Britain and the Refugees of Europe 1939-50

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In February 1945, Winston Churchill, speaking in the House of Commons to cordial cheers, expressed the earnest hope that Polish forces who had fought under the British flag might, if they desired, be offered citizenship of the British Empire. ‘We should think it an honour’ he stated ‘to have such … faithful and valiant warriors dwelling among us as if they were men of our own blood’.1 In a parliamentary debate in 1947, European Volunteer Workers (EVWs) were described as ‘ideal immigrants’, and as ‘first-class people, who if let into this country would be of great benefit to our stock’, whose love of freedom signalled ‘the spirit and stuff of which we can make Britons’ (quoted in Kay and Miles 1992, 54). Recruited to the British labour force from displaced persons camps in Germany and Austria under a government scheme in the late 1940s, the term ‘European Volunteer Worker’ merged into one category a group whose diversity was perhaps their most notable characteristic. Predominantly from Eastern Europe, EVWs included a range of nationalities — chiefly Polish, Ukrainian, Yugoslavian, Estonian, Latvian and Lithuanian — in a scheme which was later extended to Sudeten Germans and Austrians. Although the majority were men recruited into mining, agriculture and textiles, 21,434 women came to Britain under this scheme — mainly to work in the textile industry in Lancashire and West Yorkshire.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationGendering Migration
Subtitle of host publicationMasculinity, Femininity and Ethnicity in Post-War Britain
EditorsLouise Ryan, Wendy Webster
PublisherRoutledge, Taylor & Francis Group
Number of pages18
ISBN (Electronic)9781315254531, 9781351934343
ISBN (Print)9780754671787, 9781138251915
Publication statusPublished - 18 Sep 2008
Externally publishedYes

Publication series

NameStudies in Migration and Diaspora


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