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Windrush Story: Anna Rojek

Posted in Articles on 21 Jun 2023

On 21 June 1948 HMT Empire Windrush docked at the Port of Tilbury, Essex, and discharged its passengers the following day. The date of 22 June 1948 marks one of the first examples of mass migration from the West Indies to Britain. However, did you know that there were many passengers aboard the ship who were migrating from other areas of the world as well, including Poland? 75 years on from this event, the Windrush Foundation asked us to do some research into individuals that came over on the ship and ended up settling in Berkshire. We wanted to share the results of our research with you. This blog will be looking at Anna Rojek. 

Anna Rojek, aged 46, can be found on the passenger list for arrivals in Tilbury on 21 June 1948. Her country of citizenship was Poland, and her country of last permanent residence was Mexico. There were 66 Polish citizens aboard the ship, many of whom had become displaced due to Second World War Soviet forces in Poland. Some people, including many women and children, had sought refuge in Mexico before undertaking a long journey to the United Kingdom. You can read more about the Polish citizens who were aboard HMT Windrush online.

Anna’s proposed address in the UK was given as ‘B.W.A.E.C. Hostel, Winkfield Row, Bracknell, Berks’. According to the Wokingham and Bracknell Times in 1950 (11 August), displaced people from Poland, Lativa, Ukraine, and Ireland stayed at Winkfield Agricultural Hostel which was managed by the Berkshire War Agricultural Executive Committee (B.W.A.E.C.).  

The primary aim of County War Agricultural Executive Committees was to increase agricultural production across the country as part of the war effort. Many of the agricultural workers stayed in these hostels. More information about this work may be found in the minutes of the Agricultural Executive Committees, 1915-1972, which are held at the National Archives within the Ministry of Food records.

Although little is known of Anna’s time at the Hostel, we were able to uncover some clues regarding her life afterwards. There is a death registered for an Anna Rojek of 114 Queens Rd, Caversham on 30 December 1984 (date of birth: 7 May 1902). Her death certificate gives her maiden surname as Pretkiewicz and her occupation as a retired packer at a preserve factory. It is possible that she would have worked at the local Co-operative Wholesale Society Preserve Works which was based at Berkley Avenue in Reading until 1969.

Entry for Anna Rojek in the Henley Road Cemetery register of graves 1985, ref. R/UC3/3/8

Anna Rojek was buried at Henley Road Cemetery, Reading, on 7 January 1985. The cemetery records, held here, show that she was laid to rest in the same plot as Stanislaw Rojek (date of birth: 12 November 1897) who had been buried there on 16 July 1973. This suggests that Anna reunited with her husband during her time in Berkshire. Her death certificate also notes that her husband had been a factory hand and they shared a son, Joseph [Josef] Rojek of Caversham. 

Both her husband and her son must have migrated to Britain separately to Anna. Unfortunately, we have not been able to locate details of their journey. It is possible that Stanislaw Rojek may have arrived here after having served with Polish Armed Forces which were British allies during the Second World War. 

Perhaps you know more about the Rojek family and their Windrush story? Do you have a similar migration story within your own family tree? We would love to hear more from you about this topic. Please do get in touch with us by using our Contact Form.

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