Members of the Polish community living in Belfast have gained a unique insight into Orange tradition and culture in the capital city.
As part of a shared history programme, members of Ballynafeigh District recently welcomed a group of immigrants to their Ormeau Road hall in an outreach initiative discovering links between Poland and Northern Ireland.
‘For Your Freedom and Ours’ focuses on stories of Polish airmen who were based in Northern Ireland during the Second World War.
In a symbolic gesture to their visitors, Ballynafeigh Orangemen raised the Polish flag both outside and inside the Orange hall.
The Polish group received a guided tour of the historic south Belfast building and also enjoyed a joint musical performance by British/Polish singer Katy Carr and the Ballynafeigh Apprentice Boys Flute Band.
Ballynafeigh District Master Noel Liggett said the interaction was the latest in a number of outreach activities with community groups in the area.
He said: “Ballynafeigh is one of the most diverse areas of Belfast so it is important we can relate to other sections of the local community. We decided to work with the Polish community due to the long-standing links they have with Northern Ireland, and it was interesting to learn during the programme a lot more about these links.”
Mr Liggett said the programme was well supported by local members of the institution, who fully embraced the shared history project.
“The final evening will live long in the memory, with our Polish visitors being clearly surprised at how warmly they were received in the Orange hall. The fact we flew the Polish flag on the building, both inside and outside, went down extremely well.”
He added: “For us on the Ormeau Road it is important in a mixed area the community sees the Orange Order as a full part of local society, so we will continue inviting groups to the hall so they can learn and understand how our culture and heritage fits into the wider community.”
To mark the end of the programme participants received certificates of completion and Polish checkboard badges from Jerome Mullen, Polish honorary consul to Northern Ireland.
Project coordinator Maciek Bator said: “There is so much we can learn from shared history, not only about the past, but also on how to build and foster positive relationships between communities and trust between people.
“For the duration of the programme, we learnt a lot about each other by exchanging first hand facts and knowledge and that is the best way to connect with people.
“I would like to thank the Ballynafeigh Orange Hall members for actively taking part in the programme and the Northern Ireland Housing Executive for providing support.”