Sue Ryder served in the Polish section of SOE where she met and worked alongside men and women of extraordinary courage and determination. She learned at first hand the extent of human suffering being inflicted on occupied Europe by the Nazis. This began her long association and love for Poland and the Polish nation. She subsequently wrote, “I feel I belong to Poland” and in 1978 because of her deep commitment to that country she took the title “Lady Ryder of Warsaw” when she was made a life Peer in the House of Lords.
Sue Ryder chose the title of “Lady Ryder of Warsaw”, as a tribute to the scores of Poles she met during the war. Her most valued Polish award, however, was a gold medal presented to her by Cardinal Jozef Glemp in December 1996 for recognition of her work and service to the church in Poland.
From 1945 onwards, she devoted her life to the service of thousands of individuals from the camps, prisons and hospitals (and later people, often disabled in some way, simply in need of care and love). Thousands of up-rooted men, women and children were given a new start in life by her efforts – many from Poland.
After the war she drove, often alone, across Europe to Poland and other countries to take vital supplies of food medicine and clothing to the needy, to concentration camp survivors, and to people left abandoned and in dire circumstances after the fighting ceased.
In the 1950s she converted her mother’s house in Cavendish in Suffolk into a home for concentration camps survivors and ‘displaced people’ (she never liked the term ‘displaced people’ as she always thought of people as individuals with their own story) from Poland and other European countries. At the same time, she built and opened the Konstancin Care Home, outside Warsaw, for girls suffering from rheumatoid arthritis, an incurable illness: many of these women lived in the home for over 40 years until their death.
She believed it vitally important to ensure that the sick and disabled were not only treated and cared for, but that they also had the opportunity to find their purpose, dignity and reason for living.
During her life time Sue Ryder established more than 30 homes, centres or hospitals in Poland. Currently there are 15 homes in Poland – the latest established in 2007 in Pierzchnica in the Swietokrzyskie Province.
The Lady Ryder of Warsaw Memorial Trust is supportive of the work of the Polish foundation, Fundacje Sue Ryder www.fundacjasueryder.pl, whose mission is to preserve the ethos of Sue Ryder and to embody and realise her ideals – the love of one’s neighbour, bringing them help and comfort in suffering, and the willingness to sacrifice one’s own self in readiness to help those in need. Together with Fundacje Sue Ryder, The Lady Ryder of Warsaw Memorial Trust aims to keep Sue Ryder’s work alive in Poland today.
From a very young age, Sue Ryder dedicated her life to the relief of suffering. She stated that all her work was to be a living memorial to the millions who died in the two World Wars and the conflicts which followed them, and to countless others who are suffering and dying today as a result of persecution. It is a noble vision, and the work in Poland is at the heart of this living memorial.
Over the past 18 years since its formation in 2000, The Lady Ryder of Warsaw Memorial Trust has provided grants to many needy Sue Ryder initiatives in Poland.
The trust has worked closely with the Wola Batorska School and every second year sponsor a group of the senior school leavers to come to the UK and spend a week at Parmoor. This involves about 60 teenagers plus their teachers.
Each day there are arranged activities and visits for the children. In the past, they've gone sightseeing in London and Oxford as well as Alton Towers!
These children are already aware of the good work Sue Ryder did in Poland but the trust believe that they return to Poland as ambassadors of the Sue Ryder legacy and spread the word to the next generation.
There is now a square in Warsaw named after Sue Ryder as well as a school in Wola Bartorska. In October 2016 the Sue Ryder Museum opened in Warsaw.
This impressive building is a tribute to all the good works carried out and enabled by Lady Ryder’s dedication to the people of Poland. For anyone going to Poland this remarkable museum should be at the top of their list of places to visit.
To find out more about the work in Poland visit the website www.sueryder.org.pl.
Fundacje Sue Ryder www.fundacjasueryder.pl
The Lady Ryder of Warsaw Memorial Trust is a company limited by guarantee and is registered in England No.3935283 | Registered Charity No: 1082295