New POSK exhibition recounts exiles at Polish school during WWII

Heart of Freedoms, an exhibition telling a courageous wartime story, is open at POSK in Hammersmith from 17 February to 8 March.

Archive photo of students from the Cyprian Norwid Polish School

An exhibition telling a courageous wartime story is about to open in Hammersmith. Heart of Freedoms charts the role of a Polish school in occupied France during the Second World War.

It runs from Saturday 17 February to Saturday 8 March at POSK, the Polish cultural centre, in King Street, revealing a tale of bravery centred around an inspirational 60-year-old professor.

Polish refugees set up a school in Villard-de-Lans, in the French Alps, between 1940 and 1946. They were assisted by the Polish government in exile in London, in defiance of the Nazis. It was the only free Polish school in occupied Europe.

The Cyprian Norwid Polish School taught Polish soldiers and others who had managed to escape from Poland, as well as children of Polish origin already living in France.

The exhibition tells the story of the school as a bastion of resistance to the Nazis from its origins to its final days, celebrating the students and teachers who made it possible. Many of whom have descendants living in the UK today.

The exhibition includes a documentary, directed by French/Polish film-maker Rafael Lewandowski, called Out of the Limelight. It focuses on school principal Zygmunt Zaleski, a literary historian who battled to preserve Polish culture. Extracts from his work are read by the Polish actor, Wojciech Pszoniak.

The exhibition is free, and is open every day until 8 March in the POSK gallery at 238-246 King Street, W6 0RF.

Classroom inside the Cyprian Norwid Polish School
Villard-de-Lans in the French Alps

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