major influx of Polish people moving to the UK since Poland joined the EU in 2004, and Liverpool’s Polish community is the fastest growing in the city.
Lord Mayor of Liverpool, Councillor Sharon Sullivan, said: “Merseyside Polonia has been a fantastic success story for Liverpool. Thanks to the tireless work of Gosia and her team it has gone from strength to strength and quickly become an important part of the city’s cultural and community life.
“I would like to congratulate Gosia for this prestigious honour from the Polish Government. The contribution she has made to Liverpool’s Polish population and the wider community, make this a richly deserved award.”