What awful manners ! It is 7 January, and another interminable Monday meeting. No sooner is her back turned, then a curiously ‘elected’ Ognisko coterie – ‘committee’ if you please – swing into dastardly action. Ognisko’s courageous and innovative Chairman, the portraitist Barbara Kaczmarowska-Hamilton is on a well-deserved holiday in Florida. In her absence from all the Ognisko headaches out of some cubby-hole, or disguised Ognisko mouse-hole, emerges a grubby little clique with rusty stilletos. The flimsy, mickey-mouse rubber stilletos, inflict grievous, but only temporary, damage. The mice will play – or is that pay? – when the cat’s away.
The Ognisko club committee are in part a rag-bag of opportunists and ill-fitted members. The ‘let’s-sell-the-club-brigade’ or the new ‘must-have-a useless-costly-charity-status’, at great needless expense to the club – refuse to budge. This time they are specifically requested by the Chairman not to take any decision until her return on the next most important issue facing our Ognisko future – the choice of a new restaurateur.
So what do these bravados do? They go totally against the chairman’s wishes behind her back, against her instructions, and – it should be said – our strong, loyal, historic Polish sentiments. They override the chairman’s authority and vote for some nebulous tender from an events organizer, none of whom any Ognisko members have ever heard of – Guy Rodgers (Concerto).
Now Guy Rodgers/Concerto is a budding , high-powered, dynamic young outfit, (decent English ex-public schoolboys types), purportedly successful with a turnover in the millions, (that is not the same as profit), whose founder director Mike Kershaw left in December 2012, and who specialize in theme restaurants, and high profile organized events. They apparently seek to use our Ognisko club rooms for near two hundred events a year, paying a rent of circa £90,000 per annum, and that’s it. We, the members, are NOT told what profits Guy Rodgers/Concerto will make for themselves from each event itself ! Oh, and the cooking could well be, well.... what it has been for the last five years – highly wanting !
Many of Ognisko’s fabulous Anglo-Polish talks, art exhibitions, musical, academic and theatrical occasions pioneered by Barbara Kaczmarowska-Hamilton and Lady Małgorzata Belhaven of Stenton throughout last year, are threatened, and would largely fall by the wayside. All this, it should be stressed through no fault at all of the Guy Rodgers outfit. They are seeking, legitimate, business opportunities wherever one can be found. Trouble is, Ognisko is just not suited for one of these commercial (ad)ventures.. Alas, it is feared that the innocent Guy Rodgers is the innocent victim of some pathetic power games at our beloved Anglo-Polish Ognisko/Polish Hearth Club at 55 Prince’s Gate, London SW7 !
It seems that this undemocratic malaise of our Polonia leaders is not only confined to Ognisko. The Marian Trustee-Priests famously called a Resolution meeting at Fawley Court on 8 May 2008. The two-hundred plus vociferous audience/beneficiaries/interested party, adamantly opposed the Fawley Court sale. The panel of Marians simply spat in their faces. In a letter of 30 April 2008 to Zjednoczenie Polskie w Wielkiej Brytanii head Marian Priest-Trustee Pawel Naumowicz makes all sorts of financial promises and pledges to various Polonia organizations – funds from the illicit sale of Fawley Court. But who amongst these organizations has actually got any money – secretly or otherwise? The degree of vested interests, self-interests, conflicts of interest, and other breaches will inevitably, if not already, have aroused the 'interest' of the authorities.
POSK of course is a law unto itself – the law of the jungle. It’s basement Jazz Café had been running an unaccounted, unregulated financial system for years. Totally oblivious and deaf to the democratic protests of its members the POSK committee is now demolishing its top floors to make room for some needless, over-priced residential development. But guess what? In its wisdom, possibly greed, POSK has also agreed
a contract with Vodaphone for mobile masts on POSK’s rooftops. Bet the prospective new tenants (and POSK members) can’t wait for some new, free, sizzling radiation!
There is the seemingly somewhat mysterious role, and alleged ambitions of the The Knights of Malta, (or Sovereign Military Order of Malta – SMOM), and the Polish Heritage Society that are at play at Ognisko. Again, these are two fine organizations, with noble histories. Indeed the foreign based (Catholic) Knights of Malta, with 13,000 members, 80,000 permanent volunteers, and 20,000 medical personnel, plus many priests, has its complex, founding roots deep into the 11th century. It does much charitable (mainly medical) good worldwide. Though, a search on Google/Wikipedia links them to Opus Dei, it also comes up with a less charitable footnote; that they ‘mistakenly’ decorated, or even worse, allegedly helped Nazi escapees after the war (sic). The organization repaired, and made good this oversight. Apparently, today, the prestigious names of Silvio Berlusconi and former British PM Tony Blair are SMOM new members.
Today the Association of Polish Knights of Malta UK, APKM (UK) (Registered UK Charity No. 1102122), concerns itself with pilgrimages to Lourdes, and tending to the sick and needy. One of the Knights of Malta’s (UK) Senior Members is Ognisko Honorary Secretary Dr Wlodek Mier-Jedrzejowicz , who is also Chairman of Zjednoczenie Polskie (Federation of Poles in Great Britain). One just marvels at his skills in juggling all these roles.
Far less is known about the much newer, separate (4 February 2011) Polish Heritage Society (UK) Ltd (Company No. 07517923), its assets, or how it is funded, and what its formally registered (charitable – if any?) objectives are. We do know that commendably they put up Polish war monuments up and down the UK, and champion the history, and memory of Polish 2nd World War veterans.
It is alleged that the now fifteen strong Ognisko Club Committee’s new power base favours by nine to six the ‘Maltesers’, (Knights of Malta) – as their adherents affectionately calls themselves – and the Polish Heritage faction. Hence they appear so often, somewhat perversely, manage to get an unrepresentative majority, and ‘their’ own way. But, of course, this is NOT what Ognisko Club members – old and new – ever voted for or indeed ever wanted !
The famous May 2012 “Rejtan 27”, and others, with Basia Hamilton at the helm in her now legendary Stanhope Studio coup d’etat, with the ‘gentlemanly’ ousting of Andrzej Morawicz, voted through and for a friendly political tool called democracy. This should mean an accessible, listening, transparent, representative Ognisko Club Committee. But this at the moment is NOT what Ognisko members are getting at all. Instead, all we get are some – it should be stressed some – opaque, self-serving, club committee members hanging limply, but stubbornly in the atmosphere, refusing to go, sullying the pristine, tender Ognisko air.
So is the Guy Rodgers (Concerto) Group’s ‘tender’ being used simply as a subversive political pawn? Indeed a weapon?
There’s Polonia democracy for you.
And so then, who should be our new Ognisko club restaurateur? Why none other than the club committee’s original favourite, and the (Anglo-Polish) people’s choice – Jan Woroniecki! Owner of the once famous Wodka Restaurant, and now the even more successful Baltic, with its sumptuous and delectable Polish cuisine, together with other fine fare, Jan Woroniecki with his vast experience, and resources, represents much, if not everything that is wanted at our Ognisko Club, and on our lunch and dinner tables.
Woroniecki’s experience, and vision, is tailor made for our Ognisko club and restaurant: an offer of good rent/profit, new members, new initiatives; refurbishing the club by reconciling the inter-war shabby chic with the new; honouring Ognisko’s unique history; retaining by popular demand many of Barbara Kaczmarowska-Hamilton’s historic club personage portraits on the walls; superbly and totally refitting the kitchens; employing bona fide chefs; introducing courteous [more lovely ladies please – the author] waiters/waitresses; allowing far more of Ognisko members’ own theatre, talks, academia, music events, art exhibitions, and the like to take place; ensuring our remaining Polish war veterans get a keenly priced meal look in; attracting new (business/professionals) clientele; quadrupling the Ognisko membership (thus vastly increasing revenue for the club!), having an eye for handing on the posterity of the club to the up-and-coming, all-important future younger Anglo-Polish generation(s). And most importantly of all – serving up delicious, exquisite Polish cuisine, divine wines, (and vodkas!), and other fare, all in an ambience of culture, grace and Anglo-Polish affability. Who could argue with that? What more could we, Ognisko members, and our guests ask for ?
So, vote YES, with your tongue, palate, and feet, (or proxy), FOR the Jan Woroniecki Restaurant at Ognisko, at the special EGM, on Sunday 24 February 2013.
PUT THE DEMO INTO DEMOCRACY !
Chairman, Fawley Court Old Boys/FCOB Ltd